Gamma Electronics is an expert when it comes to RF weatherproofing. As subject matter professionals, they conducted a thorough, deep dive centered on the impact of their Cold Shrink product.
Throughout the process, Gamma Electronics spoke with multiple parties to gather pivotal data from the field. This included installers, contractors and “tiger teams,” specialized, cross-functional groups brought into a project to tackle maintenance tasks.
Gamma found that using Cold Shrink for weatherproofing leads to less maintenance and shorter installation time — both critical components to take into consideration as the industry pushes forward into a 5G world.
Maintenance & Installation: Long-Run Rewards
In a cost study, Gamma found that maintenance costs made up 49% of carrier operating expenses.
One Tiger Team reported that 30% of maintenance calls were due to weather-related issues, or in the example above, $5.7 billion per year in maintenance costs. They also reported that using Gamma Cold Shrink versus alternatives like Tape & Butyl reduced maintenance calls by 20%, which in this instance, equates to $1.104 billion in savings per year.
“It’s all about maintenance,” says Cameron Lanier, Gamma Electronics Director of Marketing and Media. “Decreasing the amount of times contractor teams have to revisit a site because of a better weatherproofing solution, that’s what we care about.” Lanier recently visited a site and was surprised to see how many connections were just using electrical tape, “some of which had come unraveled and was blowing in the wind,” he explained.
No weatherproofing is guaranteed to make it through an F5 tornado, but in reality, the more inconspicuous and common issue is basic, seasonal weather. Good ol’ rain and snow. Some companies opt for weaker weatherproofing materials because it’s what’s provided, not necessarily because it’s what’s preferred. While the upfront price point might be less, the long-term fiscal ramifications due to lack of durability add up.
Carey Bailey, CEO of Wild Horse Technologies LLC, trains Tiger Teams in addition to running her own, and is very familiar with weatherproofing maintenance. “It’s one of the best products that I’ve seen. I’ve been in the industry almost thirty years…I’ve climbed since 2008 and have installed this equipment myself,” she says. “It cuts maintenance down in half,” she confirms.
Cold Shrink is Gamma’s “set it and forget it solution,” according to Weyhreter, National Sales Manager at Gamma. To boot, in five years, Cold Shrink has reported zero failures, “and that’s with, ballpark, close to a half a million pieces installed.”
While maintenance is key, don’t underestimate the power of an easy installation.
“You use cold shrink on everything,” explains Carey, “and that Cold Shrink goes on each end of the jumper.”
Gamma found through contractor data intake, that installing Tape & Butyl, for instance, takes on average, five to ten minutes per connection. A number of contractors said that often slips into the 15 to 20-minute range. Gamma Cold Shrink installs in less than a minute. Here’s the video evidence. 15 seconds flat – that’s five times faster than the alternative.
Imagine you’re installing Cold Shrink on 100 connections at one minute per piece of Cold Shrink, versus Tape & Butyl at its fastest install time of five minutes, (per connection). Tape & Butyl adds up to a full day’s worth of work, best case scenario. Cold Shrink cuts down your install time to under two hours, and that’s at its maximum install time.
Why It Matters For 5G
In terms of financial implications, it’s a relatively simple equation. The faster the installation, the less time on a project, the lower the cost of labor and the higher the ultimate project revenue.
5G is here, networks are densifying, and towers need to be built. New builds, on average, take five days to complete, or four towers in 20 days, according to Gamma Electronics. Using Cold-Shrink for weatherproofing can cut installation time and reduce builds by one full day or more, so now, you can build five towers in 20 days.
“It’s one of the best products that I’ve seen. I’ve been in the industry for almost 30 years,” Carey says.
The plot thickens. Butyl will likely be phased out during 5G deployments, according to the Gamma team.
“We know 5G is just in the early stages of being built and that the pandemic only delayed it further,” explains Lanier. “2021 and beyond are going to be very busy in terms of building and time is of the essence. The 5G radios that are being put into place use small connections, typically NEX10.”
There are not a plethora of weatherproofing options suited specifically for this new technology, says Weyreheter. Fortunately, Gamma offers one of the few NEX10 weatherproofing solutions that do work for 5G radios, (Gamma’s SDL-TNS-65 cold shrink). Weyreheter says it’s also far easier to install than tape. “These radios have very little room to operate and installing weatherproofing, especially tape, is time consuming, not to mention ineffective,” he says.
With every new wave of technology, processes need to be reevaluated and cross-checked for time and cost efficiencies. This is exemplified by the “inevitable” distancing from Butyl. The 5G transition presents an optimal time to assess company and contractor operations and materials, and to examine how a seemingly simple, and small physical change can translate to increased cost-savings, faster deployments and a smarter tomorrow.
Gamma Electronics was founded in 2006 and is based in Pomona, California, (greater Los Angeles area). They began in the production and selling of heat shrink and heat shrinkable boots to the aerospace and defense industries, having multiple products approved by Boeing, Bell Helicopter, and Lockheed Martin. In the years following Gamma Electronics has continued to produce cable protection products, revolutionizing the market with the introduction of silicone cold shrink in 2015.