Vodafone's underground fibre cables to monitor for earthquakes, gas and water leaks

  • 21/02/2022
A FiberSense unit
It will become the first telco in Australasia to offer the technology to customers. Photo credit: Supplied / Vodafone

Vodafone New Zealand is expanding its partnership with a company that uses its existing underground fibre cables to proactively monitor for natural disasters and civil works.

After a successful pilot in Auckland, the partnership with FiberSense will also be able to provide advance warnings on third-party issues like gas and water leaks in Wellington, the company said.

A FiberSense unit will monitor more than 100km of Vodafone's optical network cable in the capital 24/7, with the "super-precise" sensors the equivalent of a virtual sensor every 3 - 5m.

Tony Baird, chief technology officer at Vodafone New Zealand, said security and reliability were fundamental, and using FiberSense's service improved that.

"We are excited about the opportunity to utilise our network in new and innovative ways and working with FiberSense to turn our optical network into a massive sensing array is an exciting opportunity," he said.

Vodafone NZ will become the first telco in Australasia to deliver the monitoring technology to customers, it said.

This means it can provide water and gas companies with data about issues underground as well as capturing seismic activity and other sensitive data, like traffic monitoring.

The University of Birmingham has estimated the true cost of repairing underground utilities is around 29 times the direct cost of the time and materials, so early alerts could lead to companies saving huge amounts of money as well as reducing customer disruptions.

Dr Mark Englund, CEO of FiberSense said it was excited by the rapid growth of the New Zealand sensing capability network, and it represents a new model for fibre owners to earn revenue.

"The new Wellington rollout paves the way for expanding the sensing capability to other clients including utilities, governments and municipal council offices," he said.

"Protecting underground critical infrastructure from third party accidental damage is a common risk to these customers whether the impact is due to water leaks, power outages or natural disasters. 

"Our Digital Asset sensing service helps mitigate the impact of these all-too-common events."