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What you need to know about Cold Weather and Fiber Optic Cables!

Winter is here, and with it comes freezing temperatures, snow, sleet and ice storms! The temperature drops, the cold rolls in, and then the snow starts falling at a rapid pace.

The snow accumulation can lead to outages that can affect your ability to get work done. Have you ever noticed when the snow starts to fall, so do your fiber optic internet speeds? You’ve noticed, and so have your customers! Freezing-cold temperatures seem to take a toll on fiber optic cables and cause them to stop working suddenly in some cases. The calls are going to start to coming soon, so you need to be ready to troubleshoot and answer their questions!

There are so many advantages that come along with using fiber optic cables over traditional copper ones. Fiber optic cables can transmit data much faster than standard copper wires. They can also carry more data over further distances – without disruptions! Many advantages come with installing fiber optic cables over traditional copper cables, but that doesn’t mean they are invincible. Over the years one of the big challenges associated with fiber optic cables has been the cables poor performance during colder weather.

So – What gives? Does the cold weather actually effect the quality of your fiber optic connection, or just a random coincidence? To answer your question – the actual cold temperatures do not affect the quality of your connection. However, some of the byproducts of the cold will cause issues with your fiber optic cables. Mainly due to freezing cables inside the conduits due to condensation and infiltration.

Freezing cables in an innerduct or conduit has been happening as long as cables have been put into ducts, but fiber optic cable is susceptible to freezing in a way that traditional copper cables are not. There is quite a bit of research that has been done on it, and it appears as though fiber optic cables are affected by cold temperatures whenever water is able to make its way into the ducts housing the cables, and then the water freezes. The ice that forms around the fiber optic cables often causes the cables to bend, which affects the signals sent through the cables. If water has the chance to enter into the housing of your cables and freeze, then your overall internet performance will deteriorate. Depending on how extreme the bending is, the signals may not be able to pass through the fiber optic cables at all. It can lead to fiber optic networks going down unexpectedly. Loss of connectivity can be inconvenient to any business that relies on fiber for day-to-day operations. Signal strength usually returns to normal as the ice melts.

How does water get into innerducts? It gets in by infiltration and condensation. Picture an innerduct as a hose laid out along the road with occasional access points. Water infiltrates these access points and flows downhill, which could lead to hundreds of gallons of water being present in the system. As long as the innerduct is buried below the frost line, no freezing will occur. Where a fiber optic cable is exposed to freezing temps, such as at an exposed bridge crossing, ice can form in the duct. In many cases field techs entered an innerduct, and water poured out for several minutes.

Condensation is another possible culprit, especially at exposed bridge crossings where differences between the ambient temperature and the inside innerduct regularly exist. Just as condensation forms on a cold glass, condensation can form inside innerducts and conduits.

Fortunately, there are preventative steps you can take when installing your fiber optic cables to ensure that your cables are not affected and that your connectivity is not interrupted.

First, when installing fiber cables, carefully plan out where they are installed. Often, burying the fiber optic cables below the frost line will help greatly reduce and may even eliminate the threat of ice. If, for some reason, you are unable to install your cables below the frost line, there are antifreeze gels and other preventative measures that can help prevent water from freezing inside the ducts. These products have proven to be useful when it comes to protecting fiber optic cables from the elements.

Most fiber optic freeze-ups have also been found to occur two to three feet within the head wall of a bridge. Freeze-ups are similarly a problem in abandoned pipelines where the pipes are exposed or placed on a cantilever when they cross creeks or rivers.

Several companies have sought to remedy this issue by constructing along railroad rights-of-way and attaching carrier pipes to the sides of any bridges or culverts they encounter, or by laying a carrier pipe on the bridge deck. This is far more economical than placing the cable underground by means of a directional boring device.

Although temps in the lower forty-eight states may reach -40°F (with a wind chill exceeding -80°F) the temperature inside the conduit underground will not drop below about 25°F. Fiber optic cable in a conduit will not experience temperatures below the ambient outside temperature; as wind chills only affect exposed surfaces.


U-TECK Launches NEW RayDius Fiber Quadrant Block!

Fiber Quadrant Blocks are one of the many devices used in cable placement and are necessary to ensure that fiber optic cabling is protected during these installations especially when placing newer high-count fiber cables. 

Optical fiber cables are designed with a minimum bending radiuses and maximum tensile strengths. The cable should never be bent below its minimum bending radius, or internal, and often unknown, breakages can occur. A typical standard quadrant block is comprised of a series of rollers on a frame that serves as a guide to ensure that fiber optic cable is pulled along a proper bend radius to prevent breakage of the glass fibers that make up the core of the cable. 

Up until now, a standard quadrant block has been used to feed the cable into/out of areas such as manholes and handholes through underground ducts and aerially onto utility poles. In theory the cable should travel along the rollers, and the rollers act as a guide to ensure that the cable is never bent below its minimum bending radius. However, this has proven not to be a reliable method of preventing breakage. The rollers themselves have proven to be a problem as they apply too much contact pressure to the cable, causing breakage to occur when the cable bends from roller to roller (the bend radius changes to a lesser minimum bend radius). This issue was being temporarily solved by modifying the quadrant blocks with split pipes and steel forms for a more constant path of travel for the cable.

U-TECK was recently approached to help develop an answer to this problem. After extensive research, they designed and developed a whole new design: a solid bodied quadrant block specifically for use when placing fiber optic cables. Using a new, gently curving, solid design they were able to provide a smooth contour, while maintaining the required bend radius of the Fiber Optic Cable, and eliminating breakage caused from contact pressure. The RayDius™ demonstrates a very low coefficient of friction.

Made with a unique, high-strength, polymer compound, The RayDius™ Fiber Optic Quadrant Block is made to withstand all outdoor conditions! The RayDius™ measures 29.25” length by 9.5” high by 2” width and weighs in at just 9lbs! The RayDius™ has been tested extensively at leading test sites and exceeds all manufacturer cable recommendations.

This product will fit on all standard Jamb Skids, Hanger Arms, Hanger Blocks, Support Bars and Pole Brackets. The RayDius™ block has 6 unique CableKeeper slots for using Deltec™ strapping or tie wraps when you want to ensure that the cable continues to travel over the block without bouncing off. Using proper tools, such as the RayDius™ will also greatly reduce man hours spent trying to resolve internal cable breakage issues. The RayDius™ is also safer to utilize and lightweight for easier maneuvering in small spaces with ergonomic grips molded into the design. The RayDius™ has gone through extensive testing and has exceeded all factory testing standards.  And did we mention it’s available at a fraction of the cost of traditional Quadrant Blocks?  

We are currently working on several additional products that will work with the RayDius™, such as Pole Brackets and manhole frames to allow vertical and horizontal pivoting of the RayDius™ block! 

Russ Mason III, U-TECK’s CEO, said, “U-TECK is proud to be solving yet another problem that cable placing crews have been experiencing.”

“Using our manufacturing capabilities, our new, solid bodied, RayDius™ Fiber Quadrant Block solved issues with fiber breakage due to over bending the cable and the minimum bend radius (diameter) that most cable manufacturers require.

“Although U-TECK’s customers span several industries, we have always been very in-tune with the needs of the telecommunication field, as the majority of our first clients came from this market. We are looking forward to participating in next year’s industry trade shows and showcasing a wide range of both new and well-established solutions.”

Call to order NOW!   +1 (800) 542-7011


Beat the Heat this Summer!

Here in NC the temps are slowly crawling upward to triple digits, and it looks to be that way until early September. Living in a hot, humid environment day in and out can take its toll out on the best of us. But what about those of us who WORK outdoors for a living and don’t have the option to stay inside?

During these scorching summer months, it’s important to remember to drink plenty of water and look for the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses that run rampant this time of year.

• Heat Cramps – can occur during or after work – mainly in arms, legs and abdomen. Heat cramps are a signal that your body has lost too much sweat from sweating
• Nausea
• Dizziness
• Headaches
• Pale, clammy skin
• Quick pulse
• Low Blood Pressure

Heat stroke is a serious matter and should be taken seriously – if left untreated it can become fatal. Signs to look for are lack of sweat, skin flushed and hot and a rapid heart rate. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or coworkers, contact a medical professional immediately.

Take precautions to protect yourself from the rising temperatures with these 9 helpful tips!

1. Get used to working outdoors gradually. Take it easy until you are used to the increase in temperature. Roll windows up in vehicles and try not to use the AC on the way to a job. When you arrive on the job site, your body won’t have massive temperature differences to account for.

2. DRINK WATER! Your body loses hydration when you sweat. Drink plenty of water before, during and after being outdoors in the heat. Your body is already dehydrated by the time you notice you are hot and thirsty so make it a point to keep water on you and consume it regularly. Sports drinks are a great option, as they replace needed electrolytes to keep you energized. When working in the heat, avoid alcoholic beverages and sodas, as they can actually cause your body to lose water and salt.

3. Wear protective sun shields (don’t have one? buy it HERE!). Your head absorbs heat directly and moves it to the rest of your body. Wearing a sun shield can help keep your body cool and prevent heat exhaustion.

4. Take frequent rest breaks. Sit in the shade or AC while you replenish your water supply. Move to a cooler area or switch to lighter work if you are unable to take a break.

Taking a break in the shade can lower your body temperature by as much as 15 degrees!


5. Wear sun block!

6. If possible, dress in layers so that you can shed layers as the temperature rises.

7. Wear long sleeve shirts. The long shirts act like an evaporation cooler. It causes the wearer to sweat and, when the wind blows onto the wet fabric, cools the wearer down quicker vs. overheating.

8. Keep a cool, wet cloth to use to wipe down after a hot job. Your head, neck and arms are all areas that absorb heat – so a quick wipe down will have you feeling cooler in seconds!

9. Educate yourself about the signs of heat related illness so you can take the proper precautions for yourself and your coworkers.

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