Smithville Telephone Rebuilds Communication Systems

September 2009 Vol. 64 No. 9

Open cut construction once was the standard method of burying outside plant and still is used in areas with few surface improvements and existing buried utilities, but more and more construction calls for procedures that limit disturbance to improved areas and crowded underground easements.

Vibratory plows can install cable and small diameter conduit making only a narrow slit in the ground and causing much less disruption than any type of excavation.

Horizontal directional drills have become widely used on FTTP projects because of their ability to make trenchless installations under streets and highways, drives and sidewalks, and yards and other landscaped areas, not only limiting surface damage but reducing disruption of traffic and other routine activities.

The contractor for the first project is Ervin Cable Construction LLC, Sturgis, KY. The company specializes in constructing fiber rings and fiber upgrades.

Included in Ervin’s fleet of HDD equipment working on the Smithville project are two horizontal directional drilling units: a Ditch Witch JT922 model with 9,000 pounds of pullback, maximum spindle torque of 1,100 foot pounds and spindle speeds to 186 rpm; and a JT2020 unit developing 20,000 pounds of pullback, 2,200 foot pounds of spindle torque and maximum spindle speed of 150 rpm.

Both self contained drill units are mounted on rubber tracks for moving across both paved surfaces and landscaped areas, and their compact size makes them well suited to work on FTTP projects.

In addition, crews are using an FM fluid mixing system mounted on a trailer with dual 1,000 gallon tanks; and two Ditch Witch FX30 vacuum excavators, one equipped with a 300 gallon tank, the other with an 800 gallon tank.

The vacuum excavators can be used both for soft excavation potholing to uncover and visually identify the locations of existing buried utilities and to clean up excess drilling fluid from work sites.

Installing outside plant underground is nothing new for Smithville; more than 80 percent of its existing copper plant is underground. The company owns underground construction equipment, including a JT1220 directional drilling unit and electronic tracking equipment, RT40 trencher, RT75 combination trencher/vibratory plow and 420sx vibratory plow and trailers. None of this equipment is being used on the fiber construction.

“We use it for day to day construction and our own crews have done construction to bring power to some greenfield areas," Hahn explained.

Segments of the copper network will be retired as the new fiber is completed to replace them.

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