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.

MEET COMSTAR’S CANDES SPENCER


Candes Spencer joined Comstar earlier this year as an Outside Sales Manager to help grow our business in the Southeast. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting or talking with Candes, we sat down with Candes for a quick Q&A.

Q: How did you get into telecom or outside plant distribution?


A: My husband worked at Prysmian Group (formerly Alcatel) and I worked at Frye Hospital. He said come to work with me in the Fiber plant on your days off. So, I started working at Alcatel in the fiber plant running. I was splicing fiber daily. Then eventually I found a passion for fiber optics and I went on to an Inside Sales position and eventually Outside Sales.

Q: How and when did you join Comstar?  

A: I joined Comstar January 1, 2020. Yes, I said it 2020. And what a year it has been! Comstar and their love for family gave me the chance to move back to North Carolina to be closer to family.

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

A: By far the people! Chad Punchard and his mentality that we are one big family, has rubbed off on every single individual here. When you are in the trenches, there is nobody I would rather be there with than this Comstar family. We look out for each other and listen to each other’s voices. I have learned that every person here has a unique story. And our uniqueness is what brings us together. And at the heart of the company is a passion for goodness that I have never witnessed before.

Q: What would you say about your customers?

A: I have some of the best and brightest customers in the industry! They work hard both at work, and home to take care of their families.  My customers enjoy working with people they feel are going to take care of them when they need it.  They advocate for their companies and their customers. They want the best possible experience they can have to be able to get services rendered for their company. They are efficient and savvy to the processes that make this happen.

Q: What would your customers say about you?

A: She values honesty and Integrity. Her family is very important to her. And she may not always know the answer but is willing to go the extra mile, to use internal or external resources to get an answer and keep them happy.

Q: You’re very involved within the industry. If I were building out your business card it would include things like panel moderator, virtual trade show participant, podcast guest, tradeshow panelist – and I haven’t even mentioned sales yet! How did you become so involved in the industry?

A: I have always been truly passionate in advocating broadband to every community!  But even more as I watched my son grow older and I saw many of his friends graduating college and moving off because they could go to bigger cities which had greater advancements in broadband and getting higher-paying wages. I feel that in today’s society, broadband is essential to all people in their everyday walk of life! And sadly, most people don’t even fully understand the actual definition of broadband. 

I have always felt the more I can educate people on broadband's benefits to their community the more likely they are to vote and push lawmakers to help fund new initiatives. In my heart, I believe that unless some of the rural areas get access to the Internet in their communities they will never grow. Also, I started at a time in the industry when there weren’t very many women advocates for broadband and so I think it is important to use my platform any way I can to further the fiber-optic broadband story.

 

Q: I know one of your passions is being an active parent and role model for your daughter and son. I hear your son was a pretty impressive baseball player. And your daughter is a pretty impressive Volleyball player. Care to mom-brag and give me a baseball and volleyball story?

A: My son is now 27 and a graduate from Appalachian State University. He was recently married to his long-time girlfriend. But my favorite thing of being his mom was watching his love for the sport of baseball - and now he is coaching at our local High School. His love for the game is contagious.  My daughter on the other hand is my mini me. She is the Libro on her team and she says her favorite thing in volleyball is when the hitter goes up to hit a hard spike at her.  She said she watches which way they are going to move their shoulders, and then gages where the ball is going. Her favorite comment is, “the harder they hit the more fun it is to see their face when I dig it up.”

Q: I also know you recently moved from Tennessee back to your original hometown in North Carolina. So, do you bleed Carolina blue or Tennessee orange?

A: I have and will always bleed Carolina Tarheel Blue inside and out when it comes to college basketball. But after living in the land of SEC college football it was definitely an experience I grew to love. So, Good Old Rocky Top Orange has become ingrained in my heart. I pull for them in everything including Basketball, as long as they aren’t playing Carolina!

Combat Heat Stress with Sword Performance


Heat stress is a silent killer prevalent in many settings and can take its toll on workers in the blink of an eye.

The key is to remember that there are easy ways to combat heat stress and to ensure workers safety from the inside out.  We are taught to wear hard hats for head protection, steel toe shoes for foot protection, and safety glasses for eye protection, but what about our internal systems?  Workers can combat heat stress before their shift ever begins by following a few easy steps.

What is Heat Stress or Heat Fatigue?

Heat stress is a form of thermic/thermal stress that occurs when a person is exposed to high temperatures, usually from environmental sources. Common causes include hot weather, high humidity, living or working in proximity to heat sources, strenuous physical activities performed in a hot environment, whether indoors or outdoors. Symptoms of heat stress include profuse sweating, thirst as a first sign of dehydration followed by difficulty focusing or performing various tasks, fatigue, muscle cramps, overheating sensation, increased heart rate and ultimately loss of consciousness/fainting.

Mental fatigue can be a result of heat stress and can lead to workers becoming complacent or disoriented.  Workers who are mentally fatigued have a hard time focusing on tasks which could lead to accidents and injuries in the workplace. 

Finding a solution that is right for the employees should be started by writing a solid heat stress plan.  Understanding the working conditions, ambient temperatures, and stress on the body are all factors that should be explored.  Also, providing the workforce with a product that protects from the inside out can help tremendously. 

We have found that many products offered in the industrial market currently are loaded with artificial chemicals and sugar that the body has a hard time filtering.  This can complicate the issues with heat stress rather than offering a solution.

Sword Performance has come into the industrial market with a new and innovative product.  Sword has zero artificial sweeteners and is all natural which allow the workers a healthy solution for hydration.  Companies can feel confident when they offer this type of product that their worker will be well protected.

For more information about Sword Performance, please contact your OSR or email Joe Rooney, National Account Manager – Sword Performance for Comstar at [email protected].