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

OTDR traces have several common characteristics. Most traces begin with an initial input pulse that is a result of a reflection occurring at the connection to the OTDR. Following this pulse, the ODTR trace is a gradual curve sloping downward that may be interrupted by gradual shifts. The gradual decline results from Rayleigh scattering as light travels along each fibre section. This decline is interrupted by sharp shifts that represent a local deviation of the trace in the upward or downward direction. These shifts or point defects are usually caused by connectors, splices or breaks. Finally the output pulse at the end of the OTDR trace results from a reflection occurring at the output fibre-end face.

The increasing volume of fibre installation as well as the higher margins associated with this work provides a tremendous opportunity to contractors. But taking advantage of this opportunity has been challenging up to now because the equipment required to certify fibre networks has been more expensive to buy and complicated to use than the testers used for copper networks.

With fibre playing an increasing role in most projects, the subject of fibre certification is becoming increasingly important to contractors. Most contractors have a team of technicians that have developed a considerable amount of expertise in testing copper installations. Most or all of their technicians are probably not equipped or trained for testing fibre cable.

While the loss/length and OTDR test results nicely complement each other, conventional optical loss testers and OTDRs are separate pieces of equipment. Each piece of equipment costs a significant amount of money and has its own different user interface. The greatest obstacle is the difficulty of learning the complicated interfaces of and how to interpret the traces provided by OTDR instruments.

When fibre is an important part of an installation job, the contractor has several alternatives. One is to bid only on the copper portion of the installation process. But the fibre portion of the job typically has higher margins than the copper section so limiting participation just to copper cable will reduce the contractor's profitability. Another disadvantage of this approach is that network owners prefer to hire a single contractor to handle fibre and copper cabling.

Contractors have typically used two methods to address the preference of network owners for a single source. One option is for the contractor to bid on the entire project but hire a subcontractor with expertise in fibre for that portion of the project. This approach works, but will hurt profitability.

Contractors now have the opportunity to generate additional revenues by equipping the technicians that perform copper certification and fibre certification as well. This opportunity has arisen through the availability of new modules that snap on to copper test devices that have a simple and familiar user interface, easy set up, simple pass fail results.

Technicians can apply their existing knowledge of the instrument, so little or no training is required to certify the fibre plant.

The new generation of modules enables contractors who are familiar with copper certification to perform extended fibre certification. With the link loss module, one press of a button automatically performs a loss/length test on two fibres at two wavelengths and determines their pass or fail status. With the OTDR module, a single test from one end of the fibre checks every connector and splice on a link to be sure the fibre cabling meets the component specifications. A copper tester equipped with these two snap-on modules fully certifies a fibre plant. These fibre-testing modules are tailored to the needs of technicians who install and operate enterprise networks.

Integrating fibre and copper testing gives technicians the ability to manage test results data from multiple tests with one PC software application.

The technology makes project set up simpler by quickly organising test results by job site, customer, campus or building.

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