Aerial drone used by Openreach to bring fibre broadband to rural village in Wales

Openreach has become the first in the world to deploy a fibre cable with the help of an aerial drone. Using a drone to carry fibre optic cable is a different challenge. But Openreach had hinted previously about their plans to test this approach. EE has gained such experience in the field while using similar technology to deploy 4G mobile communication.

Openreach made its first test in the village of Pontfadog of Ceiriog Valley in Wexham (North Wales), which has all these years been struggling with the local exchange at Glyn Ceiriog, with really slow speeds. Although the 1Gbps capable FTTP network covers almost the whole village, sadly some 20 premises perched further up the valley is difficult to reach. Trenching, wireless and satellite solutions were ruled out. So, a group of engineers from Openreach used a portable drone to pull cabling to the isolated premises. The deployment is part of the Superfast Cymru programme, supported by state aid, which aims to cover around 95% of Wales with fibre broadband services on FTTC/P tech.

Openreach engineers used the small drone, not to lift the cable, but it was hooked to a high-strength fishing line, which was flown over by it and dropped across tree tops. This line was attached to a draw rope. The rope was attached to the fibre cable, which was then pulled over. The provider plans to conduct further trials using this method and is considering to train selected engineers to use drones, as part of engineering teams working across the country.

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