Adding revenue with fibre

Harley Lang III, of Fluke Networks, discusses ways contractors can increase revenue by choosing an easy way to gain fibre certification.

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By  Administrator Published  January 8, 2008

The growing need for network bandwidth means that many projects now have a fibre component. A key requirement for fibre certifications is Optical Time Domain Reflectometery (OTDR), which goes beyond simple loss measurements to certify the workmanship of individual splices and connectors. But many legacy OTDR instruments are expensive and may require an expert to interpret the results.

As a result, many contractors are not able to bid on fibre installation projects even though the margins on fibre are substantially higher than the copper portion of the project. Other contractors handle fibre certification by hiring a subcontractor or use in-house technicians that specialise in fibre certification, both methods add cost.

Contractors can now generate revenues by equipping technicians that perform copper and fibre certification

Up to now, most contractors have focused on copper installation because it constituted a large proportion of demand. Analysers that integrate capabilities such as cable certification and link connectivity in a single instrument enable contractors to substantially reduce the cost of copper cable installation.

While copper has dominated the market, fibre will establish a larger market share soon in structured cabling applications. These instruments are typically used to certify the cable infrastructure by ensuring that it meets TIA/ISO standards requirements. They can also ensure that service can be activated by verifying network service availability and link connectivity to the network.

By providing a complete solution that streamlines every aspect of the certification job - setup, testing, troubleshooting, and reporting results - these integrated instruments substantially improve technician productivity. Instruments such as these can perform Cat 6 certification tests to full compliance to industry standards in as little as nine seconds. When a link fails, the new generation of testers provides quick and easy-to-understand directions to identify the point of failure in terms of distance on the link and the possible reasons for the failure.

Over the same time period that these substantial improvements have been made in copper testing and certification, an increasing percentage of network installation contracts have come to include fibre as well as copper. Fibre will establish a larger market share in structured cabling system applications for datacentres, campuses and fibre-to-the-home.

However, fibre to the desktop (FTTD) will continue to amount to a very small percentage of the total horizontal cabling subsystem market in the future.

FTTD will be found mainly in niche applications in which gigabit speeds are required for applications such as computer aided design or computer aided manufacturing terminals or workstations handling video feeds. So it is expected that a mix of both copper and fibre media will remain in structured cabling systems.

With fibre playing an increasing role in most projects, the subject of fibre certification is becoming increasingly important to cabling contractors in the region.

Certification recommendations such as TIA's TSB140 bulletin titled "Additional Guidelines for Field-Testing Length, Loss and Polarity of Optical Fibre Cabling Systems" provide guidelines on how to test fibre optic cabling systems in the field, offering two tiers of fibre network certification. Basic or Tier 1 fibre certification is required in all fibre optic cabling links.

Today, many network designers are including a requirement that Tier 2 fibre certification be performed by taking an OTDR trace of each fibre link.

By comparing the amount of light reflected back at different times, the OTDR can determine fibre and connection losses and reflectivity. By analysing the OTDR plot of trace, users can measure the attenuation and transmission loss between any two points along the cable plant. Technicians can also measure insertion loss and reflectance of any optical connection. The OTDR trace can also be used to locate fibre breaks or faults.

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