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Saturday, 14 May 2011 12:06

i3 wants to backhaul cell sites with fibre-in-the-sewer


International fibre optic infrastructure provider i3 Group - best known for its FTTH technology that runs the fibre through existing conduits such as sewers, drains and clean water pipes - has launched a mobile operator division to provide fibre backhaul for mobile operators' cell sites.

It has appointed Mike Parker to the role of director of mobile operator strategy to grow the new business unit around the world. The i3 technology enables mobile operators to use fibre for data backhaul to cell sites. He been with i3 Group for a year and was previously group technical innovations director.

I3's technology, known as Hydraspeed, is claimed to be significantly quicker and cheaper to install than conventional FTTH systems. According to Parker, "Our Hydrospeed technology will provide mobile operators with a wholly-owned infrastructure with up to 90 per cent reduction in fibre deployment timescales and up to 70 per cent reduction in deployment costs."

In 2010 i3 trialled its technology in the Brisbane sewers in partnership with the Brisbane City Council in preparation for a planned large scale rollout. However the project was cancelled early this year.

i3 CEO, Elfed Thomas, said: "We have identified the Australian market as being ripe for this technology solution, given the large physical size of the continent, and the increasing pressure on mobile carriers to improve the quality of their voice and data services. We believe the explosive growth of mobile broadband has created a strong opportunity for fibre specialists such as i3 to help mobile carriers with the growing challenge of managing their data back-haul traffic."

i3 might not find many takers for its technology in Australia as those cell sites not backhauled by fibre are in many cases outside urban developments and therefore nowhere near infrastructure such as sewers.

Telstra has long boasted that the high percentage of its cell cites backhauled by fibre gives it a competitive advantage, but as Telstra owns a nationwide fibre network it is better placed to do this than its competitors.

Optus boasts that it has 80 percent of metropolitan area base stations backhauled by fibre, but will not disclose the overall number. It and Vodafone are anticipating that the NBN will provide an economic option for increasing the amount of fibre backhaul in their networks.


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