Monday, January 23, 2017

Fiber Optic Cable Remains Number 1 Resource in Telecom for 2017

Pressure is increasing on both cable content and service providers, as consumers are now more willing to cut the cord on traditional television providers. Telecom carriers are experiencing subscription declines as mobile phones become more ubiquitous. And even consumer electronics companies are feeling pressure as more users choose to bypass ownership of desktop computers, utilizing their phones like portable computers.

In fact, a recent special report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, titled Telecoms in 2017, summarizes that “telecom companies will seek new sources of revenue as traditional streams dwindle and pressure from growing mobile broadband usage mounts in 2017.”

With each of these trends, the one constant is that broadband uptake is on the rise. To keep up with both consumer and business sector demands, network infrastructure investment continues to rise—and the delivery mechanism continues to be fiber optic cable.

The market drivers increasing demand are also putting pressure on cable and glass manufacturers, which is leading to long lead times for fiber. To ensure a carrier has the materials and cable needed for these network investments, proper planning is necessary to maximize time and revenue. The key to combat any mitigating factors for carriers and contractors is to plan for your fiber needs 12-18 months in advance. Allocating fiber with a well-positioned distributor should be your number one priority. This will 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. We have 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 availability of your most critical resource (fiber), but also allows flexibility regardless of market conditions.

To learn more about putting Comstar Supply’s fiber allocation to work for you, please contact us today.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Standing Out in the Crowd

2016 was another turbulent year within the telecommunications industry. Increasingly fierce competition, strategic mergers and acquisitions, and continued investment in broadband infrastructure from traditional wireline and wireless carriers alike, contributed to the growth of this sector.

How a company differentiates itself—while strengthening revenue and margins—remains a constant challenge. A growing trend is to deliver a more personalized, consistent customer experience to meet the ever-demanding consumer needs. This means having a strategy in place that’s easy, effective, and repeatable for the consumer. With 89% of consumers willing to switch providers as a result of a poor experience, according to Forrester Research, providing this kind of value is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity.

Exacerbating this issue is that broadband speeds have now become simply a commodity. It’s not enough for carriers to simply sell the value-add of more megabits and greater speeds. Most carriers can match each other bit for bit, network for network, and fiber for fiber.
At Comstar Supply, we are putting this idea of customer care to work for our customers. We play a strategic role in our customer’s business by emphasizing communication, which enables an information exchange on new products, trends, industry news and other important information impacting customers. We emphasize response times and project support—working together with customers to ensure on-time delivery and order accuracy. And we’ve made recent investments into both systems and personnel to help manage and deliver on our promise of 100% customer satisfaction.

Who would you rather work with? A company that’s been doing business the same old way for decades? Or a company that thinks about your distribution and logistics in a whole new way? Put Comstar Supply to work for you today. Contact us today to learn more.

Fiber Splicing: Fusion Vs. Mechanical - The Rematch

As a means of keeping touch with our sales force, we adopted what is known at Comstar as the Brice Box. That box is chock full of good information on our products and suppliers. This blog is the first in a series of topics that are born from material in our Brice Box.

The cost of fiber optic fusion splicing machines dropped over 50% in the last five years. That leaves me wondering, why would anyone still use mechanical fiber splices? With factory polished connectors and low cost fusion splicing, there are more high quality, affordable options than ever for mating two pieces of fiber.

It’s no secret that fusion splicing has a higher up front cost, but a lower cost per splice when
compared to mechanical splicing. What you may not know is the new prices of fusion splicers have significantly reduced the upfront cost of fusion splicing. By the time you have used 300-500 mechanical splices at $10 apiece, you could have purchased a handheld fusion splicer kit. Below are examples of the upfront cost for the various methods of joining fiber.

Mechanical Splice Kit
Mechanical Fiber Connector Kit w/ Cleaver
Mechanical Splice Kit w/ Cleaver
Fixed V-Groove Splicer w/ Cleaver
Core Alignment Splicer Kit
Mechanical Fiber Splice

You might say, "I doubt I will do more than 100 splices this year. Why should I pay $3500 for fusion equipment I will hardly use?" I could spit figures at you about the proliferation of fiber and watch your eyes glaze over. After all, this ever-connected world needs to run on fiber. Feed the fiber monsters! You know them: Big Data, FTTP, LTE and IoT!

However, I will not bore you with statistics ripped from the latest industry infographic. There are far better reasons for justifying the purchase of a $3500 machine for 100 splices in a year. The quality and durability of a fusion splice are far superior to a mechanical splice.

Since a mechanical splice are two fiber ends clamped in a body, mated in index matching gel, the fibers could be pulled out of the splice. In contrast, the fusion splicing machine creates an arc that fuses the two ends of the fiber to make them a single strand. Fusion splices have excellent tensile properties, and are reinforced against lateral forces with steel or ceramic strength members.

A fusion splice touts much higher performance than a mechanical splice. Below are values that compare not only splices, but values from current field-installable mechanical fiber connectors. I’m showing connector values since the skills required to complete a field-installable connector are essentially the same as mechanical splicing. If the loss values of a mechanical splice are acceptable, why not have the added convenience of a point of connectivity if located inside an enclosure? Granted, you will need to terminate both ends of the fiber you are joining in a bulkhead, but there are other benefits to field-installable mechanical connectors.

With simple tools, you can instantly verify the quality of the mechanical connector installation. Whereas validation of a mechanical splice requires an OTDR trace or Optical Power Meter reading on the span to confirm the quality of splice.

Typical Insertion Loss
Typical Back Reflectance
Typical Cost
Mechanical Splice
0.2 dB – 0.75 dB
<-40 dB / <-60 dB Angle Polish
$10 - $30
Fusion Splice
None on a successful splice
$0.35 - $0.50
Factory Polish, Field-Installable Connector
0.35 dB
<-50dB / <-60 Angle Polish
$10 - $15

Modern fusion splicers are also automated with instant verification of the quality of splice performed. It’s not as accurate as a full OTDR trace would be, but it is an excellent indication of how well the machine is operating with the fibers being spliced. Most machines have on board instructions and diagnostics to assist the user with operation and maintenance.

There is yet another feather in the cap of ownership of a fusion splicing machine. The major suppliers of fusion splicers have 24/7, 365 support lines. If something goes wrong with your unit in the middle of a network outage in a snowstorm, they are there to help. They understand that fiber networks are the lifeblood of communications today, so the support they offer is what you wish you had from the DMV or appliance center.

At Comstar Supply, we support all of the major fusion splicer manufacturers, and we are ready to help you with any questions you may have. Before you splice that next fiber, let’s take some time to look at the different options available today. I’m sure you’ll be glad we did.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Resolutions for the New Year

It's that time of year again. The new year offers a chance to examine habits and make any changes that could increase productivity, improve relationships or generally make our lives better in 2017. This is not only true for our personal lives, but our business lives and careers as well.
  1. Scrutinize Your Strategic Distribution Partnerships
    Managing strategic partnerships is complex given each department within your organization has different goals, objectives, and a myriad suppliers and partners. Specific to infrastructure construction and the role of a distributor, selecting the right partner is critical to the support of your business.

    Having the right distribution partner and working with them to play a more critical role in the planning and delivery of outside plant materials can be a true differentiator for your company. If you are not getting these results today, it might be time to look elsewhere.
  2. Start Planning for Your Next Procurement Now
    It’s important to recognize the strategic role distributors can play. The relationship between distributor/customer should be equally beneficial, with mutual sharing of information. These types of conversations enable continuous value exchange and are often the most critical step of engagement.

    Whether it’s allocating fiber connectivity during turbulent production times or stocking critical hardware that can be drop-shipped on a moment’s notice, strategic conversations between a business and a distributor ensure adequate stock and timely delivery of outside plant materials.
  3. Communicate More, Not Less
    The relationship between distributor and customer should include sharing from each respective field of expertise. What drives consumer demand versus the mitigating factors in fiber production are often two very different conversations. Compelling business factors from both the distributor and customer should be communicated appropriately for crucial support of each other’s respective business goals.
The best and easiest resolutions are kept when you have help from others. Comstar Supply is here to help you keep your resolutions by providing the critical conversations you need to build your business for success in 2017.