What Is a Direct-Buried Cable?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2019
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Direct-buried cable (DBC) is a type of communications cable that is configured for installation under ground level without the need to include any special type of protective casing around the cable. Unlike other cable solutions, this means that the direct-buried cable does not have to be contained in any type of pipe, sheath or other protective coating in order to maintain integrity. Cable of this type can be used to carry transmissions such as audio and data information and will normally allow for the transference of data to and from multiple points.

The nature of direct-buried cable is such that there is no need to provide any type of exterior protection. Cable of this type is formulated to resist damage due to heat or moisture, and can also repel any elements within the surrounding soil that could cause the cable to experience a high rate of deterioration. This is accomplished by equipping the direct-buried cable with a much thicker insulating coat than is found with other types of communication cables, with different designs using strategies such as extra thick rubber covers or insulators, the inclusion of gels designed to absorb shock, and a metal core that adds additional strength and protection to the fibers that actually carry the transmissions.


The quality of voice and data transmission achieved using direct-buried cable is at least as high as the quality provided by other cable solutions. In some cases, the fiber optic design of DBC will provide superior quality in comparison to older forms of cable wiring. It is not unusual for this newer technology to be used when the need to replace older deteriorated communication cables arise, allowing providers to incrementally upgrade their network to take advantage of the benefits offered by this solution.

The main benefit of direct-buried cable is that this solution can be installed with relatively little effort, since there is no need to prepare the ground where the cable is laid by installing piping or making other accommodations. Essentially, direct-buried cable is as the name implies; the cable is buried directly in the earth below ground level, covered, and is ready for use in voice and data transmissions. Since the cable is self-contained and able to withstand many of the elements that hasten the deterioration of other forms of cable, DBC also offers the benefits of less frequent replacement and a better chance of maintaining integrity even in the event of a natural disaster.

As with any type of cables, it is possible for direct-buried cable to be damaged during the course of some type of excavation. To a degree, the risk for the cable to be cut when digging occurs in the area is more pronounced, since there is no protective pipe to prevent blades from backhoes and other heavy equipment from making contact with the DBC. Fortunately, damage of this type can be repaired rapidly and restore the flow of data in a short period of time.

Another potential drawback with the use of direct-buried cable is the up-front cost associated with the purchase and installation. Cable of this type tends to be more expensive than other solutions. This expense is partially offset by the savings generated by not using various means of external protection for the DBC, as well as the longer life of the cable itself, barring any type of damage during an excavation.


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