Stitch Boring the Last Mile

September 29, 2008

If you’re in the fiber industry, you know that Verizon has made substantial investment into the fiber infrastructure over the past few years. The untold story is how much of this FTTP (Fiber to the Premise) and FIOS (Fiber Optic Service) work has been performed. NTI, a company based out of Elkridge, Maryland currently has a three (3) year contract with Verizon to do FTTP and FIOS work in the state of Maryland. 

Stitch Boring Process
“When contractors install large amounts of gas or fiber installations where finished landscapes exist, they rely on the trenchless methods that have become industry standards,” said Jeff Wage, VP of Sales & Marketing at HammerHead. “Stitch boring with piercing tools is one of those industry standards that is preferred by contractors because of the low operating cost per foot of installation, reasonable equipment investment and minimal expertise required for equipment operation.” NTI has twenty seven (27) crews completing the FTTP work and an additional eighteen (18) crews doing the FIOS connections. “We currently run crews of five (5) with an expectation of fifty (50) feet of production per crew member per eight (8) hour shift. With experienced crews and good ground conditions, we sometimes see between 325 and 490 feet of production in a shift,” said George Bandurchin, Executive Vice President of Operations with NTI. 

To do the work George sets up each of his five men crews with air knives, air compressors and two piercing tools. The crew carefully determines the best places to dig small entry and exit pits (approximately 24” deep) for the piercing tools. Each pit is dug using a combination of air knives (air excavators) or hydrovacs and hand shovels. Once the pits are dug, the crew strings air hoses from the compressor to the easements to power the piercing tools. The tools are connected to the air supply and shot from pit to pit between 25 and 40 feet depending on ground conditions. 

“We chose HammerHead piercing tools to do the work because we knew they would be a reliable way of installing the fiber conduit under trees, gardens, out buildings and other permanent fixtures. In addition, there is less restoration involved versus plowing or using a trencher,” said Bandurchin. Much of the underground FTTP infrastructure is being placed with 3.5” and 4” HammerHead Mole piercing tools on the PUE (public utility easement) and the service drops are installed with 2” HammerHead Mole piercing tools. NTI chose the 2” tools for service drops to go under sidewalks, driveways and landscaping to get services to the house. “Much of the general public’s perception is that utility easements are their own property and although we have the permits to dig there, we make every effort to leave the property as we found it. We’ve had a few property owners upset that we were digging on the utility easement on their property. However, afterwards these property owners were amazed at how little disruption there was,” stated Bandurchin.

To date, NTI has completed all the FTTP work in Montgomery, Howard and Prince George counties and about 70% of the FTTP work is completed in Anne Arundel County. “We are going back into these communities and performing the FIOS drops as the services are ordered and where demand is high, we will prep areas for simultaneous FTTP and FIOS work,” said Bandurchin. “Verizon renews contracts on an annual basis. It’s important that our organization is either meeting or exceeding our contractual production obligation to Verizon,” said Bandurchin

The Right Tools for the Job
Bandurchin is a straight shooter, and he expects his piercing tools to do the same. “When deciding on what equipment we would use, we simply put the equipment to an on the job test. I had the three leading piercing tool manufacturers tools onsite with my crews and asked the crew leaders and superintendents to evaluate each tool’s production and accuracy,” said Bandurchin. After all was said and done, the HammerHead was the clear winner. “From a business stand point, the HammerHead Mole piercing tool holds a clear advantage over their competition. The service provided by the local HammerHead dealership, ease of maintenance and cost of standard maintenance parts were big factors in the decision to purchase the tools,” said Bandurchin. HammerHead Mole piercing tools have an exclusive patented tailbolt design that provides a stronger rear joint than other designs and allows maintenance to be done in just minutes. “If a tool needs routine maintenance, it can be done in the field with the tool back in the ground in as little as 20 minutes. HammerHead offers a great product and my crews love the HammerHead Mole piercing tool,” said Bandurchin.