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The City of Cape Town is making use of novel technology known as micro-trenching to install fibre-optic cable ducts in the Cape Town central business district (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. Read more below:

The advantage of micro-trenching is that a considerably longer distance can be cut and reinstated in a single day than most other invasive technologies. Instead of hand-digging up the road or pavement surface, the micro trencher saws through the asphalt or concrete creating a trench of typically 50 mm in width and about 500 mm deep. The City’s requirement is for a trench depth of 300 mm.

This novel, high-tech cable duct laying technology is being used as part of a pilot project within the four block radius in the CBD along Wale, Loop, Berg and Longmarket Streets.

‘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,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Corporate Services, Councillor Raelene Arendse.Using micro-trenching has the advantage that considerably longer distances can be cut and reinstated in a single day than most other invasive technologies. The only drawback is that the trench must be in a relatively straight line and it is important to ensure that there is no existing underground infrastructure which could be damaged.

‘Residents can rest assured that careful planning is done before the micro-trenching blade is put to work. An underground radar is used to determine the existence of existing services on the planned route of the micro-trencher. In most instances the underground services can be identified, but sometimes not all services can be identified with the necessary precision, which necessitates pilot holes being dug to clarify what is underground,’ said Councillor Arendse.

This pilot project within the four block radius in the city centre is part of the City’s roll-out of broadband infrastructure. To date, more than 920 km of fibre-optic cabling has been laid across the city.

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 1 000 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,’ added Councillor Arendse.

This is the first time that the City of Cape Town is using micro-trenching machines to lay cable ducts, though this method has been used in Gauteng for some time.

It is only practical to use the micro-trenching machine on solid surfaces. It is not practical to use it directly in soil, unless over short distances.

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