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FIBER OPTICS

THE BASICS OF FIBER OPTIC CABLE

a Tutorial

BRIEF OVER VIEW OF FIBER OPTIC CABLE ADVANTAGES OVER COPPER: SPEED: Fiber optic networks operate at high speeds - up into the gigabits BANDWIDTH: large carrying capacity DISTANCE: Signals can be transmitted further without needing to be "refreshed" or strengthened. RESISTANCE: Greater resistance to electromagnetic noise such as radios, motors or other nearby cables. MAINTENANCE: Fiber optic cables costs much less to maintain.

In recent years it has become apparent that fiber-optics are steadily replacing copper wire as an appropriate means of communication signal transmission. They span the long distances between local phone systems as well as providing the backbone for many network systems. Other system users include cable television services, university campuses, office buildings, industrial plants, and electric utility companies. A fiber-optic system is similar to the copper wire system that fiber-optics is replacing. The difference is that fiber-optics use light pulses to transmit information down fiber lines instead of using electronic pulses to transmit information down copper lines. Looking at the components in a fiber-optic chain will give a better understanding of how the system works in conjunction with wire based systems. At one end of the system is a transmitter. This is the place of origin for information coming on to fiber-optic lines. The transmitter accepts coded electronic pulse information coming from copper wire. It then processes and translates that information into equivalently coded light pulses. A light-emitting diode (LED) or an injection-laser diode (ILD) can be used for generating the light pulses. Using a lens, the light pulses are funneled into the fiber-optic medium where they travel down the cable. The light (near infrared) is most often 850nm for shorter distances and 1,300nm for longer

distances on Multi-mode fiber and 1300nm for single-mode fiber and 1,500nm is used for for longer distances. Think of a fiber cable in terms of very long cardboard roll (from the inside roll of paper towel) that is coated with a mirror on the inside. If you shine a flashlight in one end you can see light come out at the far end - even if it's been bent around a corner. Light pulses move easily down the fiber-optic line because of a principle known as total internal reflection. "This principle of total internal reflection states that when the angle of incidence exceeds a critical value, light cannot get out of the glass; instead, the light bounces back in. When this principle is applied to the construction of the fiber-optic strand, it is possible to transmit information down fiber lines in the form of light pulses. The core must a very clear and pure material for the light or in most cases near infrared light (850nm, 1300nm and 1500nm). The core can be Plastic (used for very short distances) but most are made from glass. Glass optical fibers are almost always made from pure silica, but some other materials, such as fluorozirconate, fluoroaluminate, and chalcogenide glasses, are used for longer-wavelength infrared applications.

There are three types of fiber optic cable commonly used: single mode, multimode and plastic optical fiber (POF). Transparent glass or plastic fibers which allow light to be guided from one end to the other with minimal loss.

Fiber optic cable functions as a "light guide," guiding the light introduced at one end of the cable through to the other end. The light source can either be a light-emitting diode (LED)) or a laser. The light source is pulsed on and off, and a light-sensitive receiver on the other end of the cable converts the pulses back into the digital ones and zeros of the original signal. Even laser light shining through a fiber optic cable is subject to loss of strength, primarily through dispersion and scattering of the light, within the cable itself. The faster the laser fluctuates, the greater the risk of dispersion. Light strengtheners, called repeaters, may be necessary to refresh the signal in certain applications. While fiber optic cable itself has become cheaper over time - a equivalent length of copper cable cost less per foot but not in capacity. Fiber optic cable connectors and the equipment needed to install them are still more expensive than their copper counterparts. Single Mode cable is a single stand (most applications use 2 fibers) of glass fiber with a diameter of 8.3 to 10 microns that has one mode of transmission. Single Mode Fiber with a relatively narrow diameter, through which only one mode will propagate typically 1310 or 1550nm. Carries higher bandwidth than multimode fiber, but requires a light source with a narrow spectral width. Synonyms mono-mode optical fiber, single-mode fiber, single-mode optical waveguide, uni-mode fiber. Single Modem fiber is used in many applications where data is sent at multi-frequency (WDM Wave-Division-Multiplexing) so only one cable is needed - (single-mode on one single fiber) Single-mode fiber gives you a higher transmission rate and up to 50 times more distance than multimode, but it also costs more. Single-mode fiber has a much smaller core than multimode. The small core and single light-wave virtually eliminate any distortion that could result from overlapping light pulses, providing the least signal attenuation and the highest transmission speeds of any fiber cable type.

Single-mode optical fiber is an optical fiber in which only the lowest order bound mode can propagate at the wavelength of interest typically 1300 to 1320nm.

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single mode fiber page

Multi-Mode cable has a little bit bigger diameter, with a common diameters in the 50to-100 micron range for the light carry component (in the US the most common size is 62.5um). Most applications in which Multi-mode fiber is used, 2 fibers are used (WDM is not normally used on multi-mode fiber). POF is a newer plastic-based cable which promises performance similar to glass cable on very short runs, but at a lower cost. Multimode fiber gives you high bandwidth at high speeds (10 to 100MBS - Gigabit to 275m to 2km) over medium distances. Light waves are dispersed into numerous paths, or modes, as they travel through the cable's core typically 850 or 1300nm. Typical multimode fiber core diameters are 50, 62.5, and 100 micrometers. However, in long cable runs (greater than 3000 feet [914.4 meters), multiple paths of light can cause signal distortion at the receiving end, resulting in an unclear and incomplete data transmission so designers now call for single mode fiber in new applications using Gigabit and beyond.

The use of fiber-optics was generally not available until 1970 when Corning Glass Works was able to produce a fiber with a loss of 20 dB/km. It was recognized that optical fiber would be feasible for telecommunication transmission only if glass could be developed so pure that attenuation would be 20dB/km or less. That is, 1% of the light would remain after traveling 1 km. Today's optical fiber attenuation ranges from 0.5dB/km to 1000dB/km depending on the optical fiber used. Attenuation limits are based on intended application. The applications of optical fiber communications have increased at a rapid rate, since the first commercial installation of a fiber-optic system in 1977. Telephone companies began early on, replacing their old copper wire systems with optical fiber lines. Today's telephone companies use optical fiber throughout their system as the backbone architecture and as the long-distance connection between city phone systems. Cable television companies have also began integrating fiber-optics into their cable systems. The trunk lines that connect central offices have generally been replaced with optical fiber. Some providers have begun experimenting with fiber to the curb using a fiber/coaxial hybrid. Such a hybrid allows for the integration of fiber and coaxial at a neighborhood location. This location, called a node, would provide the optical receiver

that converts the light impulses back to electronic signals. The signals could then be fed to individual homes via coaxial cable. Local Area Networks (LAN) is a collective group of computers, or computer systems, connected to each other allowing for shared program software or data bases. Colleges, universities, office buildings, and industrial plants, just to name a few, all make use of optical fiber within their LAN systems. Power companies are an emerging group that have begun to utilize fiber-optics in their communication systems. Most power utilities already have fiber-optic communication systems in use for monitoring their power grid systems.

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Illustrated Fiber Optic Glossary pages

Fiber
by John MacChesney - Fellow at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies
Some 10 billion digital bits can be transmitted per second along an optical fiber link in a commercial network, enough to carry tens of thousands of telephone calls. Hair-thin fibers consist of two concentric layers of high-purity silica glass the core and the cladding, which are enclosed by a protective sheath. Light rays modulated into digital pulses with a laser or a light-emitting diode move along the core without penetrating the cladding. The light stays confined to the core because the cladding has a lower refractive index a measure of its ability to bend light. Refinements in optical fibers, along with the development of new lasers and diodes, may one day allow commercial fiber-optic networks to carry trillions of bits of data per second.

Total internal refection confines light within optical fibers (similar to looking down a mirror made in the shape of a long paper towel tube). Because the cladding has a lower refractive index, light rays reflect back into the core if they encounter the cladding at a shallow angle (red lines). A ray that exceeds a certain "critical" angle escapes from the fiber (yellow line).

STEP-INDEX MULTIMODE FIBER has a large core, up to 100 microns in diameter. As a result, some of the light rays that make up the digital pulse may travel a direct route, whereas others zigzag as they bounce off the cladding. These alternative pathways cause the different groupings of light rays, referred to as modes, to arrive separately at a receiving point. The pulse, an aggregate of different modes, begins to spread out, losing its well-defined shape. The need to leave spacing between pulses to prevent overlapping limits bandwidth that is, the amount of information that can be sent. Consequently, this type of fiber is best suited for transmission over short distances, in an endoscope, for instance.

GRADED-INDEX MULTIMODE FIBER contains a core in which the refractive index diminishes gradually from the center axis out toward the cladding. The higher refractive index at the center makes the light rays moving down the axis advance more slowly than those near the cladding. Also, rather than zigzagging off the cladding, light in the core curves helically because of the graded index, reducing its travel distance. The shortened path and the higher speed allow light at the periphery to arrive at a receiver at about the same time as the slow but straight rays in the core axis. The result: a digital pulse suffers less dispersion.

SINGLE-MODE FIBER has a narrow core (eight microns or less), and the index of refraction between the core and the cladding changes less than it does for multimode fibers. Light thus travels parallel to the axis, creating little pulse dispersion. Telephone and cable television networks install millions of kilometers of this fiber every year.

BASIC CABLE DESIGN

1 - Two basic cable designs are:


Loose-tube cable, used in the majority of outside-plant installations in North America, and tight-buffered cable, primarily used inside buildings. The modular design of loose-tube cables typically holds up to 12 fibers per buffer tube with a maximum per cable fiber count of more than 200 fibers. Loose-tube cables can be all-dielectric or optionally armored. The modular buffer-tube design permits easy drop-off of groups of fibers at intermediate points, without interfering with other protected buffer tubes being routed to other locations. The loose-tube design also helps in the identification and administration of fibers in the system. Single-fiber tight-buffered cables are used as pigtails, patch cords and jumpers to terminate loose-tube cables directly into opto-electronic transmitters, receivers and other active and passive components. Multi-fiber tight-buffered cables also are available and are used primarily for alternative routing and handling flexibility and ease within buildings.

2 - Loose-Tube Cable
In a loose-tube cable design, color-coded plastic buffer tubes house and protect optical fibers. A gel filling compound impedes water penetration. Excess fiber length (relative to buffer tube length) insulates fibers from stresses of installation and environmental loading. Buffer tubes are stranded around a dielectric or steel central member, which serves as an anti-buckling element. The cable core, typically uses aramid yarn, as the primary tensile strength member. The outer polyethylene jacket is extruded over the core. If armoring is required, a corrugated steel tape is formed around a single jacketed cable with an additional jacket extruded over the armor.

Loose-tube cables typically are used for outside-plant installation in aerial, duct and direct-buried applications.

3 - Tight-Buffered Cable
With tight-buffered cable designs, the buffering material is in direct contact with the fiber. This design is suited for "jumper cables" which connect outside plant cables to terminal equipment, and also for linking various devices in a premises network. Multi-fiber, tight-buffered cables often are used for intra-building, risers, general building and plenum applications. The tight-buffered design provides a rugged cable structure to protect individual fibers during handling, routing and connectorization. Yarn strength members keep the tensile load away from the fiber. As with loose-tube cables, optical specifications for tight-buffered cables also should include the maximum performance of all fibers over the operating temperature range and life of the cable. Averages should not be acceptable.

Connector Types

Gruber Industries cable connectors

here are some common fiber cable types

Distribution Cable

Distribution Cable (compact building cable) packages individual 900m buffered fiber reducing size and cost when compared to breakout cable. The connectors may be installed directly on the 900m buffered fiber at the breakout box location. The space

saving (OFNR) rated cable may be installed where ever breakout cable is used. FIS will connectorize directly onto 900m fiber or will build up ends to a 3mm jacketed fiber before the connectors are installed. Indoor/Outdoor Tight Buffer

FIS now offers indoor/outdoor rated tight buffer cables in Riser and Plenum rated versions. These cables are flexible, easy to handle and simple to install. Since they do not use gel, the connectors can be terminated directly onto the fiber without difficult to use breakout kits. This provides an easy and overall less expensive installation. (Temperature rating -40C to +85C). Indoor/Outdoor Breakout Cable

FIS indoor/outdoor rated breakout style cables are easy to install and simple to terminate without the need for fanout kits. These rugged and durable cables are OFNR rated so they can be used indoors, while also having a -40c to +85c operating temperature range and the benefits of fungus, water and UV protection making them perfect for outdoor applications. They come standard with 2.5mm sub units and they are available in plenum rated versions. Corning Cable Systems Freedm LST Cables

Corning Cable Systems FREEDM LST cables are OFNR-rated, UV-resistant, fully waterblocked indoor/outdoor cables. This innovative DRY cable with water blocking

technology eliminates the need for traditional flooding compound, providing more efficient and craft-friendly cable preparation. Available in 62.5m, 50m, Singlemode and hybrid versions. Krone Indoor Outdoor Dry Loose Tube Cable

KRONEs innovative line of indoor/outdoor loose tube cables are designed to meet all the rigors of the outside plant environment, and the necessary fire ratings to be installed inside the building. These cables eliminate the gel filler of traditional loose tube style cables with super absorbent polymers. Loose Tube Cable

Loose tube cable is designed to endure outside temperatures and high moisture conditions. The fibers are loosely packaged in gel filled buffer tubes to repel water. Recommended for use between buildings that are unprotected from outside elements. Loose tube cable is restricted from inside building use, typically allowing entry not to exceed 50 feet (check your local codes). Aerial Cable/Self-Supporting

Aerial cable provides ease of installation and reduces time and cost. Figure 8 cable can easily be separated between the fiber and the messenger. Temperature range ( -55C to +85C) Hybrid & Composite Cable

Hybrid cables offer the same great benefits as our standard indoor/outdoor cables, with the convenience of installing multimode and singlemode fibers all in one pull. Our composite cables offer optical fiber along with solid 14 gauge wires suitable for a variety of uses including power, grounding and other electronic controls. Armored Cable

Armored cable can be used for rodent protection in direct burial if required. This cable is non-gel filled and can also be used in aerial applications. The armor can be removed leaving the inner cable suitable for any indoor/outdoor use. (Temperature rating -40C to +85C) Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH)

Low Smoke Zero Halogen cables are offered as as alternative for halogen free applications. Less toxic and slower to ignite, they are a good choice for many international installations. We offer them in many styles as well as simplex, duplex and 1.6mm designs. This cable is riser rated and contains no flooding gel, which makes the need for a separate point of termination unnecessary. Since splicing is eliminated, termination hardware and labor times are reduced, saving you time and money. This cable may be run through risers directly to a convenient network hub or splicing closet for interconnection.

What's the best way to terminate fiber optic cable? That depends on the application, cost considerations and your own personal preferences. The following connector comparisons can make the decision easier. Epoxy & Polish Epoxy & polish style connectors were the original fiber optic connectors. They still represent the largest segment of connectors, in both quantity used and variety available. Practically every style of connector is available including ST, SC, FC, LC, D4, SMA, MU, and MTRJ. Advantages include: Very robust. This connector style is based on tried and true technology, and can withstand the greatest environmental and mechanical stress when compared to the other connector technologies. This style of connector accepts the widest assortment of cable jacket diameters. Most connectors of this group have versions to fit onto 900um buffered fiber, and up to 3.0mm jacketed fiber. Versions are. available that hold from 1 to 24 fibers in a single connector. Installation Time: There is an initial setup time for the field technician who must prepare a workstation with polishing equipment and an epoxy-curing oven. The termination time for one connector is about 25 minutes due to the time needed to heat cure the epoxy. Average time per connector in a large batch can be as low as 5 or 6 minutes. Faster curing epoxies such as anaerobic epoxy can reduce the installation time, but fast cure epoxies are not suitable for all connectors. Skill Level: These connectors, while not difficult to install, do require the most supervised skills training, especially for polishing. They are best suited for the high-volume installer or assembly house with a trained and stable work force. Costs: Least expensive connectors to purchase, in many cases being 30 to 50 percent cheaper than other termination style connectors. However, factor in the cost of epoxy curing and ferrule polishing equipment, and their associated consumables. Pre-Loaded Epoxy or No-Epoxy & Polish There are two main categories of no-epoxy & polish connectors. The first are connectors that are pre-loaded with a measured amount of epoxy. These connectors reduce the skill level needed to install a connector but they don't significantly reduce the time or equipment need-ed. The second category of connectors uses no epoxy at all.

Usually they use an internal crimp mechanism to stabilize the fiber. These connectors reduce both the skill level needed and installation time. ST, SC, and FC connector styles are available. Advantages include: Epoxy injection is not required. No scraped connectors due to epoxy over-fill. Reduced equipment requirements for some versions. Installation Time: Both versions have short setup time, with pre-loaded epoxy connectors having a slightly longer setup. Due to curing time, the pre-loaded epoxy connectors require the same amount of installation time as standard connectors, 25 minutes for 1 connector, 5-6 minutes average for a batch. Connectors that use the internal crimp method install in 2 minutes or less. Skill Level: Skill requirements are reduced because the crimp mechanism is easier to master than using epoxy. They provide maximum flexibility with one technology and a balance between skill and cost. Costs: Moderately more expensive to purchase than a standard connector. Equipment cost is equal to or less than that of standard connectors. Consumable cost is reduced to polish film and cleaning sup-plies. Cost benefits derive from reduced training requirements and fast installation time. No-Epoxy & No-Polish Easiest and fastest connectors to install; well suited for contractors who cannot cost-justify the training and supervision required for standard connectors. Good solution for fast field restorations. ST, SC, FC, LC, and MTRJ connector styles are available. Advantages include: No setup time required. Lowest installation time per connector. Limited training required. Little or no consumables costs. Installation Time: Almost zero. Its less than 1 minute regardless of number of connectors. Skill level: Requires minimal training, making this type of connector ideal for installation companies with a high turnover rate of installers and/or that do limited amounts of optical-fiber terminations. Costs: Generally the most expensive style connector to purchase, since

some of the labor (polishing) is done in the factory. Also, one or two fairly expensive installation tools may be required. However, it may still be less expensive on a cost-per-installed-connector basis due to lower labor cost.

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Calculating fiber loss and distance

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related fiber optic equipment pages

jump to Telebyte Fiber tutorial pages


(very good write up)

2. The Fiber Optic Data Communications Link For the Premises Environment
2.1 The Fiber Optic data Communications Link, End-to-End 2.2 Fiber Optic Cable 2.3 Transmitter 2.4 Receiver 2.5 Connectors 2.6 Splicing 2.7 Analyzing Performance of a Link
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Complete Telebyte Fiber tutorial pages

y y y y y y

jump to In-depth jump to The

- very technical - Fiber optic write up Belden Cable Company's Fiber tutorial jump to Fiber 101 by Corning Incorporated a good animated
Tutorial jump to WDM URL jump to Fiber

basics (Wavelength Division Multiplexing) URL jump to DWDM basics (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) Optics Training Provider

also view
y

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_fiber o The Fiber Optic Association

FOA color code for connectors Lennie Lightwave's Guide To Fiber Optics "Fibers", article in RP Photonics' Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology o How Fiber Optics are made In video o "Fibre optic technologies", Mercury Communications Ltd, August 1992. o "Photonics & the future of fiber", Mercury Communications Ltd, March 1993
o o o

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Fiber Optic Testing


Fiber Optic Cable, Testers, etc.

Patch Cable Cat 5E & 6 (UTP/STP)

After the cables are installed and terminated, it's time for testing. For every fiber optic cable plant, you will need to test for continuity, end-to-end loss and then troubleshoot the problems. If it's a long outside plant cable with intermediate splices, you will probably want to verify the individual splices with an OTDR also, since that's the only way to make sure that each one is good. If you are the network user, you will also be interested in testing power, as power is the measurement that tells you whether the system is operating properly. You'll need a few special tools and instruments to test fiber optics. See Jargon in the beginning of Lennie's Guide to see a description of each instrument.

Cat 5E / 6 Data & Voice Hardware

Cat 5E / 6E / 6A Bulk Cable

Getting Started

Tools & Testers

Even if you're an experienced installer, make sure you remember these things.

Technician Tool Kits

1. Have the right tools and test equipment for the job. You will need:
adapters for the cable plant you are testing. 2. Reference test cables that match the cables to be tested and mating adapters, including hybrids if needed. 3. Fiber Tracer or Visual Fault Locator. 4. Cleaning materials - lint free cleaning wipes and pure alcohol. 5. OTDR and launch cable for outside plant jobs.

Technician Tool Case & 1. Source and power meter, optical loss test set or test kit with proper equipment Utility Cart

Rip-Tie Cable Ties

Racks, Brackets & Metal Products

Innerduct

2. Know how to use your test equipment


Cisco Router Cable Network Equipment

Labeling Tools & Acc.

Hi-Tech Home

What's NEW

Before you start, get together all your tools and make sure they are all working properly and you and your installers know how to use them. It's hard to get the job done when you have to call the manufacturer from the job site on your cell phone to ask for help. Try all your equipment in the office before you take it into the field. Use it to test every one of your reference test jumper cables in both directions using the single-ended loss test to make sure they are all good. If your power meter has internal memory to record data be sure you know how to use this also. You can often customize these reports to your specific needs - figure all this out before you go it the field - it could save you time and on installations, time is money!

SALE ITEMS

3. Know the network you're testing...


This is an important part of the documentation process we discussed earlier. Make sure you have cable layouts for every fiber you have to test. Prepare a spreadsheet of all the cables and fibers before you go in the field and print a copy for recording Product Search Tips your test data. You may record all your test data either by hand or if your meter has Advanced Search a memory feature, it will keep test results in on-board memory that can be printed or transferred to a computer when you return to the office.
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A note on using a fiber optic source eye safety...


Cat 5E & 6 Tutorial

Fiber optic sources, including test equipment, are generally too low in power to cause any eye damage, but it's still a good idea to check connectors with a power meter before looking into it. Some telco DWDM and CATV systems have very high How to Make Cat 5E / 5 power and they could be harmful, so better safe than sorry.
All About CAT 6A Patch Cable

Fiber optic testing includes three basic tests that we will cover separately: Visual inspection for continuity or connector checking, Loss testing, and How to Make Category Network Testing. Patch Cable
Installing Cat 5E/6E Shielded Modular Plugs

Visual Inspection

How to Terminate Cat 6 Shielded Jacks

Visual Tracing
fiber from one end to another through many connections. Use a visible light "fiber optic tracer" or "pocket visual fault locator". It looks like a flashlight or a pen-like instrument with a lightbulb or LED soure that mates to a fiber optic connector. Attach a cable to test to the visual tracer and look at the other end to see the light transmitted through the core of the fiber. If there is no light at the end, go back to intermediate connections to find the bad section of the cable. A good example of how it can save time and money is testing fiber on a reel before you pull it to make sure it hasn't been damaged during shipment. Look for visible signs of damage (like cracked or broken reels, kinks in the cable, etc.) . For testing, visual tracers help also identify the next fiber to be tested for loss with the test kit. When connecting cables at patch panels, use the visual tracer to make sure each connection is the right two fibers! And to make certain the proper fibers are connected to the transmitter and receiver, use the visual tracer in place of the transmitter and your eye instead of the receiver (remember that fiber optic links work in the infrared so you can't see anything anyway.)

How to Wire Phone Jack Continuity checking makes certain the fibers are not broken and to trace a path of a

Fiber Optic Tutorial

Fiber Fiber Fiber Fiber Fiber Fiber Fiber Fiber Fiber Fiber

Optic Jargon Optic Basics Optic Fiber Optic Cable Termination Optic Network Optic Estimating Optic Testing Optic Training Optic Glossary

Mode Conditioning

Pulling Fiber Optic & Communication Cables

Visual Fault Location


laser light is powerful enough to show breaks in fibers or high loss connectors. You can actually see the loss of the bright red light even through many yellow or orange simplex cable jackets except black or gray jackets. You can also use this gadget to optimize mechanical splices or prepolished-splice type fiber optic connectors. In fact- don't even think of doing one of those connectors without one no other method will assure you of high yield with them.

Designing Conduit Runs A higher power version of the tracer uses a laser that can also find faults. The red

Visual Connector Inspection


Fiber optic microscopes are used to inspect connectors to check the quality of the termination procedure and diagnose problems. A well made connector will have a smooth , polished, scratch free finish and the fiber will not show any signs of cracks, chips or areas where the fiber is either protruding from the end of the ferrule or pulling back into it. The magnification for viewing connectors can be 30 to 400 power but it is best to use a medium magnification. The best microscopes allow you to inspect the connector from several angles, either by tilting the connector or having angle illumination to get the best picture of what's going on. Check to make sure the microscope has an easy-to-use adapter to attach the connectors of interest to the microscope. And remember to check that no power is present in the cable before you look at it in a microscope protect your eyes!

Optical Power - Power or Loss? ("Absolute" vs. "Relative")

Practically every measurement in fiber optics refers to optical power. The power output of a transmitter or the input to receiver are "absolute" optical power measurements, that is, you measure the actual value of the power. Loss is a "relative" power measurement, the difference between the power coupled into a component like a cable or a connector and the power that is transmitted through it. This difference is what we call optical loss and defines the performance of a cable, connector, splice, etc.

Measuring power
Power in a fiber optic system is like voltage in an electrical circuit - it's what makes things happen! It's important to have enough power, but not too much. Too little power and the receiver may not be able to distinguish the signal from noise; too much power overloads the receiver and causes errors too. Measuring power requires only a power meter (most come with a screw-on adapter that matches the connector being tested) and a little help from the network electronics to turn on the transmitter. Remember when you measure power, the meter must be set to the proper range (usually dBm, sometimes microwatts, but never "dB" that's a relative power range used only for testing loss!) and the proper wavelengths matching the source being used. Refer to the instructions that come with the test equipment for setup and measurement instructions (and don't wait until you get to the job site to try the equipment)! To measure power, attach the meter to the cable that has the output you want to measure. That can be at the receiver to measure receiver power, or to a reference test cable (tested and known to be good) that is attached to the transmitter, acting as the "source", to measure transmitter power. Turn on the transmitter/source and note the power the meter measures. Compare it to the specified power for the system and make sure it's enough power but not too much.

Testing loss
Loss testing is the difference between the power coupled into the cable at the transmitter end and what comes out at the receiver end. Testing for loss requires measuring the optical power lost in a cable (including connectors ,splices, etc.) with a fiber optic source and power meter by mating the cable being tested to known good reference cable. In addition to our power meter, we will need a test source. The test source should match the type of source (LED or laser) and wavelength (850, 1300, 1550 nm). Again, read the instructions that come with the unit carefully. We also need one or two reference cables, depending on the test we wish to

perform. The accuracy of the measurement we make will depend on the quality of your reference cables. Always test your reference cables by the single ended method shown below to make sure they're good before you start testing other cables! Next we need to set our reference power for loss our "0 dB" value. Correct setting of the launch power is critical to making good loss measurements!

Clean your connectors and set up your equipment like this:


Turn on the source and select the wavelength you want for the loss test. Turn on the meter, select the "dBm" or "dB" range and select the wavelength you want for the loss test. Measure the power at the meter. This is your reference power level for all loss measurements. If your meter has a "zero" function, set this as your "0" reference. Some reference books and manuals show setting the reference power for loss using both a launch and receive cable mated with a mating adapter. This method is acceptable for some tests, but will reduce the loss you measure by the amount of loss between your reference cables when you set your "0dB loss" reference. Also, if either the launch or receive cable is bad, setting the reference with both cables hides the fact. Then you could begin testing with bad launch cables making all your loss measurements wrong. EIA/TIA 568 calls for a single cable reference, while OFSTP-14 allows either method.

Testing Loss
There are two methods that are used to measure loss, which we call "single-ended loss" and "double-ended loss". Single-ended loss uses only the launch cable, while double-ended loss uses a receive cable attached to the meter also. Single-ended loss is measured by mating the cable you want to test to the reference launch cable and measuring the power out the far end with the meter. When you do this you measure 1. the loss of the connector mated to the launch cable and 2. the loss of any fiber, splices or other connectors in the cable you are testing. This method is described in FOTP-171 and is shown in the drawing. Reverse the cable to test the connector on the other end. In a double-ended loss test, you attach the cable to test between two reference

cables, one attached to the source and one to the meter. This way, you measure two connectors' loses, one on each end, plus the loss of all the cable or cables in between. This is the method specified in OFSTP-14, the test for loss in an installed cable plant.

What Loss Should You Get When Testing Cables?


While it is difficult to generalize, here are some guidelines: - For each connector, figure 0.5 dB loss (0.7 max) - For each splice, figure 0.2 dB - For multimode fiber, the loss is about 3 dB per km for 850 nm sources, 1 dB per km for 1300 nm. This roughly translates into a loss of 0.1 dB per 100 feet for 850 nm, 0.1 dB per 300 feet for 1300 nm. - For singlemode fiber, the loss is about 0.5 dB per km for 1300 nm sources, 0.4 dB per km for 1550 nm. This roughly translates into a loss of 0.1 dB per 600 feet for 1300 nm, 0.1 dB per 750 feet for 1300 nm. So for the loss of a cable plant, calculate the approximate loss as: (0.5 dB X # connectors) + (0.2 dB x # splices) + fiber loss on the total length of cable

Troubleshooting Hints:
If you have high loss in a cable, make sure to reverse it and test in the opposite direction using the single-ended method. Since the single ended test only tests the connector on one end, you can isolate a bad connector - it's the one at the launch cable end (mated to the launch cable) on the test when you measure high loss. High loss in the double ended test should be isolated by retesting single-ended and reversing the direction of test to see if the end connector is bad. If the loss is the same, you need to either test each segment separately to isolate the bad segment or, if it is long enough, use an OTDR. If you see no light through the cable (very high loss - only darkness when tested with your visual tracer), it's probably one of the connectors, and you have few options. The best one is to isolate the problem cable, cut the connector of one end (flip a coin to choose) and hope it was the bad one (well, you have a 50-50 chance!)

OTDR Testing

As we mentioned earlier, OTDRs are always used on OSP cables to verify the loss of each splice. But they are also used as troubleshooting tools. Let's look at how an OTDR works and see how it can help testing and troubleshooting.

How OTDRs Work


Unlike sources and power meters which measure the loss of the fiber optic cable plant directly, the OTDR works indirectly. The source and meter duplicate the transmitter and receiver of the fiber optic transmission link, so the measurement correlates well with actual system loss. The OTDR, however, uses backscattered light of the fiber to imply loss. The OTDR works like RADAR, sending a high power laser light pulse down the fiber and looking for return signals from backscattered light in the fiber itself or reflected light from connector or splice interfaces. At any point in time, the light the OTDR sees is the light scattered from the pulse passing through a region of the fiber. Only a small amount of light is scattered back toward the OTDR, but with sensitive receivers and signal averaging, it is possible to make measurements over relatively long distances. Since it is possible to calibrate the speed of the pulse as it passes down the fiber, the OTDR can measure time, calculate the pulse position in the fiber and correlate what it sees in backscattered light with an actual location in the fiber. Thus it can create a display of the amount of backscattered light at any point in the fiber. Since the pulse is attenuated in the fiber as it passes along the fiber and suffers loss in connectors and splices, the amount of power in the test pulse decreases as it passes along the fiber in the cable plant under test. Thus the portion of the light being backscattered will be reduced accordingly, producing a picture of the actual loss occurring in the fiber. Some calculations are necessary to convert this information into a display, since the process occurs twice, once going out from the OTDR and once on the return path from the scattering at the test pulse.

There is a lot of information in an OTDR display. The slope of the fiber trace shows the attenuation coefficient of the fiber and is calibrated in dB/km by the OTDR. In order to measure fiber attenuation, you need a fairly long length of fiber with no distortions on either end from the OTDR resolution or overloading due to large reflections. If the fiber looks nonlinear at either end, especially near a reflective event like a connector, avoid that section when measuring loss. Connectors and splices are called "events" in OTDR jargon. Both should show a loss, but connectors and mechanical splices will also show a reflective peak so you can distinguish them from fusion splices. Also, the height of that peak will indicate the amount of reflection at the event, unless it is so large that it saturates the OTDR receiver. Then peak will have a flat top and tail on the far end, indicating the receiver was overloaded. The width of the peak shows the distance resolution of the OTDR, or how close it can detect events.

OTDRs can also detect problems in the cable caused during installation. If a fiber is broken, it will show up as the end of the fiber much shorter than the cable or a high

loss splice at the wrong place. If excessive stress is placed on the cable due to kinking or too tight a bend radius, it will look like a splice at the wrong location.

OTDR Limitations
The limited distance resolution of the OTDR makes it very hard to use in a LAN or building environment where cables are usually only a few hundred meters long. The OTDR has a great deal of difficulty resolving features in the short cables of a LAN and is likely to show "ghosts" from reflections at connectors, more often than not simply confusing the user.

Using The OTDR


When using an OTDR, there are a few cautions that will make testing easier and more understandable. First always use a long launch cable, which allows the OTDR to settle down after the initial pulse and provides a reference cable for testing the first connector on the cable. Always start with the OTDR set for the shortest pulse width for best resolution and a range at least 2 times the length of the cable you are testing. Make an initial trace and see how you need to change the parameters to get better results. Coming soon - our OTDR self-study course will teach you a lot more about how to use OTDRs!

Restoration
The time may come when you have to troubleshoot and fix the cable plant. If you have a critical application or lots of network cable, you should be ready to do it yourself. Smaller networks can rely on a contractor. If you plan to do it yourself, you need to have equipment ready (extra cables, mechanical splices, quick termination connectors, etc., plus test equipment.) and someone who knows how to use it. We cannot emphasize more strongly the need to have good documentation on the cable plant. If you don't know where the cables go, how long they are or what they tested for loss, you will be spinning you wheels from the get-go. And you need tools to diagnose problems and fix them, and spares including a fusion splicer or some mechanical splices and spare cables. In fact, when you install cable, save the leftovers for restoration! And the first thing you must decide is if the problem is with the cables or the equipment using it. A simple power meter can test sources for output and receivers for input and a visual tracer will check for fiber continuity. If the problem is in the cable plant, the OTDR is the next tool needed to locate the fault.

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