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UK Shetland Islands Micro Trenching their Way to Superfast Fibre Optic Broadband

Posted: 20th Jan, 2011 By: MarkJ
uk micro trenchingAt the end of last year we ran a number of reports on how new money from both the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Shetland Islands Council (SIC) would soon be used to help connect the remote northern islands with mainland Scotland via a new fibre optic broadband cable (here and here).

The Shetland Fibre Optic Network (SFON) project will ultimately cost about £1.1 million to complete but should significantly improve broadband ISP connections for residents on the Shetland Islands.

However, it's sometimes interesting to go back and see exactly how things are progressing, which is exactly what the local Shetland Times newspaper have just done. This is perhaps best highlighted by the picture attached to this article, which shows where £55k of the cash has been spent.

The Ditch Witch vehicle, as shown, is an incredibly innovative solution and apparently "the only machine of its kind in the UK," which is at least partly true. The mini-tractor uses a specialised circular saw to dig micro trenches (2cm wide and about 10cm deep) in the road where new fibre optic cable can be laid.

Once complete the cable is simply laid on the bottom and the trench filled in, which is much more economical ("five times cheaper") than using a larger digger to carve out bigger chunks.

Shetland Telecom’s Guy Smith commented:

"The old cable was 110mm wide, dug 600mm deep into a 200mm-wide trench. You are looking at doing about 20 metres a day. It shows Shetland as being quite innovative, forward-thinking and dynamic."

A fibre optic cable running between Lerwick and Hoswick is now expected to be finished before summer 2011. Later in 2011, the loop will be completed by installing a cable running through Scalloway, Trondra and Burra, with a submarine cable to be laid underneath Clift Sound across to Maywick.
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