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.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Comstar Supply Announces Appointment of Ross Smith to Sales Team

For more information, contact:
(610) 831-5020

COLLEGEVILLE, PA – March 7, 2017Comstar Supply, Inc., a national distributor of telecommunications network products and services, today announced Ross Smith has joined the company as National Account Manager. In this position, Smith will deliver on his proven sales success and ability to drive revenue by leading the company’s large and strategic account outreach.
“Adding Ross’ proven leadership and enviable sales track record to the Comstar Supply family means we are ideally positioned to grow our business and meet the demands of our customers,” said Chad Punchard, President and CEO of Comstar Supply. “His first-hand dealings with the largest accounts in our industry, and deep knowledge of fiber and network construction, make this a home run for us and will propel us to new heights in 2017 and beyond.”
Prior to joining Comstar Supply, Smith served more than nine years as the Eastern Region Manager for Sumitomo. There he had sales responsibility for Sumitomo’s Carrier Network Group for 26 states. Subsequently, he spent nearly 17 years in similar positions with NEPTCO Incorporated, where he earned numerous sales honors and industry accreditations.
Smith served five years United States Air Force, and attended both Fitchburg State College and the Community College of the Air Force.

About Comstar Supply
Comstar Supply, Inc., was founded in 1994 with the goal of providing the communications industry with the necessary materials and tools to successfully complete projects in a timely and cost-effective manner. Through its Collegeville, PA, and Raleigh, NC, facilities, the company serves a diverse customer base that includes telephone and electric utilities, CATV companies, CLEC local/long haul fiber-optic companies providing combined internet, telephone, and CATV services. Further information about the company can be found at

Monday, February 20, 2017

Handhole Frequently Asked Questions

As with most products in the telecom industry, product designs evolve at a rapid pace. Often times specifications are written based on outdated information. Old specifications make sourcing material difficult, especially when updated products meet or exceed the written spec.

In the case of handholes, the sales team at Comstar Supply faces an added level of difficulty. In addition to potentially outdated specifications, there are often assumptions made to the product's capability. Our sales team is trained to help you understand the applications for handholes and their ratings. On several occasions, we refused to provide a quote based on the unrealistic expectations for the design of the product. Ultimately those projects went back to the drawing board for an alternative solution.

Here are a few of the frequently asked questions and requests we receive for handhole opportunities.

Can I order a handhole with an AASHTO H-20 load rating?

No. The AASHTO "H" standards govern materials designed for "deliberate" traffic, such that would be used in the middle of a bridge. Those recognized materials are precast concrete and cast iron, among others. Precast concrete and cast iron are used for manholes, but handholes are composites.

Typically made of a polymer concrete composite, handholes fall outside the framework of AASHTO. Handholes are designed for "non-deliberate" traffic, and they fall under ANSI/SCTE 77 for performance standards.

Why are handholes often confused for AASHTO H-20?

The published test loads of composite handholes may exceed test loads of H-20 materials. Remember that handholes are made of composite material, not precast concrete. Some manufacturer's may claim that their product exceeds H-20, but they will be quick to tell you that the materials are not AASHTO recognized. As Hubbell Power Systems states, "A tremendous misunderstanding has been that if a product tested in excess of the design load, it was thought to be an acceptable product for the intended application. This is a gross oversight. There could be very minimal safety factors, and what does a 1, 10, or 1000 cycle test indicate? A false sense of security could lead to personal injury and/or equipment damage." In other words, buyer beware!

Can I put a steel or cast iron lid on a handhole in order to meet H-20?

We are aware of end users specifying handholes this way. Yes, you can install a steel lid, but it still will not be H-20. Handholes are designed and tested as a complete system under ANSI including the lid and base. So even if you put a steel lid onto a composite box, it is still a system including a composite box that is not governed under AASHTO. The inherent flexibility of steel as a lid may allow for additional cycles (i.e. more vehicular traffic) to the lid itself. However, either the added weight of the lid, or the lateral forces on the handhole in deliberate traffic, may cause it to fail.

What is the difference between design load and test load of a handhole?

The ANSI application tier number relates to a nominal design load multiplied by 1,000 pounds. For example, Tier 8 is 8 x 1000 pounds, or 8000 lbs. All ANSI tier loadings have a corresponding test load, which is 50% greater than the design load. The maximum deflection at the indicated design load shall be one half-inch for vertical tests, and a quarter-inch per foot of length for lateral tests.

Can I order locking lids or hardware for handholes?

Yes. We can offer "tamper-resistant" penta head bolts, anti-vibration systems and keyed locking mechanisms. The most popular locking mechanism on the market today is the Lockout Device.

Can I order a gasket and a closed bottom for my handhole?

Yes, but you would be better off with an above ground pedestal if you want the contents of your handhole to stay dry. Think about how many homeowners struggle with wet basements. Water will find a way.

Gaskets are only effective if they provide a positive seal around the entire inside of the ring. As soon as dirt and rocks compress the gasket, you will have water ingress. Odds are your handhole will encounter a lot of rocks and dirt during installation. If your handhole also has a closed bottom, this will significantly slow the draining process if water does get in. That's a double-whammy.

I hope this helps you to further understand handholes, but please call us if you have any further questions. Handholes are becoming more sought after for their reduced weight and cost for buried enclosures. As manufacturers try to drive value, handholes are becoming lighter and easier to use at the same test ratings. If you set your specifications to the ANSI Tier ratings, you should never worry about outdated handhole spec.