Telecom companies and other businesses requiring electrical infrastructure often face the question of whether to go with underground or aerial cabling. Logistically speaking, sometimes only one of these two options will work. However, when you have the choice, there are a few pros and cons to consider, and the decision ultimately comes down to what is best for the your business and your customers.
There are many factors to consider, but as you’ll see most of the differences between aerial and underground cabling come down to balancing cost versus risk. Let’s explore the differences between underground and aerial cabling, and the advantages and disadvantages of each, so you can make an informed decision.
The Pros of Aerial Cabling
Aerial cabling offers a number of advantages for companies building electrical or communications infrastructure. Let’s look at these now:
- Cost-effective. Simply put, you’ll pay less to install aerial cables than to install them underground–largely because there’s no need for excavation, and you can usually use existing utility pole infrastructure.
- Time-saving. Installing aerial cables may take less time than underground installations.
- Easy to repair and upgrade. Aerial cabling is easily accessible, so repairs and upgrades can be made more quickly and easily.
The Cons of Aerial Cabling
Aerial cabling also has its drawbacks, which potential users need to consider before making the decision to go aerial:
Susceptibility to the elements. Aerial cabling can be adversely affected by weather and other environmental conditions such as high winds, icing, falling trees, etc., making the need for repairs more common.
- Animal interference. Birds, squirrels, raccoons, and other small animals sometimes cause damage by trying to nest in the infrastructure.
- Red tape and prep work. Getting the proper permits and meeting make-ready requirements can be challenging, especially in cities and other populated areas.
- Aesthetics. If your customers are concerned about the appearance of aerial cabling in their community, then this option might not be acceptable to them.
The Pros of Underground Cabling
Choosing to install underground cabling also affords certain distinct advantages, depending on your situation. These include:
- Greater reliability. Underground cabling is buried below levels where the soil can freeze or animals can dig, meaning much less interference and fewer outages and downtime.
- Durability. Underground cabling is more likely to stand the test of time, with a lifespan that can be double or even triple that of aerial cabling
- Aesthetically unintrusive. Underground cabling removes unsightly cables from view, making it an attractive option in neighborhoods and communities where aesthetics are important.
- Easier to get approval. Many urban planners favor underground cabling, so it’s often easier to get permits. Also, if other cabling is already laid underground, you may be able to save costs by leasing existing conduits.
The Cons of Underground Cabling
Installing underground cabling often presents more challenges than aerial cable installation due to the increased complexity of the construction process. These include:
- More expensive to install. The costs for excavation, man-hours for installation and set-up, as well as purchasing of materials such as conduit, can make this method an unfavorable choice when compared to installing aerial cables.
- More difficult and costly to repair. The cost of repairs may also be an additional financial burden if any issues arise after cabling is installed. (It’s also more difficult to add or upgrade cabling.)
- Susceptible to damage from further excavation. In communities still under development, or older communities or in need of upgraded infrastructure, there’s always the risk that your cabling could be damaged by other excavation projects.
There’s no real right and wrong answer when it comes to aerial versus underground cabling. Both have their benefits, and both have their downfalls. Ultimately, each application will require careful consideration to decide which type of infrastructure is the most suitable. At Tri-Power Electrical, our highly trained technicians are skilled in both aerial and underground installations, and we can also evaluate your situation and advise on which type of cabling is best for your needs. Contact us to learn more.