How is the Israeli fiber optic revolution driving the water?

While Israel leads the world in technological and medical advancements, what the country has lacked lies within its own borders: high-speed fiber-optic internet accessibility for its citizens from north to south.

In Israel, the Internet is available everywhere, from buses to trains, cafes to restaurants, health clinics and gym clubs, but it is only Wi-Fi.

While the world began undergoing a “fiber optic revolution” in the early part of the last decade, Israel has only just begun its journey.

One might expect all major cities like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa to have this type of infrastructure as standard, but at the moment, only 42% of the country has access to these high-speed capabilities, according to Communications Minister Yoaz. Hendel. .

That leaves some sections of Tel Aviv, the tech capital of the world, without access to high-speed fiber optics and, naturally, many on the periphery.

While Israel has been behind the fiber optic revolution for years, the country’s most unlikely new player is accelerating Israelis’ ability to access these technologies: Mekorot, Israel’s national water company.

Mekorot has been dipping its feet into the waters of the tech sector as of late, developing innovations that could be applied to multiple sectors in Israel and the world.

Mekorot, which has been operating in the country since 1937, began investing heavily in innovative technologies in March 2018, when the Knesset approved an initiative that allows companies like Mekorot, which are involved and subsidized by the Israeli government, to do so.

Mekorot, listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, is a government company operating under the Ministry of Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources, providing 80% of the drinking water in Israel with operations representing 70% of the total consumption of water in the country.

It is also a world leader in big data, energy management, water quality and cyber protection with innovative developments that have proven their worth in the field.

FIBER OPTIC of a cable without sheath. (credit: REUTERS / ALESSANDRO BIANCHI)

Mekorot technologies improve the quality of water production and consumption, and provide a host of benefits to the Israeli economy, while reducing the cost of living. They could also greatly improve the energy consumption, big data and cybersecurity sectors around the world, among other examples.

Focusing on fiber optics, the water company developed a way to fish fiber optic lines across the country using its existing pipeline infrastructure that stretches from the northern reaches to the southern borders. One of the recent projects that were sent was to connect the Negev capital, the city of Beersheba, with Eilat, through 280 km. pipeline.

“We got the idea from the military,” explained Mekorot’s chief technology officer, Moti Shiri. “The army uses fiber optics along the road to listen to noise from long distances. Whether it’s a car, people, or animals, technology can pick up and locate sounds from afar.

“We did not start this project for communication capabilities, our goal was to change the pipeline to a smart pipeline,” Shiri said. “We wanted to know in every centimeter or every inch of pipe what is happening in real time.”

The discovery of fiber optics ended up being just a bonus to the equation, a bonus that could save the Israeli economy and its citizens billions a year and countless hours of work in the process.

This makes it a prominent option for providing high-speed Internet to the entire country, especially to sections that would not otherwise have access, at a lower cost than it would have originally been if fiber optic cables were spread using no- Existing infrastructure: infrastructure that would have had to be commissioned or built from scratch.

“Our goal now is to connect the whole of Israel to fiber optics,” Shiri said. “Not all of Israel is connected to fiber optics, and connecting them across the country costs a lot of money and takes a long time.”

Shiri said that considering that Mekorot has pipelines all over the country, even in remote sections, that by using the pipelines, communications companies can connect to these remote areas quickly, rather than waiting three to four years to do so. .

If the infrastructure had to have been built from scratch, it could cost the Israeli economy billions in construction, deployment, excavation, permitting, and creating the general infrastructure that companies would need to house the fiber optic lines inside. In addition, as an additional advantage, Mekorot refers the option of using indoor facilities for the construction of a data center and a hub.

Mekorot itself owns more than 13,000 km. of existing and protected underground infrastructure throughout Israel, which constitutes valuable essential land for the deployment of a fiber network, land that will eventually be filled with fiber optic capabilities.

To spread the lines across the country, Mekorot devised a way to insert fiber optic cables into pipelines and send them across the country: 2 km. at the same time, using an innovative system that uses both water and pressurized air to transport and transport communication lines from one section of the country to another.

Once laid, the engineer has the ability to connect the line to the surrounding area and then continue to fish the cable for 2 km. on the line where someone else waits to repeat the process, and so on.

The fiber optic cables were initially deployed on all of the company’s dedicated water lines to provide the company with the capabilities mentioned above to identify leaks, theft and loss of what is called “unaccounted for water” in addition to the state of the pipelines, such as the Fiber optic lines are making their way across the country.

While fiber optic cables provide the ability to enable high-speed Internet access, using them to create a kind of “smart pipeline” equips Mekorot with far-reaching technological capabilities that allow them to better manage their business management systems. water, which later saves millions for Israelis.

Whether it is the distributed continuous detection system (DSS) that detects anomalies, due to leaks, damage, excavation attempts, water shock and closure of bodies not controlled by acoustic signatures, predictive maintenance models powered by AI, the increased bandwidth and transmitted data. Between separate hubs or the ability to detect malicious cybersecurity threats that could damage or disrupt the system, fiber optics has myriad technological capabilities associated with it.

“We took fiber optic technology (from the military) to identify water theft,” Shiri began to explain. “After that, we found that we could hear for leaks, so we put the fiber optics close to the pipes, to pick up the acoustics and know where the leak is.”

After the initial deployment of the fiber optic lines alongside the pipelines, Mekorot decided to lay the cables directly on the pipelines, in the water, Shiri said. The researchers and the Mekorot cohorts then conducted studies and found that the insertion of lines had no effect on the optical fiber itself or the water around it.

After realizing the capabilities of the fiber optic network, beyond those specific to water management, Mekorot decided the option of inviting the main stakeholders in the Israeli telecommunications infrastructure market (Bezeq, Hot, Partner , Unlimited and other private companies) to work alongside them. to spread these technologies to the Israeli public throughout the state.

This means that Mekorot sells the use of the pipeline to communications companies, allowing them to spread the fiber optic lines to remote locations covered by Mekorot’s water system and turn them into infrastructure to house the communications lines, instead having to dig. , obtain permits and create the infrastructure themselves, which, according to Shiri, could cost countless shekels.

In September 2020, the Ministry of Communications established a roadmap to regulate the National Fiber Optic Network with a focus on promoting the deployment of fiber optic infrastructure, determining a unified price for Internet and communications services, increasing competition and design an incentive program called “Universal Fund” in order to promote these capacities in “economically unviable areas”.

Mekorot is currently in negotiations with several of the major communications stakeholders in Israel, including Bezeq and Cellcom. Mekorot has rented around 100 km. pipeline to get the project off the ground. One of the interested parties has already requested 400 km. of the Mekorot pipelines to implement a fiber optic network that would connect Beersheba with Eilat.

“This is huge, they want to connect Beersheba with Eilat,” Shiri said. “To date, no one has connected Beersheba to Eilat and there is no fiber network in this entire area.”

Overall, Israel will be fully covered by a national high-speed fiber optic network in the next five years, opening up a world of capabilities for the Jewish state, thanks to the innovation and creativity of Mekorot engineers in partnership with the government and major communication players in the country.

This article was written in cooperation with Mekorot.

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