ASTM forms new standards committee on fiber-optic cable installations in underground utilities

WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa., June 25, 2002 — ASTM International, one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world, announced that it has formed a new committee to create standards for optical fiber cable installations in underground utilities.

The committee is comprised of a diverse range of international stakeholders including telecommunications companies, underground utility owners, state regulators, optical fiber cable manufacturers, members of the civil engineering community, and many other representatives from the public and private sectors as well as academia.

Solving the “Last Mile” Problem in Optical Fiber Networks

The new ASTM committee — F36 on Technology and Underground Utilities — comes together at a time when the telecommunications industry is pursuing new strategies to solve the “Last Mile” problem in the deployment of metropolitan optical fiber networks.

The “Last Mile” is the section of the network that connects from the basement of an end-user building to the metro area network that surrounds a city. Deploying the final local loop requires extensive construction, usually involving the excavation of congested city streets, causing traffic hold-ups, economic loss and unsafe conditions. These challenges are slowing the deployment of local optical fiber broadband loops in the last mile, impeding the growth of the telecommunications industry.

Telecommunications companies are investigating the idea of leasing space inside underground utility systems, including sewers and natural-gas pipelines. The strategy includes using robots and other devices to install fiber optic cables to the roof of sewer or natural gas pipes, lowering the cost of network installation and eliminating the hassle of city street excavation.

Setting the Standards for Progress

Sharing underground space to form utility corridors is a breakthrough concept requiring cooperation and consensus on a wide range of issues, including sewer selection criteria, safety, access rights, construction, materials, operation and maintenance. ASTM’s F36 committee will bring together hundreds of technical experts from around the world to write voluntary consensus standards pertaining to these and many other issues. These standards will be used as important tools in serving the telecommunications and municipal engineering communities in their cooperative pursuit of innovative optical fiber network installations.

Jey K. Jeyapalan, P.E., Ph.D., a civil engineer and consultant in pipelines, optical-fiber networks and trenchless technology, who has been instrumental in the efforts to organize the F36 committee during the past year and a half, commented, “ASTM has a history of bringing together international stakeholders to create consensus standards that advance entire industries and speed the market adoption of new technologies. ASTM’s open and inclusive process will help ensure that F36 standards are truly global standards and can be utilized in fiber optic cable installations in all parts of the world.”

Broad Range of Stakeholder Support

ASTM Committee F36 has already attracted over 200 members representing 25 countries. As the committee begins to pursue its first year agenda, stakeholder support has been strong.

“The prospect of deploying optical fiber networks in underground utility systems has the promise of solving many last mile hurdles and delivering powerful new value in telecommunications services to end users and consumers,” notes Andrew Straw, manager of field support and engineering, Corning Cable Systems, a leading optical fiber cable manufacturer. “Standards and engineering practices will play a critical role in the safe and rapid deployment of this new technology in the public interest. ASTM offers the right forum for bringing key players together to achieve common goals.”

“The concept of using underground utilities to host fiber optic cables is significant to both the telecommunications industry and the owners of municipal sewer systems,” adds Mike Hullihan, a civil engineer in the municipality of Riverside, Illinois.

“Municipalities can benefit in areas including geographic information system development, condition assessment, pipe rehabilitation, and flow monitoring. Municipal engineers will play a critical role in helping to ensure that new technologies in the area of underground infrastructure are based on sound engineering principles. ASTM standards will go a long way in helping to establish the needed guidelines, enabling us to be creative in implementing new technologies.”

Industry feedback and comments on the new ASTM Committee F36 should be directed to Jey K. Jeyapalan (860/354-7299, or Dan Schultz, F36 staff manager, ASTM International Technical Committee Operations (610/832-9716;

Established in 1898, ASTM International provides a global forum for the development and publication of voluntary consensus standards for materials, products, systems and services. ASTM standards are accepted and used in research and development, product testing, quality systems, and commercial transactions around the globe.

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