Monday, August 21, 2017

Damage in the Name of Prevention

Examining the Costs of Fiber Tracing Material

by Matt Brice
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Damage Prevention Professional magazine. It is being reprinted here with permission. You can read the original printing in the digital issue of the magazine:
 Selecting armored fiber optic cable for direct burial or a tracer wire element to install with your next underground build might allow you to “check the box” that your plant can be found. However, are you creating an effective system to do so for the life of the network? Today I ask network operators to reflect on how you specify and order materials based not just on capex, but some of the hidden operating costs with toning options on the market today.

I recently compiled one mile worth of connected cost data for the several types of toning options associated with fiber builds. These figures only include materials, and they do not include any labor estimates. We will look at the implications of using cable armor versus a tracer wire element. While this article applies to telecom networks, it does include valuable cost comparisons for locating products used for all utilities.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Overriding Issues with a Fiber Overbuild

What to Know: Fiber Overbuilds

As original fiber routes are now coming due on their life expectancy, we've found out a lot about how cables age in their environments. That discussion alone could fill multiple blogs and whitepapers. The improvements in optical fiber design are pushing back the cabled fiber retirement age past 40 years. But, what if you need to bite the bullet and overbuild an existing route to maintain your QoS?

The cost of new excavation or boring can be detrimental to your balance sheets, so what can you offer them? Cable jetting in an override application can be a feather in  your cap, but you should proceed carefully before going down this route. Here are some things to consider.

Duct Depending

A thorough inspection of the quality of the existing pathway should be conducted. If the duct integrity is good, and it can hold pressure, you should have good results. A good pressure test alone may not guarantee success, however.

Going the Distance

Don't count on the claims of your cable blowing equipment to get you there. Due to the additional air chamber in your Y-Block, there is more potential for air to leak out of even the best system. The parachute style carrier used for overrides isn't as effective at sealing the air in front of the cable, which will slow you down as well. Not to mention the added friction of the cable running against what's inside the duct, try not to be overzealous with distance claims.

If your runs are 1000 - 2000 feet, and you have good duct integrity, you should see success. The equipment manufacturers will still make no guarantee as every job is different.

How did the first cable go in?

If you know the existing cable was blown in originally over longer spans, you could be up for a significant override challenge. Since cable blowers push the cable through a pressurized duct, a cable may not lay flat inside the duct towards the end of the run. Picture a wet noodle with peaks and valleys. If a cable was pulled in, it should be laying flat. Ultimately you would want a cable to be laying flat at the bottom for you, but that doesn't always work out.

Microduct First

You can pressurize a microduct and send it through your existing pathway if the room allows for it. We have run simulations of this at our Collegeville facility for customers interested in trying this method. This will also insure that the cable could easily be reclaimed and the pathway re-used if necessary.

Go Smaller

New microduct cable technologies are pushing the envelope on how many optical fibers you can cram into a space. Do not expect this trend to change. The most recent development from AFL is their LM200-Series OSP Microcore cable that is the smallest thing yet to be Telcordia GR-20 compliant. That being said, it's not the product you'd want to lead with in a greenfield. But this is your answer if you originally wanted to go with a 432 fiber count, and you could only get 96 strand using traditional microduct cable. Fair warning: your splicers may throw objects at you for specifying 72f per tube cables.

Get a Guru

Comstar, as well as our suppliers, have experience assisting with overrides in the past. We all want your job to run smoothly, and we are glad when we can champion another success story. We would certainly like to offer our advice and expertise along the way.

The costs for override installations certainly justify themselves, but it may not work for every situation. If you've already done an override, we would love to hear about the pitfalls and successes of the project. If you're considering an override, please don't hesitate to contact us to see how we might be of service to you or your contractor.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hunting Season Never Ends

Construction seasons may ebb and flow, but for operators the hunting season never ends. Networks are constantly in the cross-hairs of many natural enemies including lightning, high winds, floods, fires and earthquakes to name a few. While these natural incidents are difficult to predict, the results are immediate and conspicuous. One group of natural adversaries is much more subtle and random. Rodents and other animals may strike at any time, and their effects aren't always noticed immediately.

These animal strikes on power grids and telecom networks are gaining attention thanks to the website While most of the documented cases on this site are on the power grid, we know network outages by squirrels are common and cumbersome.

There are multiple measures you can take to safeguard your network from compromises caused by animals, and many of these measures are product related. Obviously there are additional costs associated with these product remedies. If you follow the one percent doctrine, whereby "you must employ 100 percent of our resources to prevent something that has even a one percent chance of occurring," the economics are no longer justified. It would seem that a threat analysis of your network based on the proximity to various habitats would be a good place to start.

Just as a plumber doesn't show up to fix your leaky sink with just a wrench, network operators should place multiple tools in their toolbox to account for rodent infestations. Let's look at some of the products dedicated to minimizing the threat of squirrel and other animal infestations.

SquirrelGuard™ by Osmose: SquirrelGuard™ seems like a natural choice for this problem. These barriers are V-shaped, which helps act as a roof for your cables that will shield them from many different elements. They help avoid squirrel chews because they create a void between the top of the guard and the cable. Squirrels chew into various materials to grind down their teeth, not for food. So if a squirrel reaches a hollow point, they are further deterred from chewing.

Pedfloor™ by Polywater®: Cabinet and pedestal manufacturers have done their best to maintain a sealed exterior enclosure designed to withstand the elements. The bottom of these cabinets is up to you, but what is an effective way to seal around cables that you may also want to re-enter?

Pedfloor™ is a closed-cell foam product that creates an impermeable barrier that maintains its seal through the seasons. It prevents mice, rats snakes, insects and other animals from entering the pedestal or cabinet underground.

If ducts are not properly sealed, creatures could follow cables right up to the warm cabinet. Remember to seal with duct plugs and Pedfloor™ sealant.

Alternative Cable Jacket by Commscope: For fiber and coaxial cable, Commscope offers an Alternative Cable Jacket that combines years of study to design a jacket that is repulsive to many different rodents. The
jacket is a mixture of capsaicin and Bitrex® to produce a mixture that tastes 45 times hotter than Scotch bonnet peppers, one of the hottest peppers in the world. All that heat, and yet this jacket will deter the creatures without harm.

In this blog from Commscope, Doug Wells goes into further detail on how their cable can stem the tide of rodents attacking cables.

Sometimes it has more to do with knowing your enemy. Admittedly, often a terrible taste on the cable jacket is not enough to slow down a squirrel. They have a natural instinct to grind down their teeth, and studies have shown how similar cables were still compromised. Some cable designs are made with several layers of armor protection with their own studies to show how effective they are at thwarting creature attacks.

Nevertheless, it is worth careful consideration on how you plan to prevent and respond to such attacks. Your IT department hopefully already has a well developed and tested plan to defeat cyber security threats. How is your war on squirrels coming along?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Need for Fiber Allocation

Major wireless carriers are prepping for 5G rollouts by forecasting network construction needs over the next 2-3 years. They are announcing partnerships with major manufactures and they have access to all of the materials for installation. If you think about this agreement from a glass production standpoint – domestic yearly production is 50 million FKM – and this deal alone takes up 20 million FKM for each of the next three years. The easy prediction is that carriers purchasing direct will get turned off, and the market is going to get significantly tighter as we move forward – not only from a production standpoint, but also in terms of price and availability.

Communication remains the key – not only internally between your sales, engineering and operations groups, but also with your major suppliers and distribution partners. All broadband providers must already be thinking about their fiber needs not only this year but next year, so that they can ensure their ability to serve customers.

domestic yearly production is 50 million FKM – and this deal alone takes up 20 million FKM
And 5G is only one market mover impacting the insatiable need for fiber optic cable. From fiber-to-the-home players, to the Internet of Things (IoT), municipal builds and traditional bandwidth projects, the telecommunications industry remains in a hyper-build phase. The key to combat any mitigating factors for carriers and contractors alike is to be planning for your fiber needs 12-18 months in advance. Allocating fiber with a well-positioned distributor should be your number one priority. This would eliminate price volatility, lead time fluctuations, and supplier uncertainty.

Comstar Supply is well positioned with fiber and all of the major product lines that accompany installation. It has created a customized solution that takes the guesswork out of your outside plant needs and allows for a smooth transition from planning to construction. We work with our customers to tailor a system that allows us to distribute fiber facilities monthly based on your needs, while allowing for additions or subtractions on your orders. This arrangement not only provides the security of having your most critical resource (fiber) but also allows flexibility regardless of market conditions.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Lime is the new Aqua. Welcome Multimode OM5!

Wavelength Division Multiplexing for the Enterprise

If you're not familiar with OM5 Multimode, now is the time to start paying attention.

Last year, Commscope introduced their LazrSPEED Wideband Multimode Fiber (WBMMF), and the ISO/IEC decided the nomenclature for WBMMF is OM5 in October 2016. Last month, the TIA started TIA-598-D-2 to determine lime as the jacket color for cabled WBMMF (TIA-492AAAE, OM5). Now that we have a name and a color, what is so great about this new fiber?

First let's take a look at how this technology has evolved. OM3 and OM4 Multimode was designed with laser optimization to allow greater bandwidth transmissions at a wavelength of 850nm using Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VSCEL). VSCELs were an improvement over Light Emitting Diode (LED) transmitters used with OM1 and OM2 Multimode fiber. LED transmitters and legacy Multimode still have their applications based on the reduced cost of these systems compared to VSCELs, so we may never see its obsolescence.

VSCELs for the enterprise offered a low-cost, high-power solution compared to lasers used in telecom networks for singlemode fiber long-haul transmission. As bandwidth demands increased in data centers and enterprise markets, it was not economical to use singlemode optics due to the high cost per port.

The evidence abounds today of the proliferation of connected devices, and bandwidth demands are ever increasing. Estimates claim that there will be 30 billion connected devices next year. OM5 WBMMF allows for 4 times the bandwidth than legacy OM4. That means the same amount of bandwidth dedicated to 8 fibers on OM4 can now transmit on just 2 strands.

So the debate over 12 fiber and 24 fiber trunk cables has another challenger with OM5. But how does this new fiber achieve the higher bandwidths? The key to OM5 is that it is optimized to operate on 4 wavelengths. Utilizing Shortwave Wavelength Division Multiplexing (SWDM), you can transmit over 850nm, 880nm, 910nm and 940nm simultaneously.

So even if you only plan to use 850nm today, selecting OM5 WBMMF will give you the flexibility in the future to easily add bandwidth without adding more fiber. It is fully backwards compatible to OM3/4.

If you would like to learn more about Wideband Multimode Fiber, Shortwave Wavelength Division Multiplexing and implementation, contact us today.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What's In Your Splice Trailer?

With the growth in fiber optic connectivity demand, coupled with the evolution of the job of the fiber splicer, having the right tools and equipment on a network construction site are a necessity.

No longer is it as simple as reusing a converted old motor home or ill-equipped trailer. Network installation professionals must have the necessary vehicle and equipment to complete jobs on-time and on-budget.

With Comstar Supply’s “What’s In Your Splice Trailer” online tool, the company offers a no-strings attached checklist and quoting tool. This easy step-by-step guide takes customers through picking out a trailer, a fusion splicer, accessories and must-have test equipment.

To ensure you are ready for your next network construction project, please visit

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Finding Help Is Easy at Comstar City

Comstar Supply has built numerous online resources for telecom and network construction professionals available from its website. From “Comstar City” to “What’s in Your Splice Trailer” to “Comstar’s Magic Mile”, the goal of these interactive tools is to provide users a checklist of products and equipment necessary to complete network infrastructure buildouts.

Focusing on Comstar City (, this interactive online application features products from more than 40 manufacturers. It takes users through a virtual tour of a network that is wired top-to-bottom in fiber-optic cable. From a wireless DAS network to small cell, from aerial versus underground construction, as well as Fiber to the X, Enterprise, Distribution Hubs, and more – there are more than 23 network construction examples available to learn about.

Comstar City is beneficial in many ways, but we believe the top three include:

1. A Virtual Organization Tool

Sometimes all you need is a picture to remember what you’re forgetting — so Comstar City acts as a visual resource integrating nearly every level of telecommunications into a single interactive space.
Users can see everything they need to complete a build on-time, from safety equipment to splicing tools and the various applications of each.

2. A Continuing Education Class for Network Construction

One of the biggest challenges in the telecommunications industry is educating all levels, from carriers to contractors, on the latest technology and innovations in the industry. Comstar City is updated regularly to ensure that we’re always showcasing the latest products in outside plant materials.

Nearly every product shown in the app are available through Comstar Supply, but to cover all of our bases and give customers the most tailored solution for their projects, we display our competitor’s products too. It’s our way of maintaining transparency with our partners and potential customers.

3. Easy Ordering

Contractors, carriers, utilities companies, and transportation and government entities are using more fiber than ever before and investing heavily in infrastructure to support growing consumer demand. So, while users can make sure they have everything they need, they can also purchase from Comstar Supply fight from the tool.

These online resources from Comstar make it easy for customers to purchase and educate themselves on network construction applications. Please visit Comstar City at for more information.