The ongoing volatility of copper pricing has created a major concern for the communications industry. Rising copper prices negatively impact operating costs by increasing the price of wire and maintenance costs as copper wire becomes an attractive target for thieves intent on stealing it for sale to recyclers.
Copper theft has become such an issue that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning stating copper theft is a threat to critical homeland infrastructure. Also, in a 2009 survey published by the Electrical Safety Foundation International, utilities in the United States reported approximately $60 million in losses and 450,000 minutes of outage time annually because of copper theft.
According to Doug Wells, vice president/Outside Plant Solutions, Broadband at CommScope, “Companies have increased security around their plants, going as far as laser etching their cables so they can be traced when they are stolen. Others have coated cables with a special liquid that leaves a stain detectable under ultraviolet light. Despite efforts like these, thieves continue to steal copper because of its rising value. The result is costly damage to networks and growing service disruptions.”
To help the industry battle these issues, CommScope Inc. has developed a copper-alternative grounding wire designed to deter copper theft and to lower maintenance costs for telecom and data applications. The GroundSmart Copper Clad Steel solution is deployed in subsurface grounding grids as well as inside and outside plant-bonding applications.
CommScope says GroundSmart Copper Clad Steel is specifically designed to disperse fault currents and lightning strikes at a lower total cost of ownership compared to pure copper. It is an electrical conductor that has copper metallurgically bonded to a solid steel core. This solution also makes it less susceptible to theft by increasing the resistance to cutting and drastically decreasing the scrap value.
The steel also can be jacketed with a polyethylene coating and printed to disguise and distinguish the wire from solid copper alternatives. For inside plant bonding and grounding applications, CommScope produces a Copper Clad Aluminum version. The combination of these two metals result in a product uniquely suited for electrical applications where both cost and weight-to-conductivity issues are important.