Monday, September 8, 2008

Fiber to the Houseboat

From the LightWave Blog

September 5, 2008
Posted by Meghan Fuller Hanna

Several days ago, I received an email from Draka touting "the world's first fiber to the houseboat." It seems the company has developed a new type of optical connector that allows houseboat owners to physically connect to Amsterdam's CityNet fiber-optic network upon mooring and disconnect whenever a trip is necessary.

Intrigued, I immediately asked for more information. Unfortunately, the lead engineer on the project is currently on vacation, but I've been in email communication with a Draka spokesperson, who provided a few additional details.

As part of the Amsterdam CityNet broadband project, Draka was challenged to develop a connector to meet the unique requirements of FTTH customers living on houseboats. Not an easy task, as the Draka spokesperson noted. These houseboats are mobile; now and then, they go sailing on the Ijsselmeer, and sometimes they must sail to shipyards for maintenance. (For the record, the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) reports that there are some 2,500 houseboats docked in the city of Amsterdam.)

A standard, fixed optical fiber connection for houseboat applications was obviously out of the question. Instead, a fiber-to-the-houseboat application requires an optical connection that is robust enough for the houseboat owners themselves to connect and disconnect. Moreover, standard connectors are sensitive to dirt and dust, so a fiber-to-the-houseboat-optimized optical connector would have to be easy to clean and dry. (Draka tells me the connector it has developed can be dropped into the water.)

Writes the Draka spokesperson, "Trials proved that with minor modifications, a very robust beam connector originally developed for military applications is ideally suited for houseboat applications. It can be cleaned easily and has good transmission characteristics."To underscore the viability of the new connector, Draka released this photo of Oliver Ax, proud owner of the world's first fiber-connected houseboat.
"I now have ultra-fast Internet, TV, and telephone connection through one single cable," reports Ax, who says he has always been interested in technology and is delighted with the new services provided by GNA (Glasvezelnet Amsterdam) and local Internet provider Alice. Fiber-to-the-houseboat. Kinda makes you wonder what's next. Fiber-to-the-RV? What about fiber-to-the-car? Maybe some day, we'll be able to plug into a fiber connection while we're waiting for our electric cars to charge. In the meantime, anyone else have any cool "Fiber to the . . . ." stories?

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