Down To The Wire – The Alternative To Copper

By Navin Vohra, vice president, wireless sales, Asia Pacific and India, Commscope


Telco service providers around the globe face similar challenges when dealing with traditional copper cables that are normally used to build network towers – rising copper costs, pilferage, stress on towers due to additional weight and transportations costs led to higher OpEx.

For China Unicom, there was also a need to identify a cable system that could support a large network that provided reliable indoor coverage. China Unicom is the country’s second largest telecom operator and the company has built the largest WCDMA network in the world with 203,000 3G base stations covering 341 cities. 


Research from DisplaySearch (an NPD Group company) has found that more than 80% of China Unicom’s data traffic occurs indoors, making it vital for the operator to find a cost-effective alternative to traditional copper cables that could still provide high performance.


For years, telco operators have faced rising cost when installing towers with standard corrugated copper cables. The world’s copper supply has stagnated but the demand for the metal has seen steady growth. Moreover, operators have constantly had to battle with theft in rural areas, where corrugated cables have their copper finishing scraped off to be sold illegally. 


Copper cables are also heavy which results in additional transportation costs from factory to base sites and they are difficult to install. However, there is good news too. For over a decade, many operators around the world have been using an alternative to standard corrugated copper cables known as HELIAX FXL smoothwall cables. Designed to be lighter, stronger and more efficient, HELIAX FXL provide less tower loading, lower freight costs and easy installation.


FXL cables are designed with solid triple-bonded construction with crush and tensile strength that far exceeds that of corrugated cables. These cables are also able to withstand difficult installations without cable stretching or denting damage to RF performance. They also come with a foam filled inner conductor that offers superior weather resistance.


Trials that have been carried out in various parts of India and China using HELIAX FXL cables have proven that the cables deliver consistent, superior performance, quality, consistency and lowest cost of ownership with savings of up to 15-20% over corrugated copper cables with zero maintenance requirements.


Major wireless operators in India including Tata Teleservices Limited and Idea Cellular Ltd have chosen to replace corrugated copper cables in their networks with these cables in order to keep OpEx low. More than 100,000 sites in India are now deployed with FXL cables. 


China Unicom also incorporated the HELIAX FXL cables into its designs and installations for its indoor coverage systems as the performance of the FXL cable met with both their requirements for GSM and WCDMA systems. HELIAX cable assemblies provide a single passive intermodulation (PIM)-defeating jumper solution for every type of site architecture.


With more than 100 million feet of these cable deployed around the world over the past 10 years many industry leaders have come to recognise that the HELIAX FXL is an ideal alternative and investment for swift network deployments, easy manipulation during installation, and durability. Having met the various performance benchmarks of OEM customers and wireless operators around the world the HELIAX FXL cable is the ideal alternative to corrugated copper cables whether they are deployed in harsh outdoor climates or indoors.









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