Wednesday, July 14, 2021

WHAT’S YOUR “PLAN B?”

The phrase “tip of the iceberg” seems to be the most fitting way to describe the last 18 months and impact it’s had on the global supply chain. We’ve seen the effect of COVID-19 on worldwide supplies of everything from toilet paper to coffee. We’ve experienced the residual aftermath on the broadband industry from weather-related storms in the Southwest impacting the resin and plastics industry. We’ve read the headlines of clogged shipping lanes halting billions of dollars of goods. And now we’re in the midst of a shipping container shortage that may have a trickle-down effect on business for the next 12-18 months.

In the wake of these disturbances to the supply chain and manufacturing industry, the role of distribution is more important to the broadband industry than ever before. Today, service providers and network contractors alike are becoming more sophisticated in seeing the value of buying more from fewer suppliers. Aggregating their spend and managing fewer relationships is beginning to outweigh any cost benefits associated with buying direct.

At Comstar Supply, we don’t believe our customers should have to adapt their operations to the disruption and evolution of the supply chain. It’s the job of a distributor to manage stock, coordinate logistics, and ensure product availability, providing a turn-key, all-in-one solution that takes the guesswork out of the hands of multiple vendors.

Take a step back and imagine the list of material required to construct and deliver a fiber-optic network. Now imagine the number of manufacturers needed to fulfill that list. If our customers had to directly manage and coordinate with each of these manufacturers, the end result would be customers would have to invest in internal resources that are not mission-critical to their overall business goals.

That’s where Comstar Supply comes in. We have nearly 30 years of experience deciphering and managing through disruption of the supply chain. We manage hundreds of relationships with to ensure the required OSP materials is delivered where and when it’s needed for our customers.

Of course, with every partnership the most critical aspect of the relationship is communication. A distributor should be sharing news on any impacts on product due to supply chain issues, while end users should be sharing construction plans for the next 6-18 months. This will not only allow both the customer and distributor to ensure complete ownership over the bill of material, but it also allows for time to build a “Plan B” – meaning an approved, alternate plan that allows for the greatest amount of flexibility in case of emergency. As the supply chain moves past the tip of the iceberg, it’s important for customer to have a pre-approved Plan B in place that can be initiated at a moment’s notice to help keep plans continually moving forward.

Although the last 18 months have proven difficult, the next 18 months may prove to be even more so as we continue to experience residual fallout from COVID. Building a true distributor partnership will become mission critical for the broadband industry as it continues to ride the wave of investment and construction of fiber networks during this turbulent time. 

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

A Quick Recap of Federal Broadband Investments and Fiber Construction

A tentative agreement was recently reached on a $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Framework which includes $65 billion in broadband investment. It’s the latest federal funding initiative looking to bolster the availability of high-speed Internet access to homes and more rural areas of the U.S.

Specific to the most recent deal, it’s projected that $40 billion would go directly to the states for rural broadband, $15 billion to the USDA ReConnect program, with the remaining $10 billion split between a bond program to fund public/private broadband partnerships and a digital equity program aimed at increasing broadband adoption.

Now, consider this funding on top of some of the announcements about building fiber in 2022 summarized in a recent blog post The Fiber Expansion Craze from CCG Consulting:

·       RDOF fiber construction probably starts next year.

·       It’s anticipated that much of the $10 billion earmarked for broadband in the ARPA plan will end up as fiber construction over the next two years. It’s also expected that some cities and counties will use some of the $350 billion in ARPA funds to build fiber.

·       The new NTIA grants expect fiber networks to be built in one year.

·       There are also beefed-up grant programs at USDA and EDA that will start next year.

·       Verizon is in the midst of a many-year fiber buildout to pass 25 million homes by 2025 with fiber to support its Verizon Home fiber-to-the-curb service.

·       AT&T announced it’s going to pass 3 million new homes and businesses this year and 2 million homes next year with fiber, to add to the 14.5 million already passed.

·       Altice has announced plans to upgrade 500,000 passings from HFC to fiber this year.

·       Fronter announced as it was coming out of bankruptcy that it plans to pass 495,000 homes with fiber this year.

·       CenturyLink is planning on passing at least 400,000 premises with fiber this year plus the company is still expanding its middle-mile fiber network.

·       Consolidated Communications plans on passing 300,000 homes with fiber this year.

·       Windstream plans to add several hundred thousand fiber passing this year.

·       Numerous smaller telcos like Ziply, TDS, and Cincinnati Bell have aggressive fiber expansion plans.

·       Numerous fiber projects from the CAF II reverse auction are now under construction.

·       Smaller telcos are continuing to build fiber under the ACAM program.

·       Dozens of electric cooperatives are building FTTP.

·       Numerous ReConnect grant projects from the past several years are now under construction.

·       State grants have funded significant fiber projects.

·       Independent fiber builders across the country like Google Fiber, MetroNet, US Internet, and numerous municipalities quietly continue to build fiber projects.

·       Cellular companies all continue to build fiber to replace cellular transport leases.

·       Long-haul fiber networks continue to expand.

·       Electric companies are aggressively expanding smart grid networks.

·       Cable companies use significant fiber every year to split nodes.

As we can all agree, the current demand period will not slow down any time soon. As such, allocating fiber with a well-positioned distributor like Comstar Supply is critical. We're well positioned with a number of fiber manufacturers and can access all major product lines that accompany installation. We can create a customized solution for every type of customer that takes the guesswork out of outside plant needs and allows for a smooth transition from planning to construction to delivery of service. Comstar Supply works with customers to tailor a system that allows us to distribute fiber facilities monthly based on need, while allowing for additions or subtractions of orders. To learn more,  contact your local Comstar Supply sales rep to today.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Fiber Optic Drop Cable Update


We’ve Got the Drop (Cable) On You


Investment from the federal government and demand for fiber Internet due to the pandemic, has shifted the focus of carrier-grade networks from serving the metro, to finally building largely in rural areas. The race to push fiber optics as close to the customer as possible has spawned a fiber cable gold rush that is starting to strain manufacturing and impact lead times.

Basics of FTTH Drop Cable
Drop cable is typically the fiber of choice to support FTTH networks. It runs from the distribution point or cable to the subscriber/user. They are small diameter, low fiber count cables with limited unsupported span lengths, which can be installed aerially, underground or buried. Drop cables are available in many different types.

Flat Type Drop Cable consists of a polyethylene jacket, several fibers and two dielectric strength members to give high crush resistance and tensile strength. Service drop cable usually contains one or two fibers, however, drop cable with fiber counts up to 24 are available. Flat drop is super versatile as it may be self-supported aerially, placed in duct and direct buried. Some users want to treat flat drop like it is ADSS and try to stretch the span lengths, but there are some strategies and alternative products that can help. Pay careful attention to the Sag and Tension tables provided by the cable manufacturers. Flat drop is also available with a co-extruded tone wire for easy locating purposes, and these cables can be obtained in bulk or pre-connectorized for convenience.


Round Drop Cable usually contains a single bend-insensitive fiber buffered and surrounded by aramid strength members in an indoor/outdoor UV resistant outer jacket. These cables are available in bulk or pre-connectorized for use with jumpers to the Optical Network Terminal (ONT) in the home, or throughout Multiple Dwelling Units (MDU). These cables provide durability and reliability in the drop segment of the network. Available in 4.8mm and 2.9mm industry standard sizes with a range of colors to suit your needs.



Blown and Pushable
fiber optic cable solutions could be a viable option when availability of traditional drop cables is lacking, or project designs limit you to smaller sizes. Now that micro-trenching is more common
practice in the United States, Comstar is ready to solve for small and help you deploy with air blown or pushable fiber solutions. From closures, duct, fiber, and installation equipment, Comstar can help you get across the finish line.

Honorable mentions for drop alternatives include central tube armored fiber and figure 8 drop. While not as common, these types feature designs with proper UV rated jackets and waterblocking to ensure decades of reliable service. Remember that outdoor fiber drop should always be water blocked and have UV resistance.
 
 
Need it Pre-connectorized?
With the break-neck pace of recent deployments, field terminations are time consuming and costly with large deployments. You can still take advantage of the benefits of pre-connectorized assemblies, but we have to be smart about how your orders get fulfilled. Comstar is gearing up to provide these standard options.


Optitap® Compatible
, the Corning trademark single fiber connector that started it all, is still the market leader. Despite a few competitors with alternate outdoor rated connectors, those are more difficult to find than ever. Do not box yourself into a single source supplier. Still, not many suppliers are authorized to terminate cables using Optitap® compatible connectors. Comstar is in position with those suppliers to help you maintain stable inventory to stay ahead of your installs. Standard lengths of dielectric and toneable Optitap® to stub cables are at the ready to keep your deployments moving.
 

SC-APC Cables
If you’ve chosen fiber access terminals using standard SC-APC connectors, you have much more flexibility in terminal construction and availability than using Optitap® compatible terminals. However, you still have to house the connector inside an enclosure. That being said, it is still faster to deploy with at least the connector attached at the terminal side. So Comstar is stocking pre-terminated drop cables in dielectric and toneable SC-APC to stub in standard lengths to keep you moving ahead with this design as well.
 
Comstar Supply now has stock of a full range of drop cables, including buried, aerial self-supporting, and Indoor/Outdoor designs. Please contact your local sales manager to learn more today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

OFF THE TOP - THE IDEAS OF MARCH 2021

Chad Punchard, President, and Todd Rhen,
 SVP Sales for Comstar in 2018
It’s been almost a year to the day since we scrambled to clear out our offices, and we sent the majority of our employees to work from home, thanks to COVID-19. At no point in time did I think more than 300 days later we’d still be operating under these conditions. But here we are.

I’ve said it in multiple communications since the day we shifted operations, but it’s worth repeating again in this forum. I remain amazed at how resilient the broadband industry has been in coping during these challenging times. We were rightfully categorized as “essential employees” – something we were already aware of in more ways than one. And so the building of fiber-optic infrastructure continued despite the rest of the world basically shutting down.

 In fact, what we’ve all known in the industry became mainstream news as people began to rely on the services we provide to learn, work, and be entertained. The digital divide we’ve all been striving to decrease became even more evident as some rural areas struggled for adequate Internet connectivity. So, although the work required to bridge this divide remains, we continue to make inroads and the rural broadband push remains the true last mile we’re all working our tails off to fix. 

Comstar Supply Teams meeting in 2020
Specific to Comstar Supply, I feel it’s important to publicly recognize the amazing effort by the entire company as we transformed our business. Several hundred Teams meetings with 
employees, customers, and prospects later, I look back in amazement at how we accomplished the feat while making it nearly seamless for our customers. Even more remarkably, we in many ways improved on our largest differentiator, our superior Comstar customer service. It is my hope that you, our customers, experienced this in your dealings with us, and will continue to do so when we’re all together again. 

As we moved our team to a virtual world, our IT department was focused on updating our operational system. The first phase was completed last month, which consisted of an overhaul of the look and feel of our internal system. Consequently, we were able to streamline some manual processes while increasing efficiency of our employees. Over the course of the year, we’ll introduce new enhancements that will advance our business processes. All of this will be a seamless transition for our customers. I expect that the progress we make this year will be momentous and will power our business into the first half of this new decade.
 
Without doubt, 2020 challenged us in ways we never could have imagined. But because we were built to overcome obstacles, we embraced change and continued charging toward our goals, reaching or exceeding our targets. I’ve never been more happy to say that a new year is here, we’re ready for it, and we’ve already accomplished major initiatives that will have an even greater impact on our operations and our customers’ businesses.

It’s my sincerest hope that this note is the last time I speak of COVID-19. I’m heartened by the progress we seem to be making and fully expect we’ll have more than 50% of our workforce in office as we enter the summer. While I imagine most of our employees enjoyed not dealing with me in person, I can’t wait to walk into a crowded lunchroom where we’re sharing laughs and catching up. That time is coming; we just have to be patient. But rest assured, when the time does come, we will be celebrating in typical Comstar fashion. 

So, get ready for what I believe will be a great 2021 for both Comstar and the broadband industry. We have some exciting opportunities ahead that could take us into new geographies and result in working with new customers. In addition, we have increased our stock of critical connectivity components and fortified our position in fiber cable. We’ve also introduced new manufacturers and products into our portfolio to accommodate the rural broadband push.

Now that’s not to say that 2021 won’t be without its challenges, as commercial real estate slowly recovers and employees begin to transition back to the office. But as we all proved this past year, we can accomplish anything when we come together.
I sincerely thank you for your continued business and trust in us.

 

Chad Punchard
President, Comstar Supply

MEET COMSTAR’S MATT CLARK


Matt Clark joined Comstar Supply eight years ago immediately after graduating from La Salle University. He initially supported the company’s web sales, then moved to an Inside Sale rep, and today, he leads the 9-person inside sales team. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting or talking with Matt, a third-degree black belt in karate, we recently sat down to learn more about him.


Q: How did you get into the broadband industry or outside plant distribution? 

MATT: I discovered the broadband industry through networking with a customer of mine at my previous job. Honestly, at the time I was 22 and I had no idea how large the telecom industry truly was, especially the distribution side of the industry.

Q: How and when did you join Comstar? 

MATT: I think I have a unique story here with this one. Before working at Comstar, I was a full-time college student/Karate Instructor.

Karate has always been a big part of my family’s life. At one time, both my parents, my three sisters, and I, were all training. My father opened a karate studio in 2005 (my freshman year of high school), and I worked for him all the way up until my senior year of college. After eight years of hard work, we built up a successful, small family business with nearly 300 students, but I wanted to branch out and put my college degree to use and pave my own way. 

In 2013, during my last year of college, I was looking for an internship/job in either business or finance.  After talking to a few different parents of the students I taught, one parent in particular, Chad Punchard (the president of Comstar!), told me I should come intern for him at Comstar Supply. I had no idea what Comstar did, but if you know Chad – he’s a convincing guy!

There I was a month or so later interning 40 hours a week entering web orders. A few months later my internship ended, and I joined the Comstar family full time! So yeah, I was once teaching Chad’s kids karate and here I am nearly eight years later still working for him!

 

Q: In your opinion, what’s the best thing about working at Comstar?

MATT: Hands down the people I work with! I enjoy coming to work each day because of the team we have here. The family-like culture is something that means a lot to me.

 

Q: What would you say about your customers?

MATT: That I appreciate them! I’ve been lucky enough to see many of our customer’s business grow and without them Comstar wouldn’t be who we are today.

 

Q: What would your customers say about you?

MATT: Hmm that’s a tough one! I would like to think they enjoy working with me and enjoy my sense of humor! Most importantly, I would hope they would say that they value our partnership and that I am more than just another vendor to them. I’m here to offer them solutions and premium customer service.

 

Q: You're a big sports fan, do you have story or a memory of your favorite Philly sports moment? 

Matt and his wife Krissy in
London for an Eagles game
MATT: My favorite sports memory would be when the Eagles won Super Bowl 52, and then the celebration parade in Philly hearing Jason Kelce give that speech was the most fired up I’ve ever been!  Although another fun sports memory would be when my wife and I took a vacation to London the year after that to watch the Eagles play in Wembley Stadium – great experience and great trip!

 

Q: In addition to being a fan, you also play a bunch of sports. Golf, karate, etc., can you tell me a story about any of these or memory?

MATT: My most memorable sports moment would be when I passed my 3rd degree black belt test. It was the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done.

In order to pass the test, you have to complete a 3-hour workout boot camp followed by a 1-hour timed challenge. Within this last hour, you’re already pretty exhausted, but you have to complete a 3-mile run, 300 sit-ups and 100 pushups without pausing (or else you fail), then perform all the self-defense techniques on the other instructors as they attack, and perform multiple advanced katas. Once you complete all of that there is one last challenge – a 3-minute sparring match where you can’t tap out or stop for any reason. Every 30 seconds a fresh new blackbelt instructor comes at you with everything they have, one after another, then the last 2 minutes you must fight 2 vs 1.

I was doing very well with it all, but with 1.5 mins left in the 2v1, I took an elbow to the nose and couldn’t see anything! I had to fight through with a broken nose while defending off 2 other blackbelts still coming at me. The only fun part of all that was I got to land a couple good head kicks on my dad since he was one of the head instructors in the sparring drill. After completing that your confidence is sky high and honestly one of the most accomplished feelings in the world; it took me 16 years of training starting at the age of 5 to get that 3rd red stripe on my black belt. Good memories! 

 

Q: I also know you are a relatively new husband and a new dad. Anything you want to say about them? 

MATT:

Matt, Krissy, and Matty
I’d get in trouble if I didn’t! My lovely wife, Krissy, and I married in April of 2017; Yes, we met at a bar eight years ago and have been best friends ever since! 

We recently just welcomed our first child, Matthew James, into our big Irish and Italian families earlier this January. We call him “Matty” and because of Covid we still have so many family members that cannot wait to meet him in person, however not a day goes by where we do not have a family member facetime us to see him. I keep telling him some people look better with their masks on so it’s not entirely a bad thing! We’re beyond excited to be a family of 3 and we can’t wait to spend many vacations together up the Pocono Mountains and down the New Jersey shore!

Monday, October 19, 2020

YOUR ESSENTIAL FIBER TOOLS FOR THE MOST ESSENTIAL WORK OF THE PANDEMIC

 

With the current climate of densifying fiber networks, the amount of technicians that need to be equipped and trained comes with a price tag. Comstar Supply can help manage the impact of the Capex that you’ll need to invest as well as coordinating the right amount of training to get them out on the job.

Comstar is pleased to announce a partnership with Technity Solutions and their line of Canyon Fiber Optic Test and Deployment Solutions. Where speed to market and costs need to be limited, Comstar and Technity can supply technicians with fast delivery and high-quality gear with prices that will fit into even the most stringent budgets.

Technity Solutions is a multinational technology company supplying products that innovate and optimize communication networks through solutions ranging from access system solutions, customer premise equipment, OEM/ODM arrangements, and active/passive commu-
nication components. We also provide high caliber installation materials for access networks, wireless networks, optical networks, corporate and private networks, data center and cloud environments, physical plant, and MDU solutions.

Viavi Solutions also stepped up with significant cost reductions on the most essential gear for deploying fiber rich mobile networks and residential services fast enough to keep up with the Zoom video conference onslaught during this pandemic. Up to 57% off MSRP of select OTDRs, Power Meters, Scopes and other essential equipment that should be in every technician’s toolbox. 
These savings are available for a limited time, so be sure to stock up and take advantage of the Section179.org tax relief for 2020.

Jonard has kept busy during the pandemic with several exciting new tool releases for fiber optic technicians. The CableSaberTM AST-200 tool for mid-spanning armored cable has an improved design for greater handling and leverage compares to previous armored cable shealth slitters. It also has a wide range for cable capacity from 0.157" to 1.125".

If you haven’t started using rollable ribbon cable yet, it may be in your near future. The new RFS-100 tool assists with safely and quickly separating the intermittently bonded ribbons for greater speed when mid-spanning and conducting single fusion operation with rollable ribbon.

Contact a Comstar Supply Sales Representative today for more information on all of these great cost saving options.

MANUFACTURER HIGHLIGHT - TECHNITY

 

Technity Solutions, a premier communications network solution supplier, is pleased to announce that Comstar Supply has been added as an authorized value-added distributor for the United States.

"Signing on as a Techity Solutions value-added distributor, Comstar has the opportunity to enhance our product portfolio to include extensive Fiber Optic Deployment/Installations solutions that will benefit the many customers we serve now and well into the future, said Comstar Product Manager Matt Brice. "Now, more than ever, we're seeing the need for a second wave of product innovations to support the broadband expansion efforts that are occurring across the country."

“We look forward to working with Comstar Supply to sell and distribute Technity Solutions products in the United States,” said Jeff Mulqueen, VP of Sales and Business Development, Technity Solutions. “With terrific sales, service, and logistical capabilities focused on markets and applications that our products are made for, Comstar Supply has the experience and expertise to provide customers with that one stop shop approach for all their broadband project supply needs.”

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 www.comstarsupply.com.

About Technity Solutions Inc

Technity Solutions is a multinational technology company supplying products that innovate and optimize communication networks through solutions ranging from access system solutions, customer premise equipment, OEM/ODM arrangements, and active/passive communication components. We also provide high caliber installation materials for access networks, wireless networks, optical networks, corporate and private networks, data center and cloud environments, physical plant, and MDU solutions.