How ‘Microtrenching’ is Transforming Colorado’s Wireless Capabilities

Colorado has some ambitious goals to meet when it comes to accessible high-speed internet, and this new "microtrenching" method is leading the charge.

There is no doubt that high-speed broadband access has become an essential tool. Fast and reliable service is critical for individuals to access basic services and for businesses, academia and non-profits to thrive in our digital world. This need became particularly apparent during the pandemic when everyone, from school-age children to working adults, was dependent on reliable connectivity. Thankfully, microtrenching is making connectivity easier.

We are fortunate that both the federal and state governments have recognized this and are investing in building out Colorado’s fiber infrastructure. The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes significant funds ($65 billion) for broadband to ensure that every American has access to reliable high-speed internet. And last year, Governor Polis signed an executive order directing the Colorado Broadband Office to connect 99% of Colorado households to high-speed broadband by 2027.

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To meet these ambitious targets, Colorado needs to allow new innovative methods to accelerate the deployment of broadband in the state.

One new industry best practice is microtrenching, an innovative construction technique that cities across the country have used to quickly install fiber without disrupting everyday life.  From start to finish, the process is significantly faster than traditional trenching methods, which can be expensive and time-consuming as well as causing disruptions and delays on local streets.

Rather than digging large-scale trenches, fiber is installed underground through a narrow cut in the pavement up to two inches wide. Potholing, digging, conduit and backfill all occur simultaneously. The process is fast and reduces lane closures. Additionally, since the trench is so narrow, the amount of restoration required is minimal and barely noticeable.

Microtrenching is also a more environmentally friendly way to deploy fiber than alternative installation methods. The process uses less water, less heavy equipment, produces fewer spoils and happens on a faster timeline which reduces traffic.

Colorado should incentivize and remove barriers for the industry to deploy microtenching. As the state is working to distribute federal dollars, Colorado needs local jurisdictions to ensure that systems are in place to develop this necessary infrastructure. The cheaper microtrenching method would leverage the unprecedented amount of funding to bring more broadband to more Colorado communities.

Additionally, wireless infrastructure is dependent on a strong fiber network. Individuals and businesses are increasingly reliant on wireless technology for basic communication needs. There are more than 275 million smartphone users in the U.S. and over 180 million other connected devices. The average monthly mobile data usage in North America is expected to reach 52GB per smartphone in 2027, according to an Ericsson report. By 2027, we expect 5G networks to carry 62% of total mobile data traffic. Unfortunately like across the nation, some Colorado communities experience a digital divide. And it’s not just in rural areas — even cities in our state suffer from poor wireless coverage.

Microtrenching is an effective way to quickly install fiber and provide communities and businesses with the infrastructure required to succeed. It is a technology that will expedite the deployment of broadband infrastructure and help our state meet its connectivity goals. Colorado should encourage this innovative method to ensure our fiber infrastructure is ready to meet our needs for today and years to come.


Tim Urband PhotoTim Urband is the President of the Colorado Wireless Association, a nonprofit striving to promote awareness of the telecommunications industry, educate consumers on the value of the industry, and provide guidance to municipalities on regulatory issues. The telecommunications industry plays a critical role in Colorado, and COWA seeks to cultivate and foster strong relationships among the members of the telecommunications industry through networking events, educational seminars and fundraising events.

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