3 Effective Testing Methods for Your Fiber Optic Cables

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As office and home bandwidth requirements increase, it falls on the shoulders of internet service providers to update their technology. Streaming video, gaming, and other applications all consume more bandwidth than the early pioneers of the internet thought possible. It has, therefore, become imperative to use the fastest transmission medium possible, which is fiber optic cables.

However, since the cables are so important, any failure on their part is going to cause the whole system to collapse. Maybe not at the end of the provider, but definitely a risk for consumers and clients. Even if you got reliable ones like the OTS fiber optic cable, you should still conduct tests. Here are the most reliable methods for testing an optical fiber connection.

1. Visible Light Source Test

Visible light source tests are pretty basic, meant to see if there is continuity in the cable. Fiber optic systems rely on the use of light on the infrared spectrum, invisible to the naked eye, but there are devices that generate visible light that can be used conducting the tests. If you’re having trouble finding them, they’re also known as visual fault finders or visual fault locators.

How To Do It

The procedure for using these can vary, but we’ll outline the simplest and most typical of them. You connect the optical fiber flashlight to one end of the strand, which needs to be both terminated and the one with the most units. You must be looking at the opposite end, but not directly on the active strands to avoid potential damage to the eyes.

Using the fault locator, you can check the light for visibility on the other end. If it isn’t, the most likely cause is damage along the length of the fiber. These areas tend to glow red due to the visible light source, making them easier to identify.

2. Power Meter and Light Source Testing

You should also do a power meter and light source testing. This is sometimes known as the one-jumper or single-jumper method and is an accurate means of measuring any signal loss that occurs from end to end. An ideal OTS fiber optic cable should not experience significant loss except over very long distances, though it is still practical to conduct such testing before use.

How to Do It

Take the following steps when testing an optical fiber cable in this manner. If you do this, you need a specialized light source, a power meter, and to disconnect all active equipment from the fiber optics. You will also need to calibrate the equipment based on the procedures provided by the manufacturer.

You begin by verifying the proper wavelength. From there, you use the jumper cables and connectors that come with the cable testing equipment or the light source. Attach the jumper, the testing light, and switch off the power meter before firing it up. Take note of the power reading.

After that, use an adapter to connect a second jumper for the test. This must be placed between the test equipment and the previous jumper. Attach the jumpers to both source and meter, but also disconnect them from the adapter. Place one of the jumpers at the end of the cable fiber to test, while the other is placed at the other end. In ideal conditions, the values should be within the same range.

3. OTDR

The last type of test is the OTDR – optical time domain reflectometer. This is one that is meant to test the fiber cable’s length and attenuation. It also gets used as a way to detect any interruptions or irregularities. You conduct this test to find things like stress points, physical breaks, or any splices.

How to Do It

The test works by sending pulses of light into the reflective interior, while a device measures both timing and strength of the signal. It covers both the light reflected caused by interruptions it encounters and by reflecting off glass fibers. Then the data is used to display a graph to show the strength of the signal over the distance of the cable, narrowing down the areas where the problems occur.

OTDR testing requires access to a single end of the typical fiber cable. This makes it less of a hassle to conduct in most circumstances. However, this is not a direct method of testing. The power meter and light source test generates more accurate data. If you’re looking to test the consistency of the signal, it isn’t an ideal option.

However, because the equipment used displays the data as a graph that lines up with the length of the fiber, making it useful in tracking down physical errors. It is used with specific wavelengths, usually around 1310nm and 1550nm in single-mode fiber cables, while multi-mode cables use 850nm or 1300nm as standard.

Conclusion

Fiber optic cables should be tested, both for consistency and to check if degradation has damaged them over time. It might also be a useful way to check if systems are due for an upgrade or preventative maintenance. Regular testing might also present opportunities for adjusting the setup to your particular needs or requirements. At the very least, proper testing lets you improve your service for a little additional cost.

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