Installing Fiber Optic Cables in Storm Drain Lines
– An initiative by the City of Calgary

Project Objective:


To utilize existing underground concrete storm drain lines to transport new fiber optic cables within an urban area. Storm drain lines are an integral part of the civil infrastructure in most North American cities and offer an ideal environment to install fiber optic cables. By design, storm drain lines are typically:

  • Owned by the municipality and therefore not subject to joint use agreements, permitting, conflicts with other utilities, etc.
  • Very deep below grade – offering a safe environment, immune from dig-ups.
  • Steel reinforced concrete – providing a secure, protective envelop.
  • Man accessible – large enough for men to work inside without the need for specialized equipment.
  • Direct route – they normally take the most direct route from point “A” to “B” since they are not affected by above ground structures.

Project Details:

The City of Calgary had a need to provide a fiber optic cable from an existing manhole location to a new training facility located several miles away.

By utilizing existing construction methods (open cutting of pavement, direction drilling, trenching, etc.) they would have had to deal with: road closures, service disruptions, extensive permitting, utility coordination, restricted hours of work, weather conditions, costly rehabilitation of roads / grassy areas, etc.

PCI was approached by the City of Calgary with the question: “Can you provide us with a solution for installing a new fiber optic cable into an existing concrete storm drain that will be both time and cost effective yet still survive the 100 year flood?”


Our reply: “Of course, this is what we do – provide timely, cost effective solutions for our customers!”

PCI Solution:

By using an existing proprietary product as our starting point, PCI was able to develop a solution that was acceptable to the City of Calgary.


Since the proprietary product was originally developed for the European market, the products and installation methods did not totally conform to the North American market. With the experience and expertise in new product development, PCI was able to modify the product and installation methods to make it suitable for the job.

PCI Involvement:

Prior to being awarded a contract to perform any work on the project, PCI was tasked with the job of developing:

  • A detailed set of drawings for the entire underground route. This meant walking the route from end to end – several times.
  • A complete bill of materials.
  • A safety program for working in confined spaces.
  • A schedule for tracking costs and work progress.
  • A list of products and procedures that were unique to this project and needed to be designed and developed – prior to work starting.


In addition to the above, PCI needed to demonstrate how they would ensure the absolute safety of every person working on this project. Worker safety was the most important aspect of this project. To this end, PCI developed a comprehensive safety program that was deployed throughout the original installation and subsequent ones.

Once the PCI proposal was approved and adopted by the City of Calgary, the project was launched.

The proprietary products used on this project were developed for the European market but had never been deployed in North America. Since the inception of the company, PCI has worked closely with a number of European companies and has always felt comfortable with the product quality and support.

Prior to making modifications to the product or installation methods, PCI always cleared them with the manufacturer to ensure that we were not affecting the product integrity or its ability to offer a 20 plus year service life.


Since the original installation, PCI has completed three others within the City of Calgary. In all four cases, the results were the same:

  1. Cost effective: less expensive than conventional installation methods when using the same route.
  2. Time effective: requires approximately 60% less time than conventional methods.
  3. Negligible traffic disruptions.
  4. Negligible rehabilitation to roads, sidewalks, grassy areas, etc.
  5. Weather: not affected by weather conditions. Work can be done at any time of the year.
  6. Coordination with other utilities is eliminated. No need for permits or cable locates.
  7. Pre-work activity (pumping manholes, cleaning / flushing storm drains, etc ) is minimal.