Why Should You Choose a Below-Grade Enclosure?

Are you updating your current network to provide better access? Is it time to update, upgrade and/or replace old equipment? Or, after being awarded Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) monies, are you now gathering the equipment you need to service customers in rural areas? Regardless the reason you’re investing in a new telecommunications or networking enclosure, one choice you’re probably considering is which type of structure is best for your needs. Should you go with the traditional above-ground style, or is a below-grade enclosure better?

For this article, we’re going to focus on below-grade telecom enclosures and the benefits associated with them. If you’re interested in learning about above-grade enclosures, click here.

Enclosure Considerations

When looking into enclosures, take into account where your equipment will be located. Is it going to be in a secluded rural area that doesn’t experience much traffic? Is the area susceptible to fires, heavy storms or flooding? Is it a spot where an above-ground enclosure could be an obstacle?

Advantages of Below-Grade Enclosures

Because below-grade enclosures are mostly underground, they offer a number of advantages over their above-ground counterparts.

For one, they are better protected from environmental hazards and natural disasters, e.g., forest fires, storms and even flooding (to a certain level, of course). In fact, one of our clients in Colorado had above-ground and below-ground cabinets. When the area was hit by wildfires, they were surprised to find that while the above-ground units were heavily damaged, the below-ground ones only sustained fire damage to the vault lid.

In addition, below-grade enclosures are mostly hidden, which makes them less of a target for vandals and less of a mark on the surrounding aesthetics.

People can damage above-ground enclosures. This is especially problematic if your equipment is in a right-of-way where large mowers could accidentally run into them, or in an area where humans could tamper with the enclosure and equipment away from prying eyes.

Another reason below-grade enclosures are a better investment in the long run is because they protect your equipment and cables better. Plus, due to the fiber optics being shielded from wind and ice damage, buried connections have been shown to be approximately 10 times more reliable than aerial routes. So, even your customers will benefit from a below-grade enclosure.

And lastly, the NAUTILUS enclosure (see below) can be installed in the same vault as your splice closure.

Disadvantages of Below-Grade Enclosures

Below-grade enclosures have more complex construction and features than their similar-sized above-ground counterparts, so they are more expensive. But, that cost is generally offset by not having to build a pad and the fact that these enclosures are better protected, resulting in less repairs.

In addition, while below-grade enclosures tend to be more resistant to environmental hazards, they are not built to be submerged underwater for long periods of time. So, they would not be a good fit for areas prone to regular and extended flooding.


AP NAUTILUS™ – A Below-Grade Solution Produced by American Products

If you’re interested in a below-grade solution, the patented AP NAUTILUS is the industry’s first below-grade, single-handle latching fiber distribution hub.

American Products designs and crafts this enclosure to National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Protection Level 6 standards. That means it’s built for indoor or outdoor use. Moreover, it protects equipment when submerged under water for a limited period of time, it keeps all dust out and it won’t be damaged by ice forming on the structure.

The high-quality construction includes .125-gauge, aircraft-grade aluminum in the structure, 304 stainless steel hardware and a corrosion-resistant powdercoating.

We designed the NAUTILUS to house PON, GPON, feeder/distribution and any other FFTx technology. At this time, it is only offered in 7RU and designed for passive equipment. And we prefer to factory-integrate the feeder and distribution cables because we torque the sealing glands so we can back it with a warranty.

Applying for or fulfilling an RDOF contract? The NAUTILUS is a quality solution for setting up/extending networks in rural areas. With this below-grade enclosure, you can rest easy knowing your new fiber optic system is out of sight, out of mind and protected from numerous environmental and human hazards.

Click here to learn more about this below-ground enclosure.