Fiber Broadband Association digs into microtrenching best practices

April 4, 2023
New white paper report compares microtrenching against other deployment methods as a valuable option in the fiber broadband construction toolkit.

The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) has issued a new best practices white paper that explores microtrenching as an advantageous fiber broadband technology deployment method.

Released last week, the white paper report compares microtrenching against other deployment methods as a valuable option in the fiber broadband construction toolkit, and also details the scrutiny that microtrenching faces, success stories, and aforementioned best practices.

The white paper concludes that microtrenching is a cost-effective and proven method to speed installation, and the connection to the symmetrical gigabit-capable networks required to establish digital equity and close the rural digital divide.

Microtrenching benefits

The new white paper explores multiple fiber deployment styles, including microtrenching, horizontal directional drilling, plowing, conventional trenching, and missile boring.

In terms of cost, Fiber Broadband Association estimates that conventional trenching can be roughly five times the cost of microtrenching. From a time perspective, the white paper reckons that microtrenching reduces one-third of the time it takes for a fiber installation using traditional methods, in some cases, moving from days to hours.

Notably, the installing of new utilities, like fiber, brings concerns about damage to previously installed utilities infrastructure, such as gas lines and water pipes. The white paper assesses a risk profile of the different deployment styles by investigating the average strikes (i.e. damage to an existing utility that causes a service failure) per mile.

The profile reveals that microtrenching had the lowest (0.03) strikes per mile, compared to conventional trenching with the highest (13.97) strikes per mile. So, while damage and risk are unavoidable, the document concludes that microtrenching can be regarded as a deployment style with relatively high output and low utility damage risk.

FBA perspectives

According to a press release, the new microtrenching white paper was created by a subset of subject matter experts from the Fiber Broadband Association’s Deployment Specialists Committee.

Deborah Kish, VP of research and workforce development at Fiber Broadband Association, explained:

“While the white paper does address the benefits and capabilities of microtrenching, we encourage every network builder to consider all installation factors to determine its best path forward. We wanted to highlight in this white paper that microtrenching is a viable option for fiber deployment due to its lower cost per foot and reduced impact on the public domain in dense areas. However, it remains critical that pros and cons are weighed for any network construction because no singular deployment style is perfect. For example, plowing is one of the fastest means of installation but creates considerably more spoil than microtrenching. So, priorities must be considered.”

Gary Bolton, president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association, concluded:

“To some, fiber has an unfounded reputation for being expensive to deploy. However, the bulk of the expense lies in the installation and restoration. The Fiber Broadband Association wants to help broadband network builders understand every deployment option and adopt best practices for maximizing efficiency, speed of deployment, and to minimize cost. Given the unprecedented level of fiber that is required to connect all Americans to reliable internet, innovative methods of fiber deployment are paramount. This white paper is the latest research in our extensive library of resources to help operators, service providers, utilities, cooperatives, and more deliver high-speed broadband quickly and to more households.”

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