Wood Utility Pole Costs vs. Benefits in the Telecom Industry

The demand for 5G networks is beginning to spread from the hustle-and-bustle of urban cities to the outskirts of the nation’s most secluded countryside. Many people insist on their access to 5G broadband networks whenever – and wherever – they travel around the country, meaning telecom companies are in a footrace against each other to be the most widely accessible and fastest networks.

But with this sudden spike in demand, matched with rising expectations from ratepayers, comes a prevailing question: what’s the cheapest, fastest, and most sustainable way for the telecom industry to build out their telecommunications infrastructure?

In Europe, wood telecommunications structures are beginning to emerge as an alternative to steel structures, which is being widely embraced by community members and government officials.

In the United States, Bell Structural Solutions is one of the first lumber companies to break into the telecommunications market. The telecom industry, and the environment, will benefit from using wood telecom structures as an alternative to steel because they are more affordable and far more sustainable. Here are a few reasons why wood structures should be considered as an alternative to steel in the telecom industry.

Utility Pole Cost

There are several types of utility pole options to choose from. Wood structures, which are lighter and tend to be more cost-effective, contain several options, including different types of wood species and treatment options. Steel structures can be stepped poles – or structures made with maintenance steps – or swaged poles, which are shaped for extra strength, according to an article by Jingyoung, an electrical manufacturing company. And concrete utility poles can handle the most amount of weight, but they also carry a hefty price tag, and can’t be easily replaced or modified.

Wood utility poles are up to 42% more affordable than steel poles.

Steel Utility Pole Prices

Steel utility poles tend to be more expensive than wood utility poles and less expensive than concrete utility poles. While specifics on steel prices are not publicly available on most steel utility pole distributor websites, steel utility poles can cost nearly twice as much as wood utility poles.

Advantages & disadvantages of steel poles in the telecom industry

Steel utility poles are relatively lightweight and resilient, which is why they are such a popular choice for telecommunications providers. Telecom providers have long chosen steel utility poles because of their sturdiness and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions for decades on end. However, there are major downfalls to investing in steel utility poles or steel telecommunications structures as opposed to wood. In addition to being more expensive, if they aren’t maintained properly and regularly, steel structures can break down faster than wood structures – contrary to perceptions across the industry.

Steel structures also come with longer lead times than wood structures – often a major disadvantage for the telecommunications industry, which typically wants to build its structures efficiently and on a tight timeline.

How long do steel utility poles last?

Steel utility poles can last anywhere from 50 to 80 years, according to several steel utility pole supplier sites. However, steel structures degrade over time, due to corrosion and mechanical damage. Assessing corrosion before it causes issues is extremely important when it comes to the lasting durability of steel structures. A steel structure’s galvanizing surface can be depleted within 30 to 40 years, when it will need to be topcoated, according to an article in materialsperformance.com.

Wood utility pole prices

Wood utility poles vary in price depending on the type of wood structure and application used. However, wood utility poles are certainly more cost-effective than steel utility poles. In most cases, wood utility poles are up to 42% more affordable than steel poles.

To get a specific pricing estimate for your project, schedule a call with one of our experts.

According to a cost analysis study by the Western Wood Preservers Institute: “In evaluating building materials, product price is your first consideration and treated wood products usually have the price advantage. Then, when you consider product performance, maintenance and installation costs, pressure treated wood products have the advantage over alternative building products every time.”

Advantages & disadvantages of wood poles in the telecom industry

Wood telecom structures are only now becoming an option for telecommunications companies looking to expand their 5G operations. Because of that, there are many little-known advantages to opting for wood telecom structures as opposed to steel. On top of being more cost-effective, wood structures have a faster lead time than steel – just six to eight weeks, as opposed to steel structures, which have lead times of up to 20 weeks.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of choosing wood structures over steel is that wood is more aesthetically-pleasing and far more sustainable. That means the telecom industry’s ratepayers will be far happier when wood structures start to go up in their neighborhoods as opposed to steel. Wood is also the only building material in the industry that is climate positive – meaning wood telecom structures will actually reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

How long do wood utility poles last?

When maintained properly, wood utility poles and wood telecommunications structures can last up to 100 years. It is a common misconception across the telecom industry – spawned by the steel utility pole industry – that wood utility poles only last up to 30 years. This is simply not true. Wood poles, when maintained properly, can actually outlast the lifespan of steel structures.

Why are wooden poles preferred?

Wood poles are more preferred across the industry, and should be considered the ideal alternative to steel by the telecommunications industry. Wood poles are more affordable, have faster lead times, and are kinder to the environment.

Wood Utility Poles: The Green Choice

When telecom companies make the switch from steel structures to wood structures, they’re doing right by the environment. Telecom companies in Europe are already making the switch, and the transition from steel to wood is making waves across the entire architecture industry. That’s because wood is climate positive, while steel releases carbon into the atmosphere.

To give you an idea of what this means: If you purchased 2,000 wood poles, you’re also saving the equivalent of 460,000 gallons of gas. However, if you purchased 2,000 steel poles, you’re consuming the equivalent of 156,000 gallons of gas due to the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by the steel.

And contrary to the perception across the industry, for every tree harvested to provide a wood utility pole, another tree is planted. On top of that, the forest land base in the United States is currently considered stable, with as much land in forest production as in 1990.

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