Seimitsu, a Savannah, Ga.-based CLEC and IT provider, found a way to get around the city's challenging rights-of-way and ability to extend fiber to more of its business customer's locations.
While it is still an emerging concept, micro-trenching involves cutting a small trench in the ground and then installing a microduct to bring fiber into a business or residential premises.
Typically, service providers have used microtrenching to extend fiber over short distances.
Being an older city, Savannah poses various issues for service providers to lay fiber, including dealing with utilities that have put the majority of their power grid underground.
Like other traditional service providers, Seimitsu had traditionally used boring to install fiber underground to business customers.
Sam Cook, President and founder of Seimitsu, told FierceInstaller that he saw the potential with microtrenching to control costs.
"The challenge with building out fiber is that it's expensive, and working with the local municipalities on how to submit permits and builds and to avoid the utility lines," Cook said. "With Savannah being one of the old Victorian historic cities founded in 1733 there are different aggregate materials."
The company found the inspiration to use microtrenching from a number of service providers in Europe, which were using the method to improve FTTH installation.
"I discovered folks in European countries doing microtrenching by basically cutting the streets and delivering fiber services out to residential customers," Cook said.
Savannah's underground power grid poses a number of challenges for service providers to dig trenches to lay fiber, making it difficult to drill below the city street's surfaces.
Working with Ditch Witch, Seimitsu conducted a short fiber run into a building where it had to serve a business. The microtrenching path was about 150 feet, but Cook said that it could have been 2,000 miles because the Ditch Witch product worked well.
"Basically, it got us across the street into the building using a microtrenching product from Ditch Witch," Cook said. "It worked absolutely wonderful and the alternative route would have been extremely challenging to do it with the boring method."
To restore the path along the city street after digging the microtrench, Seimitsu leveraged StirlingLloyd's restoration material Safetrack Crack Infill. Instead of having to lay down new asphalt, this solution, which is black in color, supports the trench on both sides and seals it from water ingress.
The benefit of this material is that it can be installed quickly with minimal disruption to local businesses and residents that live in the area.
"Rather than mixing tar and asphalt material this has an aggregate and it hardens in about 10 minutes," Cook said. "You could actually cut the trench, lay your flexible conduit in and then you start pouring this restoration material in and you only need to close half the street and from the city's perspective they loved it."
Cook said that microtrenching would be another option for challenging fiber installations.
"Being able to be extremely flexible where we construct our fiber infrastructure, microtrenching will be a great tool for us," Cook said. "I don't think microtrenching will be a good fit for long builds, but for what we consider as a lateral build into a building or even just a couple blocks over I think it's going to be a good fit."
In addition to working with Ditch Witch, Seimitsu recently purchased a Simex wheel trencher attachment for its Bobcat excavator machine to perform future microtrenching projects.
One area where microtrenching could have utility for Seimitsu is the work it's doing with Savannah.
The service provider has been tasked with building fiber into Savannah's historic squares to backhaul security camera traffic and to support student Wi-Fi services.
"In some of those areas, we're going to use microtrenching to do that when boring is not adequate, but for us it's about having a choice," Cook said. "When we do a survey and if we can't build it comfortably with boring we'll use microtrenching to dig six to 12 inch ditches."
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