Smithville Telephone Rebuilds Communication Systems

September 2009 Vol. 64 No. 9

It is not unusual anymore to read that small communities and independent telephone companies are building state of the art fiber networks to serve relatively small, often rural service areas.

While the big telecommunications companies concentrate on urban areas where the number of potential customers is greatest, enterprising local networks are bringing fiber connections directly to customers with services, some say, are superior to that available in most big cities. After all, Verizon is the only major company deploying fiber to the premises (FTTP) to a significant number of customers.

One of the most ambitious of these projects is under way in Indiana where Smithville, the parent company of Smithville Telephone, Smithville Digital and Smithville Telecom, will invest $90 million over the next 60 months to completely rebuild its communication systems bringing fiber optic cable connections directly to customers.

The rebuild will bring availability of fiber based broadband to all 29,000 customers in 17 counties served by 12 different telephone exchanges in Southern Indiana. The new network will allow customers to receive data, voice and video at the speed of light through cutting edge technology that brings fiber optic broadband directly into the home.

Construction began in August 2008, said Ron Hahn, Smithville outside plant manager.

“Through September 2009, we expect to complete 13 projects and a 200 mile trunk line,” Hahn continued. “That is a pretty aggressive schedule, but in all we have 54 separate projects. Engineering proceeds as we build the first projects, and the goal is for engineering to be about three projects ahead of construction so that when one segment is complete, we can begin on the next group of projects without interruption in work.”

The current engineering firm is Telplexus of Murfreesboro, TN.

Going underground
Most of the new fiber network plant will be underground. Hahn says various methods of construction are being used, depending on surface and soil conditions and existing utilities.

“We do some trenching through small towns, but we want to avoid excavation as much as possible,” he explained. “We use vibratory plowing and horizontal directional drilling (HDD). The planned projects contain a lot of rock, and that is a factor, but 85 to 90 percent of the fiber is going underground with everything in duct except the service drops.”

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