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ISE Columnist Don McCarty, OSP Expert

A Hitch in the IoT

Jan. 1, 2019
In 2019 I see the IoT expanding at an alarming rate, and I project that the infrastructure will fail to keep up with the demand. More things are communicating with […]

In 2019 I see the IoT expanding at an alarming rate, and I project that the infrastructure will fail to keep up with the demand. More things are communicating with more things over the wired infrastructure, the wireless infrastructure, fiber infrastructure, and, yes, the coaxial cable infrastructure. If there is a disruption of any of the infrastructures, then the IoT is affected. Any down time on any of the 4 structures will have both immediate and long-term effects on the IoT. 


Network reliability is all important. My concerns are many. 

My first concern is the oldest copper infrastructure which is paper and pulp insulated cable pairs. These cable pairs are used for bandwidth, the IoT, and line power for remotes and end-user equipment. 

There are thousands of miles of these large pulp and paper cables all over the world. They typically range from smaller 25- and 50-pair cables to 3,600-pair cables. Most of these cables are in conduit runs from central offices in cities such as Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, Miami, and others. Tons of data is transported on these old copper circuits.

Maintaining these cables is an expensive and arduous task. Any failure is catastrophic to the IoT. An ingress of water will put any pulp or paper cable out of business. Hurricane Sandy is a prime example; hundreds of these old cables failed and they were replaced with fiber under a disaster situation. 

Not every telco will suffer a hurricane. Therefore, their pulp cables will have to be replaced with fiber at a huge expense over a much longer period of time. 

In the meantime, these old cables will have to be maintained. A good air pressure program is a necessity, and there are few skilled air pressure technicians. Most have retired, and those who are left are continuously pulled off of air pressure maintenance to handle the load. 

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When there is a failure, the root cause of the failure needs to be located and repaired as soon as possible. The problem is that there is no effective way to easily locate the fault. In the old days, the breakdown test set provided a means to find the fault in short order. The test set put out 630VDC to ionize the fault, making it easy to locate. 

There is no way that high DC voltage can be used in today’s environment. It is too dangerous to field technicians. If you have a breakdown test set, I advise that you get rid of it before someone gets injured or killed. 

To locate the fault, technicians have to use the divide-and-conquer method of troubleshooting. They open the cable and cut the pair in half, and then test it both ways to see which way the fault is. They keep doing that until they find the fault. What took only hours in the old breakdown test set days will take days to find in today’s environment.

My next concern for the IoT in 2019 is new underground and new aerial construction. Let’s deal first with the reliability of new aerial construction. In many cases quality construction is disregarded. Poles need to be inspected for rot and damage, and the strand must be properly grounded for copper cables, fiber cables, and coaxial cables. By that, if the associated distribution power is on the same pole, there are different bonding requirements for Delta distribution power systems and MGN distribution power systems. 


Over lashing may save money on initial placing, but will cost you in the long run, especially with weight concerns. In many instances damage is caused when over lashing. Unknown stress and strain from extra weight does not immediately show up. Aerial splicing usually takes place at ground level, and excess cable is backlashed, and splices are supported at strand level. Aerial splices should be properly supported — but drive down any road where aerial fiber is present and you can see that they are not.

Buried construction is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind endeavor. Greenfield construction is a moderately easy endeavor if placing is done before other utilities are placed in the easement. Countless fiber runs will be properly placed in 2019 supporting the IoT. 

Brownfield construction is most difficult.  Other utilities have used up all of the easements except the first 6 inches from the ground line. Because the utility is placed shallow there is more of a possibility of damage interrupting service.

Wireless carries great bandwidth but often for a short distance. Then the data is transported by the copper, fiber, and/or coaxial cables. So, if the infrastructure is properly placed and maintained, then 2019 will be a banner year for the IoT. If not, and it’s hard to see the necessary commitment, then we will have great challenges for the next several years.

Signing off
I hope to hear about your concerns moving forward, and how you view the challenges in IoT. Reach out to me: [email protected] or text or call 831.818.3930.

About the Author

Don McCarty

Don McCarty is the OSP EXPERT columnist for ISE magazine, discussing the issues around provisioning, testing, and maintaining copper for all services from POTs to IPTV. Don is also president of and the lead trainer for McCarty Products, a technical training and products company training field technicians, cable maintenance, installation repair, and Central Office technicians and managers. For more information, email [email protected] or visit