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Application Note

Testing FTTx Networks featuring PONs

Selecting the Right OTDR
MT9083 Series, MT9090A + MU909014x/15x
Optical Time Domain Reflectometers (OTDR)
Not all OTDRs are created equal! This is especially true when it comes to testing splitter-based Passive Optical Networks (PON). Many OTDRs make the claim that they can test PONs featuring splitters since they can see the end of the fiber but the reality is they simply do not provide usable data to verify the characteristics of the network (splices, connectors, etc.). This application note will provide an overview of the important properties when selecting an OTDR to test PONs and highlight the quality of data needed to accurately measure the fiber route.

Key Properties When Selecting an OTDR for PON Testing:

1) Pulse Width: pulse width is the amount of time that the OTDR laser is turned on the longer the laser is turned on, the more light (or higher power) that is injected into the fiber to test a given span. It is typically measured in nanoseconds (ns) or microseconds (us) with a range of about 3ns to 20us available on most OTDRs today. It is by far, the most important parameter when setting up an OTDR. 2) Wavelength: A multi-wavelength OTDR is needed and a good rule of thumb is to test at all wavelength windows that will be transmitted in the system (i.e. if 1310nm and 1550nm will be present, then both should be tested). FTTx networks featuring 1490nm however can be the exception. Ideally you would test at 1310nm, 1490nm and 1550nm however 1490nm is often viewed as optional to reduce test equipment cost and testing time. This is generally accepted since 1310nm provides the worst case loss budget and 1550nm has a similar attenuation (dB/km loss) to 1490nm but much greater macrobend detection potential. 3) Deadzone: simply put, the deadzone is the amount of distance that an OTDR takes to recover from an event. The longer the deadzone, the greater the dead or immeasurable part of the fiber and the greater the chance to miss something. It should also be noted that the deadzone featured on most OTDR specification sheets is at the lowest or shortest pulse width and gets larger as the pulse width is increased.

Figure 1: An OTDR with short deadzones can easily identify which connector pair is causing the issue

4) Dynamic Range: is the amount of fiber loss that can be measured by an OTDR. Like the deadzone, dynamic range increases as pulse width increases and consequently decreases as pulse width decreases. Again of note is that Dynamic range on an OTDR specification sheet is based on the longest pulse width. This creates an interesting trade-off since the goal would be to have maximum dynamic range with minimum deadzone. 5) Linearity/Recovery: Since the loss of pure fiber (no splices, connectors, macrobends, etc.) should be consistent, the OTDR should display a straight line with a slope equal to the loss (or attenuation) of the fiber. A low-grade OTDR will display non-linear trace data after a high loss which is not representative of the actual fiber loss or profile.

Non-linear Recovery not usable

Good Recovery

Figure 2: Comparison of linear vs. non-linear recovery

6) Automated Analysis: To simplify the measurement process, the OTDR should feature an automated analysis function that identifies not only the location and loss of splices and connectors but also correctly identifies the splitter (or splitters) in a PON.

Analysis of Optical Performance:

As mentioned above, it would be ideal to have the maximum dynamic range with minimum deadzone however the two are inversely related with regard to a selected pulse width. When testing splitter-based PONs, this becomes even more of a challenge since traditional fiber networks were point to point (P2P) and a large loss meant an area that needed repair so it didnt matter what was beyond it. With a PON, the splitter (or splitters) adds a high point loss (up to 18dB for a 1x128 split) that is part of the functional network with a total loss of up to 30dB possible. A pulse width must therefore be selected that provides dynamic range equal to or greater than the total span loss a task that usually means a large pulse width such as 2us or higher is selected. The result is then a trace with a deadzone of hundreds of meters in which events such as splices, connectors and macrobends cannot be detected.

OK? Faults in this area become grouped together if deadzones are too long.

Figure 3: Example of two cascaded splitters tested at various pulsewidths

In order to address this issue, a few class-leading OTDR vendors have optimized the middle pulse widths (from 50ns to 2ns) to provide very high dynamic range, with minimal deadzone. The Anritsu MT9083C ACCESS Master OTDR, for example, features 25dB at a pulse width of only 100ns with a deadzone of only about 20m a 50 to 200m improvement over other OTDRs.

Faults cannot be detected in this area.

Figure 4: Comparison of short deadzone advantages

In conclusion, just remember that a statement of PON-cable on an OTDR datasheet is subject to interpretation and can mean a lot of different things. The best way to verify the performance and prove it will meet your testing needs is an actual evaluation through a PON or PON simulation box featuring at least a 1x32 splitter or better yet, a series of cascaded splitters that are closely spaced. This is the real test and will separate the best from the rest.


Application Note: Testing FTTx Networks featuring PONs 2012-02

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