Fiber optics cables have improved the transfer of information exponentially over traditional wires — but that doesn’t mean they’re impervious to harm. Fiber optics can still suffer from degradation of signal strength, poor splicing, and plain old physical damage. If you think your system isn’t running at its peak efficiency, it may be time to check your fibers.
But where do you begin? There may be literally miles of cable, sometimes containing thousands of individual fibers. Not only do you have to find out which fiber or fibers are causing the problem, but you have to find out exactly where that problem is.
Luckily, for ever job there is the perfect tool, and the tool for this particular job is an optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR). In fact, with proper electronic calibration and equipment calibration (using the proper calibration standards for your devices and application), an OTDR can not only help you pinpoint trouble spots anywhere along the length of a given fiber, but it can also accurately report the length of the fiber as well as attenuation.
But no OTDR is complete without a kit of peripheral accessories. The Fluke OTDR kit, for instance, comes with inspection probes, launch cables, gages, and a host of other tools to help testers in the field get the job done right the first time.
In fact, testers such as the Noyes, JDSU, or Fluke OTDR systems are used at every possible stage in a fiber’s life, from manufacturing to wrapping (cabling) to storage (while wound on warehouse drums), and of course through installation, splicing, and joining. Any time a fiber or cable of fibers is transported or modified in any way, it should be tested, and those test results should be carefully recorded and stored in case of warranty disputes or failure claims.
You use fiber optics because it’s the best way to get your data from here to there. Make sure it keeps being the best way, and have your cables tested early and often. Find out more about this topic here.