News

A New Way to Yank Cable

10/17/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Frank Park, Bresnan Communications’ regional vice president of engineering for Montana and Wyoming, was skeptical about the claims from Kabel-X USA.

The startup is selling a high-pressure cable-extraction technology, developed by Austrian engineers, that it says lets operators suck the core out of a segment of coaxial cable while leaving the outer sheath to house fiber or new coax.

Park traveled to Kabel-X USA’s facility in South Florida to get a first-hand demonstration of the system pulling the cores out of aerial cable and 500 feet of buried coax — and saw that the process does, in fact, work.

But while Bresnan is considering using the system for some repair work, Park added: “We’re not looking at this as an end-all solution. It’s another tool to help us.”

The Kabel-X system injects a proprietary fluid through a length of coax; the company will not disclose the chemical makeup except to say it’s not hazardous material. That breaks down the inner dielectric insulation material underneath the outer metallic shield, and allows the inner portion of the cable to be extracted.

“This was designed to find a pathway for fiber without tearing up streets or yards,” said Darin Clause, Kabel-X USA’s executive vice president in charge of sales and marketing.

Kabel-X USA claims the system can extract 600 to 1,000 feet of coaxial core in two or three hours, with a three- or four-person crew. It works on direct buried, ducted underground and aerial cable, according to the company. New cable or fiber can be blown through every 600 to 1,000 feet using separate equipment.

Originally, the company’s focus was to facilitate fiber-to-the-home deployment. But Clause said it has found other applications, including clearing out ductworks and repairing damaged sections of coaxial cable by refitting smaller-diameter cable through the existing sheath.

Clause said the cable-extraction system provides hard-cost savings — by eliminating the need to dig up a street and getting the job done more quickly — as well as soft-cost savings, such as reducing the chance of damage to private property.

Moreover, Clause said, city permitting “is virtually not required because it’s a maintenance tool.”

The company is hoping to sell the system to cable operators, as well as contractors. Clause said it has signed a reseller agreement with Quanta Services, a construction-services firm based in Houston. Kabel-X has a separate product line targeted at telcos for removing their copper wiring and stringing fiber.

Bresnan’s Park said the system could help for upgrading or repairing aerial cable, because the operator is under constraints with poles owned by local power companies as far as weight and surface space of cable it’s allowed to string.

“It would be far more expensive to run new cable” than to swap out the old coax, he said.

Kabel-X USA’s headquarters is in Miami, with manufacturing operations and training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The technology was developed by Vienna, Austria-based Kabel-X.

The U.S. entity controls the North American rights to market and sell the system, which is covered by patents in 120 countries including the U.S., according to the company.

Kabel-X USA has about 20 employees, led by CEO Joseph “Joby” Upton, a former manager at BellSouth Communications and telecom industry consultant.