Summerstrand in Nelson Mandela Bay has become one of the first areas in the Eastern Cape to get fibre internet infrastructure installed using an innovative process called “Micro-trenching”.
The Nelson Mandela Bay council provided permission to MetroFibre Networx to install fibre infrastructure via micro-trenching in Summerstrand on a proof-of-concept basis in May 2019.
The results have been a much faster, cleaner and less disruptive process for residents and the metro alike.
“For residents of Summerstrand in Nelson Mandela Bay, the council’s decision to test the micro-trenching process has been an absolute win for residents. It has saved residents untold disruption and upheaval common with traditional hand-trenching methods which dig up entire pavements and driveways in a sometimes messy and protracted process, along with all the restoration work needed after the infrastructure is laid,” explains Henry Wilkens from MetroFibre Networx.
“Micro-trenching is both less invasive and much quicker. Deployment time is reduced by 60% to 80% in comparison with traditional hand trenching methods. There is also much less chance of consequential damage to any surrounding infrastructure, which can prove problematic for local councils and residents.”
MetroFibre Networx is a pioneer in the installation of fibre networks utilising micro-trenching in the South African market. Micro-trenching is done by specialised machines and trained operators who cut a narrow and shallow trench into the road surface, right alongside the pavement where the curb and the tarmac meet.
A micro-trench is typically 30 to 50 millimetres wide and can be up to 400 millimetres deep, although usually about 200 millimetres for fibre purposes. The fibre conduit and cable are then placed in this micro-trench and the area is then backfilled and sealed with a specialised trench grout which restores the road back to its original surface.
MetroFibre completed the micro-trenching process in Summerstrand covering a 5km area in under two weeks – from the very first cut to installing and completing the entire installation of the fibre infrastructure to the closing and restoring of the road surfaces.
“With traditional fibre installation (hand trenching) methods, the process of getting fibre can be expensive, time-consuming and disruptive to residents and traffic in the area. In urban areas roads may have to be temporarily closed while pavements and driveways are dug up, annoying residents, road users and pedestrians. The restoration costs and time are also onerous.
“Digging up pavements also runs the risk of hitting and damaging other utilities that are buried underground. While standards may specify that certain utilities must be placed at specific depths, this is often not the case especially if the ground is particularly rocky,” adds Henry.
“Anything that falls outside these depth expectations causes headaches for councils with having to do emergency repairs, and for residents who may be cut off from utilities such as water, gas or other communications for an extended time. Even more frustrating, every time a new fibre provider is approved in an area, the same pavements will be dug up over again.”
Micro-trenching avoids virtually all of these pitfalls. And since MetroFibre is an open-access provider, there is no need for multiple fibre infrastructure providers to dig up the terrain as all approved Internet Service Providers (ISP) are able to operate off its fibre network, providing residents with a wide choice of ISPs to meet their needs.
It’s an innovative approach by the Nelson Mandela Bay metro that puts the interests of the residents first and certainly lessens the aesthetic impact on its scenic, tourist environment. MetroFibre is currently one of a very limited number of operators in the country using this technology.
“We are looking at deploying this methodology more widely in our national operations to firstly lessen the impact and inconvenience in the areas where we operate and to dramatically increase the speed to market for clients to get connected to fibre internet,” said Henry.