Fibre maintenance essentials: why testing is not enough


Currently, the only tool that is considered necessary in the maintenance of fibre
is an optical power meter (OPM), which tests the signal strength in the fibre to
determine if it is sufficient for the desired application. However, optical power
testing on its own is no longer enough.

The experience of fibre technicians has shown that the main cause of poor
performance in fibre networks is not low power capacity but physical
contamination of the fibre. Inspection of fibre end faces prior to connection is
thus coming to be accepted as a vital practice in connecting and maintaining
high-performance fibre networks.

According to a white paper released by JDSU, a leading developer of optical
products and test and measurement solutions, a single, microscopic particle on a
fibre end face can become embedded in the fibre core during mating. Once this
happens, this particle will cause significant back reflection and insertion loss –
two primary causes of poor network performance. An OPM cannot detect
contamination, so the only way to prevent it is by a proactive, visual inspection
prior to connection.

JDSU’s test and inspection device, the HP3-60, facilitates this inspection. The
white paper explains: “Combining an optical power meter with a probe
microscope, and patch cord microscope, the HP3-60 integrates the testing and
inspecting procedures, thus driving and enabling best practice fibre handling.
The addition of two high-performance handheld microscopes for inspecting both
female (bulkhead) and male (patch cord) connectors (as well as other optical
devices) creates a real workflow advantage while ensuring inspection and
cleaning both sides of the fibre before they are connected, which is the only way
to ensure the fibre will be free of contamination and defects and perform
optimally within the network.’

The microscopes are compatible with a set of interchangeable stainless steel
fibre inspection tips. If no contamination is found, the male and female
connectors can be joined. If, on the other hand, contamination is present, the
microscopes will show them up clearly and the end faces can then be cleaned
using specially designed cleaning tools which are now also on the market.

The white paper concludes by saying that the use of only an OPM in testing is
now obsolete, as fibre continues to increase its penetration in communications
and broadcasting networks and the negative potentialities of undetected
contaminations are considerable. A proactive inspection device should therefore
become a standard tool in any fibre technician’s kit, along with an OPM. JDSU’s
HP3-60, by bringing these two tools together, offers a handy combined solution.

JDSU products are distributed and supported in South Africa by Concilium


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