CCTV, public WiFi, mobile telephony and a wide variety of smart city infrastructure are all data hungry and getting hungrier. A key challenge for public authorities in deploying such technologies is the need for optical fibre to connect them. Despite the large amounts of fibre already in the ground, it is often not in the locations where it is most needed.
Adding new fibre connections to existing poles usually involves digging up footpaths and roads. This can be exceedingly expensive (typically costing more than $1,000 per linear metre in a busy CBD). Laying new fibre is also disruptive for the public and businesses alike and, it can lead to protracted battles over the quality of restorations when the works are undertaken by third parties.
Virtual fibre is a new wireless data transmission technology that aims to negate the need to dig up roads and footpaths. Virtual fibre operates in the 60 GHz unlicensed spectrum range and uses narrowly focused point-to-point links to connect communications devices embedded in street lights, multi-function poles and other devices. The embedded communications devices link back to a common gateway which is connected to the fibre network but these connections can be as infrequent as every tenth pole.
As demonstrated by the first installations in northern Europe, virtual fibre can be lower in cost, be much less disruptive and be comparable in speed and bandwidth to optical fibre. Indeed, virtual fibre is more than capable of supporting high bandwidth applications like 4G and 5G small cell deployments, high-definition CCTV, public WiFi and smart city infrastructure all on the one virtual fibre network.
Two of the world’s largest lighting companies, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) and Schréder, have both recently launched virtual fibre offerings that embed virtual fibre technology into street lights, multi-function poles and street kiosks. These virtual fibre links can be grouped together to create a virtual fibre network in CBDs and other busy precincts.
Both Schréder and Signify will be speaking about virtual fibre at the forthcoming Street Lighting & Smart Controls Forum at the International Public Works Conference in Adelaide on 4 May 2022. Click here to register.