Council goes high-tech for cable trenching

Trenchless technology for fibre-optic cable laying in Long Street.PHOTO: City of Cape Town
Trenchless technology for fibre-optic cable laying in Long Street.PHOTO: City of Cape Town

Novel technology known as micro-trenching is being used by the City of Cape Town to install fibre-optic cable ducts in the Cape Town CBD.

These high-tech machines, being used as part of a pilot project within a four-block radius in the CBD, are a faster and cheaper way of installing fibre-optic cables with minimal disruptions.

The advantage of micro-trenching is that a considerably longer distance can be cut and reinstated in a single day than with most other invasive technologies, explains Mayco member for corporate services, Raelene Arendse.

Instead of manually digging up the road or pavement surface, the micro-trencher saws through the asphalt or concrete creating a trench of typically 50mm in width and about 500mm deep. The City’s requirement is for a trench depth of 300mm.

“At some stage most of us have experienced the disruptions caused by large trenches being dug to lay fibre-optic cables. The wide open trenches on the pavements leave many individuals hot under the collar as they try to carefully pick their way through the obstacle course created.

“The micro-trenching method is a safer option, especially for pedestrians. Technology is evolving quite quickly and we need to keep abreast of the latest and the best methods to deliver infrastructure,” Arendse says.

Over 30 City-owned buildings in the CBD have already been connected to the fibre network.

The intention is to eventually also have the more than 1000 commercial buildings in the city centre connected to the City’s fibre network, which is a strategic asset owned by the City and used by both City departments and commercial operators.

“This pilot project spanning the four blocks in the city centre is a first for Cape Town, and also the first to be conducted by a municipality in Africa for connecting all of the buildings within a CBD. Our aim is to make Cape Town the most digitally connected city on the continent,” adds Arendse.

This is the first time the City is using micro-trenching machines to lay cable ducts, although this method has been in use in Gauteng for some time.

It is only practical to use the micro-trenching machine on solid surfaces.

It is not practical to use the machines directly in soil, unless over short distances.

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