Time to Dress Your Cables Up with an Alternative Jacket

A portion of Silicon Valley recently lost power for two hours because of a squirrel. If a small animal can knock out electricity in a major technology hub, can you imagine what they can do to your broadband network? Doug Wells details one way operators can protect their networks from the rodent chews that cause these disruptions.

Squirrel_cableA recent news story reminded me about the never ending battle between humans and nature that a colleague wrote about in an earlier blog. Last November, USA Today reported that a power outage in Silicon Valley resulted in 2,000 customers going without power for two hours. So, what caused of the outage? It was a squirrel who unfortunately was electrocuted on the power lines, no doubt traveling out on the cable to chew on the jacket. That article cited a 2012 survey identifying 50 instances of squirrels causing damage to power lines in 24 states. In one case, 10,000 people lost power.

Communications cables are just as susceptible as power cables to squirrel damage. In an article written by Fred Lawler of Level 3 Communications, squirrels were given credit for causing 17 percent of the outages companies experienced in 2011. The bottom line is that these furry critters are fun to watch in the park; however, they wreck havoc with aerial cables. When a plant consisting of fiber optic cable carrying high capacity data, voice and video traffic goes down, the consequences to the operator in lost service revenue and operating cost can be tremendous—all because of a squirrel.

Before we move on, you should understand why a rodent chews on cables. The fact is their teeth continuously grow. Rodents (i.e., squirrels) frequently chew durable materials in an effort to wear down their teeth. In an infographic we put together, we illustrated how long a rodent’s teeth would be if they didn’t wear them down.

As always, CommScope continues to look for ways to help service providers protect their investment in outside plant and equipment. Protection from rodent chews is no exception. Our Alternative Jacket cable is designed to reduce or eliminate rodent chews. Containing a patented-jacket formula that incorporates non-toxic materials (capsaicin and Bitrex®), cables with alternative jackets are extremely repulsive to the rodents’ sense of taste and smell. In a white paper we published, field tests indicated that once chewing begins, the animal finds the experience unpleasant and will retreat before causing further damage. Alternative Jacket is available on fiber optic outside plant aerial cables along with CommScope’s 75-ohm coaxial cable for broadband networks.

As network bandwidth demand increases, fiber optic cables are reaching deeper into the network to meet the growing demand for communication capacity. With increased fiber-to-the-home deployments, optical cables now reach directly to a subscriber’s home or business. The need to protect this valuable infrastructure has operators looking at alternatives to assure the working life of the cables. Alternative Jacket from CommScope provides that additional level of protection for cables installed in environments where squirrels and other rodents are prevalent.

How are you protecting your cables from rodents?