CommScope: Copper alternative solutions may reduce cabling theft

March 7, 2011
CommScope announced that it is now offering copper alternative products for various industries.

With the price of copper peaking at historically high levels, communication networks infrastructure specialist CommScope announced that it is now offering copper alternative products for various industries. Why so? To deter damaging and dangerous thefts that are increasingly occurring in communications and utility networks while keeping maintenance costs to a minimum, says the company.

“The dramatic increase in thefts and damage has led to industry-wide efforts to find effective solutions at preventing this disruptive and expensive criminal activity,” said Ted Hally, chief commercial officer, CommScope. “We fully understand the costs and service issues associated with copper theft and are committed to supporting our customers with effective product alternatives that can deter theft.”

Copper theft is a growing problem across many industries. According to a 2009 survey published by the Electrical Safety Foundation International about copper theft, utilities in the United States reported approximately $60 million in losses and 450,000 minutes of outage time annually because of theft. Additionally, utilities report 35 to 50 deaths or injuries associated with copper theft every year. While the wireless industry does not have any official copper theft statistics, there have been reports stating copper theft is costly and only getting worse.

One such copper alternative is the HELIAX FXL Smoothwall Cable from CommScope’s Andrew Solutions. HELIAX FXL is a RF (radio frequency) transmission line cable designed to optimize performance and reliability while lowering network deployment cost. Compared to copper cabling, CommScope says FXL delivers lower attenuation, higher crush strength and minimal copper content, therefore thieves are less likely to steal it. Andrew Solutions also offers tin-plated grounding bars and grounding kits that have the appearance of containing no valuable copper, despite performing just as well as products with visible copper in their construction.

“Wireless operators around the world are seeing the benefits of HELIAX FXL, and it has been accepted by many operators and original equipment manufacturers (OEM),” said Stan Catey, senior vice president and general manager, Cable Products, Andrew Solutions. “HELIAX FXL provides equal performance without the risk of theft and has become a strategic choice for ensuring superior network performance.”

Similarly, CommScope’s GroundSmart Copper Clad Steel (CCS) provides a safe, highly reliable alternative to the use of solid and stranded copper for grounding applications. CCS is specifically designed to disperse fault currents and lightning strikes at a lower total cost of ownership compared to pure copper. Copper Clad Steel (CCS) is an electrical conductor that has an outer sleeve of copper metallurgically bonded to a solid steel core.

Copper Clad Aluminum (CCA), available in both 10 and 15 percent copper, is an electrical conductor that has an outer sleeve of copper metallurgically bonded to a solid aluminum core. The combination of these two metals make it uniquely suited for many electrical applications where weight-to-conductivity issues are important.

“Our customers are pleased with how CCS has reduced copper theft at their plants,” said Ricardo La Guardia, vice president, CommScope BiMetals and Energy Worldwide Sales and Product Management, CommScope. “CCS is a solution that has been proven for decades. Now that the price of copper has skyrocketed, utilities face increasing theft issues and must replace stolen copper ground wire on a regular basis. GroundSmart offers customers a cost effective solution to a growing problem.”

Some utilities and wireless carriers have attempted to dissuade thieves from attacking their sites with locks, fences and signs indicating that their copper has no scrap value, but that approach has not stopped the problem. One utility that is fighting back against copper thieves is Socorro Electric Cooperative in Socorro, NM. The company replaced copper ground wires with CommScope’s CCS solution in areas where copper thieves stole the copper grounding wire.

“In this remote location of the country, it seemed best to use a theft-deterrent material,” said Richard Lopez, acting general manager, Socorro. “After having more than 100 pole grounds stolen and then replacing them with CCS, we believe we taught the thieves that there is no value in stealing our ground wire anymore.”

GroundSmart solutions benefits from a unique CommScope BiMetals technology and manufacturing process. The products are created by bonding two different metals into a single conductor, resulting in a low-cost and light-weight alternative to using solid copper. GroundSmart solutions are produced at the CommScope facility in Statesville, NC, that is ISO 9001 and ISO 14000 registered.

To learn more about CommScope’s copper alternative solutions, visit the CommScope booth at Tech Advantage 2011, March 8-11 and at CTIA WIRELESS 2011, March 22-24. Both shows will be held in Orlando, Florida.

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