Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, May 25, 2002
Industry & Economy
Science & Technology
Go online via power point, cable in waste water systems
MUNICH, May 24
GET all your communication needs through the electric supply point in your home or via the midget-sized cable networks tucked away in the waste water pipe systems.
In short, you can access the Internet, use telephone and send fax messages all through the socket fixed on to the wall or the electric point, say in the living room or a work spot in your house.
In the other scenario, waste water pipe systems, which are common in the developed nations connecting every house or apartment, can house a compact, miniaturised cable system that serves as the communications switch.
Power utility companies and technology-driven corporates are pursuing these emerging modes of multi-utility systems to meet communication and data needs. A number of German companies are also in the race, and pilot schemes are under way in some of the regions of the country.
The electricity meters at homes can be read online in the future, and the bills sent out immediately via e-mail. A Web user can continue to be online via the power line, and there would be no need for repeat logging on and off using the telephone line as is required now in most dual uses.
Now at the trial stage in some locales, the system could throw up obvious questions such as transmission speeds and the geographical distribution. Will there be a slowdown in access with growth in users? Will the price structure be higher?
These questions doing the rounds at the IFAT, the 13th global fair on environment, wastewater treatment technologies, which concluded here, found a few leads. For example, RWE, the German company put on offer a new product called PowerNet, which promised Internet access of up to 30 times faster than digital networks. RWE said the access was even quicker than the fastest offered by Deutsche Telekom, the German telecom major.
In another development, Preussen Elektra is in the process of developing a 230-V modem. In this product, a part of the available bandwidth is reserved for voice-based services and Internet data transfer could be separately used.
On the innovations on the cables front, an interesting trend is the coming together of waste water disposal companies and hi-tech manufacturers in the fabrication of futuristic networks, which are small, but have bigger transmission capacities.
The present cable network, which is ubiquitous in most urban locales, requires high investments, civil works and a clash with various other agencies. Realising these hurdles, several companies have tried different combinations of fibre optic cables and couplings and integrated them with domestic connecting points that need very little space. Waste water pipe systems, common in most developed countries, have been their target.
Since the waste water pipe system is lower down in the ground, they are protected against any civil activity.
There is also no need for digging up roads and footpaths to lay cable since the network already exists for waste-water pipe, says a review paper on the subject presented at the trade fair.
A test project in Hamburg has now gone into the commercial scale operational mode. Special robots from a Swiss manufacturer are being deployed to lay up to nine fibre-optic cables in waste water pipes in the German city.
The cable is fixed via tension rings, instead of the traditional dowel fixing, into pipes too small for maintenance personnel. The rings prevent any damage to the pipe wall.
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