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Near Shore Fiber Unlocks New Deployment Options

Near Shore Fiber Unlocks New Deployment Options

It may be counterintuitive to look to the rivers and seas to affordably deploy fiber, but “near shore” deployment of fiber provides a way to deliver broadband to towns and communities that in some ways can be easier than dry land deployments.

On this week’s Fiber for Breakfast, Baylink Networks Director of Strategy Mike Maziarka said, “The cost to deploy [near shore] fiber is sometimes one-eighth of what we think of traditional subsea fiber. The methodologies are different; there are proprietary and patented technologies used. The service levels are that of terrestrial and the lifespans of those cables are almost infinite because they’re not powered.”

Near shore fiber is an attractive option for communities near the water because of geography and not having to disrupt existing terrestrial infrastructure. Unlike undersea cable requiring repeaters and custom-designed to be deployed by specialized ocean-going ships at hundreds and thousands of kilometers at a time, near shore cable is manufactured in 10-kilometer reels that can be packed into a standard shipping container and be deployed off smaller “vessels of opportunity” with simple installation equipment to lay and repair cable.

“This approach has been gaining momentum since 2017 with many projects in the water, most notably the Connected Coast Project, which is a 2,200-mile network connecting 139 communities along the British Columbia coasts,” said Maziarka.

Near shore networks share similar vulnerabilities as traditional undersea networks, with commercial fishing being the main cause of breaks, but are unaffected by other challenges such as forest fires, storms, and backhoes. Unlike undersea cable with its specialized repair requirements, fixing a near shore cable is simply a matter of utilizing a local ship to deploy a grappling hook to locate the broken ends, hauling them on deck, and resplicing them, a task that takes “under two hours” and “can be done in as low as two days with costs ranging from $40,000 to $150,000,” said Maziarka, a speed comparable to repairing land fiber breaks.

“The takeaways as to where this is applicable, and where we feel we are a truly differentiating solution are in swamps and estuaries, canals, slow-moving rivers, lakes, coastal areas which include ocean shores,” stated Maziarka, with a company official noting that with a little ingenuity, fiber deployment can even be done during the winter on frozen lakes. “Our limitation is strong currents. If you have a babbling brook, that’s not going to be a go.”

For more information on the fascinating world of near shore fiber deployment, listen to the latest Fiber for Breakfast podcast.