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.