[April 28, 2017] Today’s high-speed networks thrive on optical fiber connections … perfect fiber connections. But those connections are finicky. Fiber cable connections must be clean on both ends, they require gentle handling and they need to be installed with proper bend radius, end to end, to prevent any induced loss issues.
With the advent of 10, 20, 40 and 100 gigabyte speed connections, our wireless and content networks are trying to keep up with end users’ insatiable need for speed.
This demand is driving faster and faster network speeds and only fiber has the capabilities to keep pace and continue to scale. Fiber’s ability to deliver is limited only by the electronics that produce the light signals travelling over the fiber.
If light isn’t passing through your fiber cable, your network signal is suffering. Data transmission is affected or, worse, stopped altogether, resulting in network outages.
The faster and further these signals can go, the better and more efficient the network.
To keep the network efficient, the fiber plant and its connections must be in the best working order with a clean connector end face, installed without micro or macrobends.
Bend loss can occur when the fiber cable experiences:
Bends cause the light from the fiber cable core to leak out through the cladding, resulting in a weak signal.
Loss issues are identified as either microbends or macrobends. Macrobends can be seen by the human eye, while microbends are microscopic deviations on the fiber axis.
Sometimes, microbends occur easily when the fiber cable is rested on finger duct, basket trays, edges of any other nonconforming surface or transitions. The surfaces are less than the minimum radius required to properly support the fiber and the weight of the fiber pulls it down against the edge.
The load weight bends the fiber past its minimum radius and the fractures start to appear.
Prolonged microbending also can lead to micro-cracking of the glass core and cladding which then, over time, can cause the fiber to go dark and not pass any light.
This would be a classic static failure.
Compounding the problem, finding microbends is difficult and requires expensive test equipment. At the very least, jumpers must be cleaned or replaced until the condition is reversed.
With macrobends, the fiber exceeds its minimum bend radius either by transitioning across or around a surface that is less than the minimum radius for the fiber or when storing slack in a space, either vertically or horizontally and minimum bend radii are exceeded.
The image above shows the issues with a dirty end face on a connector; Back Reflection and Insertion Loss, resulting in a weak signal on the continuation of the transmission path
The image above shows clean end face on the connectors and the transmission path has no issues and does not affect the network signal. No Back Reflection, Insertion Loss or weak signal
Using proper fiber radius control devices to eliminate these issues is always the best practice.
Well-designed components in a fiber cable pathway can support cable properly, help manage bend radius and store excess slack. Such pieces can include:
All the best tools and practices, however, cannot help if the installation doesn’t go well.
Proper handling is a must to get the best result while laying fiber in the pathway, storing slack and cleaning cable.
They all lead to one result: an inefficient network.
And that means angry mobile users who make phone calls and tweet complaints to customer service.
A good functioning network is a combination of well-designed network architecture, including equipment, the fiber cables and the pathway components from overhead raceways to vertical cable managers and racks.
The better the installation of the fiber, the better we are all served by our wireless providers’ networks.
John Shuman is the Director of Field Solutions and Engineering at Telect. He has worked on new and legacy sites around the world. He helps Telect customers overcome the barriers they encounter in implementing complex solutions on their high-density networks.
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