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


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


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, 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!