I probably should have saved that one to read this afternoon, my stomach feels like is could contribute something else for the Zayo folk to walk through now.
We’ve all seen it and we’ve all cursed it. Whether you’re stuck in traffic or grimacing over the noise, digging up the roads to enhance or extend our communications pipelines is disruptive and causes frustrating transport delays. In oh so many ways, infrastructure in the UK is going down the toilet and for the likes of dark …
...or whatever they call it over there. I'm pretty sure that they largest cable you can pull through one of those is probably an 864-fiber cable. I remember when the Bell Labs folks came up with that one, all of the applications and databases had to be updated to handle it. Of course, as soon as it had been released, another group in the Labs came up with a novel optical multiplexor design...negating most of the market for the very-high-count cables.
I did the tour with Geo last year: it's a interesting thing to do, and the state of our 150 year old sewers is really remarkably good :-)
Couple of points you might want to add: I asked about most common failure modes, and they told me that "ragging" where rubbish catches on the conduits and then the flow pulls them off the wall can be an issue (but a small one, overall). Secondly, they also made the point that they run the fibers down secondary sewers as much as possible as getting permission to block off the main ones to install or maintain takes an awful long time!
"this communications infrastructure is out of sight and out of range from the potential disruption of some utility service severing a vital communications link with some misdirected digging. Needless to say, Zayo plays on this as a boon to security."
Surely it's the exact opposite. Regular cables are highly secure because no-one can get at them without digging up the road in a fairly noticeable fashion. Putting them in a sewer means anyone can hop down the nearest drain and have their way with them without anyone ever knowing about it. You trade the convenience of avoiding accidental interruptions with a somewhat greater vulnerability to deliberate ones. Although given that attacks are far more likely to happen at exchanges, the whole security angle is fairly silly anyway; it doesn't matter where you put your cable, it's the ends that people are interested in and they're going to be in the same place.
Have a friend who was a Forward Air Controller during Gulf War I. His mission was to navigate the Baghdad sewer system, push open a manhole cover (at night), aim a laser at a government building for the smartbomb to home in on.
Watch the movie "The Third Man" for a tour of the Vienna sewer system.
I used to work for a company that leased hundreds of fibres around London and so I regularly saw the maps. I realised that outside the KFC where I lived was a series of green cabinets which if someone had a truck/JCB it would do some serious damage.
Fortunately sensible companies traversing London tend to order dual, diverse routes with diverse points of entry, so there is no single point of failure. However if someone knew what they were doing they could do massive damage, luckily none of the advanced knowledge is public but if someone were determined they could try some espionage to get that information.
If Openreach was cleaved off from BT and operated as a completely separate company without BT calling the tune.
That's what's happened in New Zealand. The result has been that the lines company is no longer "encumbered" by rules saying "don't sell to the competition" and is actively seeking out LLU customers as well as renting out dark fibre and duct space.
As long as BT owns Openreach, it can (and does) use it as an anticompetitive tool. Openreach may be forced to sell to everyone on an equal basis, but it's not going to lease duct space, sell dark fibre or make itself particularly easy to deal with or get access to - and all those rules come down from head office.
" Wouldn't be necessary ... if Openreach was cleaved off from BT and operated as a completely separate company without BT calling the tune."
You seem to be arguing for a monopoly in last mile access - is that your intention? When I buy high reliability services I deliberately choose multiple suppliers using different last mile topologies, so I think this kind of thing will always be necessary.
"As long as BT owns Openreach, it can (and does) use it as an anticompetitive tool. Openreach may be forced to sell to everyone on an equal basis, but it's not going to lease duct space,"
It does lease duct space and pole space.
Once I start installing fibres and kit I need a skilled field force, I need spares, I need a support contract on that kit. If I just lease something from BT or Colt or KCOM or C&W or Verizon or whoever all I need is their phone number to ring when it goes pop. I lease services for my customers because it's financially and operationally easier, not because Openreach won't let me in their ducts.
"You seem to be arguing for a monopoly in last mile access - is that your intention? "
Not at all. However reality _IS_ that BT is a monopoly in most areas and is able to leverage that quite nicely (6-figure installation fees for 1Gb/s fibre where I am, vs a lot cheaper where there are competitors)
At some point it's cheaper for Virgin and friends to dig their own trenches (high density areas) but in the vast majority of the land it's just not economically viable.
The problem with a lines company which is part of an overarching monolith is that they do things which don't make economic sense if they were truly independent.
New Zealand analysed what had happened in the UK with the "split off" of Openreach (Telecom New Zealand did voluntarily split its lines operations off in order to stave off govt intervention), but it was realised that the combined structure was still able to be used as an effective anticompetitive tool - and after 20 years of monopoly abuse by Telecom New Zealand the govt wasn't in a mood to allow it to continue as "monopoly abuse lite"
"I'm not sure that Mrs Mouse would approve of internet cables entering our house through the downstairs toilet."
the plonkers in charge Cameron & May get their way, once they've done rifling through our emails and browsing history, they'll be poking internet cables out of the toilet just to make sure we're not hiding subversive materials up our arses...
I've always thought that you could drop a load of fibre pretty easily into the bottom of the UK canal network. This could connect some of the big regional cities very easily. Seems British Waterways has put it under the towpath in some parts of the system, but that seems a lot of effort. You could simply unroll it from a boat and let it sink into the mud, couldn't you? The total weight is going to mitigate against theft and the like. You'd have to dig it into the towpath around locks of course.
Happened long ago - when the London Hydraulic Power Company shut up shop in 1977, its had over 180 miles of iron piping under the centre of London...
Mercury Communications, part of Cable and Wireless bought the assets, including the right (as a utility provider) to dig up London's streets. Nice bit of lateral thinking...
All those pipes, all filled with fibre, and with little expense as only some "tails" into newer buildings had to be laid.
Bin Done. A few places have installed cable in canal bottoms but it usually needs to be buried to protect against anchors. Which can sometimes cause issues, like an install in Paris that ploughed a bit too deep into the canal bed and it started leaking. But usual challenge is getting wayleaves, negotiating costs for wayleaves and then access to sites to do emergency repairs. So although this kind of thing can reduce install costs, sometimes it can make it tricky to get access to repair or maintain. Hence route diversity is important for anything safety or mission critical.
"I've always thought that you could drop a load of fibre pretty easily into the bottom of the UK canal network. This could connect some of the big regional cities very easily. Seems British Waterways has put it under the towpath in some parts of the system"
Look up Fibreway, which if I remember rightly started life in the 1990s as a jolnt venture (?) between British Waterways and GEC (more accurately, GPT). Later, Easynet got involved. Af a later stage the company was called Ipsaris. They were leasing dark fibre, the company in this article certainly weren't the first to do so in the UK.
There's vast amounts of fibre from dozens of companies linking cities in the UK. It runs downs the side of railway lines, through disused gas trunks, along HV power routes, along the walls of the tube - there's absolutely no problem with getting your mitts on a fibre from one city to another.
The difficult bit is the last mile - getting from the site where the main link terminates out to a customer building. In a big city you've probably got a handful of suppliers with their own networks to choose from (BT, COLT, C&W, KC...) but outside of those places your choice is dig yourself or use BT. Even if one of those suppliers is available I'm going to be paying tens of thousands for the install, this stuff isn't priced for domestic use.
"The difficult bit is the last mile [...] this stuff isn't priced for domestic use."
The nice people at FibreCity used to claim their (allegedly) drain-based product was priced for domestic use, but then they collapsed in mysterious circumstances part way through a couple of rollouts. Turns out that their idea of "last mile" wasn't using the drains but was using microtrenching (just like Virgin use).
Then a little while later many of the FibreCity bigwigs re-emerged at a company called CityFibre, who reportedly have some kind of BT-independent last-mile deal with Sky and TalkTalk in York, and more recently it was reported they agreed a cellular backhaul deal with Three and EE.
There's presumably still the small matter of a Serious Fraud Office investigation to sort out at some stage. It's only been three years so it's early days yet.
Currently the standard for 100G/lambda systems is 88 wavelengths (8.8Tb/s) down one fibre with 50GHz spacing; if you filled 864 fibres that would give you 7.6Pb/s down one cable, which apart from being rather high would cost around $50M just for the transceivers...
For shorter reaches we can now squeeze 200Gb/s down 37.5GHz spacing channels which means 23.5Tb/s per fibre or 20Pb/s per cable, which no amount of cat videos can use up ;-)
Directly from Jimbo's Floatsam Bucket of Retconnable Knowledge:
▶ August 6, 2013: A fatberg roughly the size of a bus, consisting of food fat and wet wipes, was discovered in drains under London Road in Kingston upon Thames.
▶ September 1, 2014: A collection of waste fat, wet wipes, food, tennis balls and wood planks the size of a Boeing 747 aeroplane was discovered and cleared by sanitation workers within a drain beneath a 260 foot section of road in Shepherd's Bush in West London.
▶ September 3, 2014: The sewerage system beneath Melbourne, Australia was clogged by a large mass of fat, grease and waste.
There is clearly a large market for autonomous robotics still to be opened.
Also, new El Reg units will be in the works. Soon.
The Anglian Water company recently made an appeal for people not to use toilets to dispose of anything other than body waste and toilet paper. They had a picture of some of the items they caught in their filters. Common items were false teeth and mobile phones - see the pictures in the link.
Another company detailed some of the things that had blocked their sewers. There were fatbergs - and also a large stuffed Pooh Bear.
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019