Fiber Optic Testing
Connector Inspection by Microscope
CD, PMD, SA Testing
After fiber optic cables are installed, spliced
and terminated, they must be tested. For every fiber optic
cable plant, you need to test for continuity and polarity, end-to-end
insertion loss and then troubleshoot any problems. If it's a long outside
plant cable with intermediate splices, you will probably want
to verify the individual splices with an OTDR test also, since that's
the only way to make sure that each splice is good. If you are the
network user, you may also be interested in testing transmitter and receiver power, as
power is the measurement that tells you whether the system is
is the subject of the majority of industry standards, as there is a
need to verify component and system specifications in a consistent
manner. A list of TIA fiber optic standards
is on the FOA website in Tech Topics. Perhaps the most important test
is insertion loss of an installed fiber optic cable plant performed
with a light source and power meter (LSPM) or optical loss test set (OLTS)
which is required by all international standards to ensure the cable
plant is within the loss budget before acceptance of the installation.
fiber optic components and cable plants requires making several tests
and measurements with the most common tests listed below. Some tests
involve installer inspection and judgment, such as visual inspection or
tracing while some use sophisticated instruments that provide direct
measurements. Optical power, required for measuring source power,
receiver power and, when used with a test source, loss or attenuation,
is the most important parameter and is required for almost every fiber
optic test. Backscatter measurements made by an OTDR are the next most
important measurements, especially for testing outside plant
installations and troubleshooting. Measurement of geometrical
parameters of fiber and bandwidth or dispersion are essential for fiber
manufacturers but not relevant to field testing. Troubleshooting
installed cables and networks is required in every installation.
Testing fiber optics requires special tools
and instruments which must be chosen to be appropriate for the components or cable plants being tested. See Jargon and Test Instruments to see a description of these instruments.
Continuity checking with a visual fiber tracer makes certain the fibers are not broken and
to trace a path of a fiber from one end to another through many
connections, verifying duplex connector polarity for example. It looks like a flashlight
or a pen-like instrument with a light bulb or LED source that mates
to a fiber optic connector. Attach the fiber to test to the visual
tracer and look at the other end of the fiber to see the light transmitted
through the core of the fiber. If there is no light at the end,
go back to intermediate connections to find the bad section of
A good example of how it can
save time and money is testing fiber on a reel before you pull
it to make sure it hasn't been damaged during shipment. Look
for visible signs of damage (like cracked or broken reels, kinks
in the cable, etc.) . For testing, visual tracers help also identify
the next fiber to be tested for loss with the test kit. When
connecting cables at patch panels, use the visual tracer to make
sure each connection is the right two fibers! And to make certain
the proper fibers are connected to the transmitter and receiver,
use the visual tracer in place of the transmitter and your eye
instead of the receiver (remember that fiber optic links work
in the infrared so you can't see anything anyway.)
Visual Fault Location
A higher power version of the fiber tracer called a visual fault locator (VFL)
uses a visible laser that
can also find faults. The red laser light is powerful enough for
continuity checking or to trace
fibers for several kilometers, identify splices in splice trays and show breaks in
fibers or high loss connectors. You can actually see the loss of light
at a fiber break by the
bright red light from the VFL through the jacket of many
yellow or orange
simplex cables (excepting black or gray jackets, of course.) It's
most important use is finding faults in short cables or near the
connector where OTDRs cannot find them.
can also use this gadget to visually verify and optimize mechanical
splices or prepolished-splice type fiber optic connectors. By visually
minimizing the light lost you can get the lowest loss splice. In fact-
don't even think of doing one of those prepolished-splice
type connectors without one. No other method will
assure you of high yield with those connectors.
A note on VFL eye safety.
VFLs use visible light. You will find it uncomfortable to look at the
output of a fiber illuminated by a VFL. That's good, because the power
level is high and you should not be looking at it. When tracing fibers,
look from the side of the fiber to see if light is present.
Visual Connector Inspection by Microscope
Fiber optic inspection microscopes are used to inspect connectors
to confirm proper polishing and find faults like scratches, polishing defects and dirt. They can be
used both to check the quality of the termination procedure and
diagnose problems. A well made connector will have a smooth , polished,
scratch free finish and the fiber will not show any signs of cracks,
chips or areas where the fiber is either protruding from the end of the
ferrule or pulling back into it. The
magnification for viewing connectors can be 30 to 400 power but it is
best to use a medium magnification. If the magnification is too low,
critical details may not be visible. Inspecting with a very high
magnification may cause the viewer to be too critical, rejecting good
connectors. Multimode connectors should use magnifications in the range
of 100-200X and singlemode fiber can use higher magnification, up to
400X. A better solution is to use medium magnification, but
inspect the connector three ways: viewing directly at the end of the
polished surface with coaxial or oblique lighting, viewing directly
with light transmitted through the core, and viewing at an angle with
lighting from the opposite angle or with quite oblique lighting.
directly allows seeing the fiber and the ferrule hole, determining if
the ferrule hole is of the proper size, the fiber is centered in
the hole and a proper amount of adhesive has been applied. Only the
largest scratches may be visible this way, however. Adding light
transmitted through the core will make cracks in the end of the fiber,
caused by pressure or heat during the polish process, visible.
the end of the connector at an angle, while lighting it from the
opposite side at approximately the same angle or using low-angle
lighting and viewing directly will allow the best inspection for
the quality of polish and possible scratches. The shadowing effect of
angular viewing or lighting enhances the contrast of scratches against
the mirror smooth polished surface of the glass.
One needs to be
careful in inspecting connectors, however. The tendency is to sometimes
be overly critical, especially at high magnification. Only defects over
the fiber core are generally considered a problem. Chipping of the
glass around the outside of the cladding is not unusual and will have
no effect on the ability of the connector to couple light in the core
on multimode fibers. Likewise, scratches only on the cladding should
not cause any loss problems.
The best microscopes allow you to
inspect the connector from several angles, either by tilting the
connector or having angle illumination to get the best picture of
what's going on. Check to make sure the microscope has an easy-to-use
adapter to attach the connectors of interest to the microscope.
readout microscopes are now available that allow easier viewing of the
end face of the connector and some even have software that analyzes the
finish. While they are much more expensive than normal optical
microscopes, they will make inspection easier and greatly increase
Remember to check that no power is present in the
cable before you look at it in a microscope to protect your eyes! The
microscope will concentrate any power in the fiber and focus it into
your eye with potentially hazardous results. Some microscopes have
filters to stop the infrared radiation from transmitters to minimize
More on Visual Inspection.
Optical Power - Power or Loss?
("Absolute" vs. "Relative" Measurements)
every measurement in fiber optics refers to optical power. The output
of a transmitter or the input to receiver are "absolute" optical power
measurements, that is, you measure the actual value of the power. Loss
is a "relative" power measurement, the difference between the power
coupled into a component like a cable, splice or a connector and the
power that is transmitted through it. This difference in power level
before and after the component is what we call optical loss and defines
the performance of a cable, connector, splice, or other component.
tests are performed on fiber optic networks, the results are displayed
on an instrument readout. Power measurements are expressed in "dB," the
measurement unit of power and loss in optical fiber measurements.
Optical loss is measured in “dB” while optical power is measured in
“dBm.” Loss is a negative number (like -3.2 dB) as are many power
measurements. Measurements in dB can sometimes be confusing.
the early days of fiber optics, source output power was usually
measured in milliwatts, a linear scale, and loss was measured in dB or
decibels, a logarithmic scale. Over the years, all measurements
migrated to dB for convenience causing much confusion. Loss
measurements were generally measured in dB since dB is a ratio of two
power levels, one of which is considered the reference value. The dB is
a logarithmic scale where each 10 dB represents a ratio of 10 times.
The actual equation used to calculate dB is
dB = 10 log (measured power / reference power).
10 dB is a ratio of 10 times (either 10 times as much or one-tenth as
much), 20 dB is a ratio of 100, 30 dB is a ratio of 1000, etc. When the
two optical powers compared are equal, dB = 0, a convenient value that
is easily remembered. If the measured power is higher than the
reference power, dB will be a positive number, but if it is lower than
the reference power, it will be negative. Thus measurements of loss are
typically expressed as a negative number.
Measurements of optical
power such as the output of a transmitter or input to a receiver are
expressed in units of dBm. The “m” in dBm refers to a reference power
of 1 milliwatt. Thus a source with a power level of 0 dBm has a power
of 1 milliwatt. Likewise, -10 dBm is 0.1 milliwatt and +10 dBm is 10
To measure loss in a fiber optic system, we make two
measurements of power, a reference measurement before the component we
are testing and a loss measurement after the light passes through the
component. Since we are measuring loss, the measured power will
be less than the reference power, so the ratio of measured power to
reference power is less than 1 and the log is negative, making dB a
negative number. When we set the reference value, the meter reads “0
dB” because the reference value we set and the value the meter is
measuring is the same. Then when we measure loss, the power measured is
less, so the meter will read “- 3.0 dB” for example, if the tested
power is half the reference value. Although meters measure a negative
number for loss, convention is the loss is expressed as a positive
number, so we say the loss is 3.0 dB when the meter reads - 3.0
Instruments that measure in dB can be either optical power
meters or optical loss test sets (OLTS). The optical power meter
usually reads in dBm for power measurements or dB with respect to a
user-set reference value for loss. While most power meters have ranges
of +3 to -50 dBm, most sources are in the range of +10 to -10 dBm for
lasers and -10 to -20 dBm for LEDs. Only lasers used in CATV or
long-haul telephone systems have powers high enough to be really
dangerous, up to +20 dBm; that’s 100 milliwatts or a tenth of a watt.
is important to remember that dB is for measuring loss, dBm is for
measuring power and the more negative a number is, the higher the loss.
Set your zero reference before measuring loss and check it occasionally
while making measurements.
Calibration of Power Measurements
fiber optic power measurement equipment requires setting up a reference
standard traceable to a national standards lab like the National
Institute of Standards and Technology in the US for comparison purposes
while calibrating every power meter or other instrument. The NIST
standard for all power measurements is an ECPR, or electrically
calibrated pyroelectric radiometer, which measures optical power by
comparing the heating power of the light to the well-known heating
power of a resistor. Calibration is done at 850, 1300 and 1550 nm.
Sometimes, the wavelength of lasers at 1310 nm is used by manufacturers
as the calibrated wavelength on a power meter, but the standard for
power meter calibration is 1300 nm. To conveniently transfer their
laboratory standard to fiber optic power meter manufacturers
calibration laboratories, NIST currently uses a laboratory optical
power meter which is sent around to labs as a transfer standard.
calibrated in this manner have an uncertainty of calibration of about
+/- 5%, compared to the NIST primary standards. Limitations in the
uncertainty are the inherent inconsistencies in optical coupling, about
1% at every transfer, and slight variations in wavelength calibration.
NIST is working continuously with instrument manufacturers and private
calibration labs to try to reduce the uncertainty of these calibrations.
of instruments should be done annually, however experience has shown
that the accuracy of meters rarely changes significantly during that
period, as long as the electronics of the meter do not fail. The
calibration of fiber optic power meters requires considerable
investment in capital equipment so meters must be returned to the
original manufacturer or private calibration labs for calibration.
More on optical power calibration.
Understanding FO Power Meter Measurement Uncertainty
attention has been paid to developing transfer standards for fiber
optic power measurements. The US NIST in Boulder, Colorado and
standards organizations of most other countries have worked to provide
good standards to work from. We can now assure traceability for our
calibrations, but even so the errors involved in making measurements
are not ignorable. Even when fiber optic power meters are calibrated
within specifications, the uncertainty of a measurement may be as great
as +/- 5% (about 0.2 dB) compared to standards. Understanding power
meter errors and their probable causes will insure a realistic
viewpoint on fiber optic power measurements.
The first source of
error is optical coupling. Light from the fiber is expanding in a cone.
It is important that the detector to fiber geometry be such that all
the light from the fiber hits the detector, otherwise the measurement
will be lower than the actual value. But every time light passes
through a glass to air interface, such as the window on the detector, a
small amount of the light is reflected and lost. Finally, the
cleanliness of the optical surfaces involved can cause absorption and
scattering. The sum total of these potential errors will be dependent
on the connector type, wavelength, fiber size and NA.
the coupling errors, one has errors associated with the wavelength
calibration. Semiconductor detectors used in fiber optic instruments
(and systems too) have a sensitivity that is wavelength dependent.
Since the actual source wavelength is rarely known, there is an error
associated with the spectral sensitivity of the detector. By industry
convention, the three cardinal wavelengths (850, 1300 and 1550 nm) are
used for all power measurements, not the exact source wavelength.
source of error exists for high and low level measurements. At high
levels, the optical power may overload and saturate the detector,
causing the measurement to be in error. At low levels, the inherent
detector noise adds to the signal and becomes an error. If the signal
is 10 dB above the noise floor (10 time the noise), the offset error is
10% or 0.4 dB.
Instrument Resolution vs. Measurement Uncertainty
the uncertainty of most fiber optic measurements, instrument
manufacturers have provided power and loss meters with a measurement
resolution that is usually much greater than needed. The uncertainty of
optical power measurements is about 0.2 dB (5%), loss measurements are
more likely to have uncertainties of 0.2-0.5 dB or more, and optical
return loss measurements have a 1 dB uncertainty.
which have readouts with a resolution of 0.01 dB are generally only
appropriate for laboratory measurements of very low component losses or
changes caused by environmental changes. Within the laboratory, a
resolution of 0.01 dB can be extremely useful, since one often measures
the loss of connectors or splices that are under 0.10 dB or changes in
loss under environmental stress that are under 0.1 dB. Stability of
sources and physical stress on cables limits measurement uncertainty to
about 0.02 to 0.05 dB per day, but 0.01 dB resolution can be helpful in
determining small changes in component performance.
measurements have higher uncertainty because more components are
measured at once and losses are higher. Practically, measurements are
better when the instrument resolution is limited to 0.1dB. Readings
will be more likely to be stable when being read and more indicative of
the measurement uncertainty.
Take a minute and read about "dB," the measurement unit of power and loss in optical fiber measurements.
Measuring Power With A Fiber Optic Power Meter
power requires only a power meter (most come with a screw-on adapter
that matches the connector being tested), a known good fiber optic
cable (of the right fiber size, as coupled power is a function of the
size of the core of the fiber) and a little help from the network
electronics to turn on the transmitter. Remember when you measure
power, the meter must be set to the proper range (usually dBm,
sometimes microwatts, but never "dB" - that's a relative power range
used only for testing loss! Read about "dB") and the proper
wavelength , matching the source being used in the system (850, 1300, 1550 nm for glass fiber, 650 or 850 nm for POF). Refer to the
instructions that come with the test equipment for setup and
measurement instructions (and don't wait until you get to the
job site to try the equipment, try it in the office first!)
measure power, attach the meter to the cable attached to the source
that has the output you want to measure (see diagram to
the right). That can be at the receiver to measure receiver power,
or using a reference test cable (tested and known to be good) that is
attached to the transmitter to measure output power. Turn on the
transmitter/source and give it a few minutes to stabilize. Set the
power meter for the matching wavelength and note the power the meter
measures. Compare it to the specified power for the system and make
sure it's enough power but not too much.
More on measuring Power.
Testing Optical Loss or Insertion Loss
loss is the primary performance parameter of most fiber optic
components. For fiber, it’s the loss per unit length or attenuation
coefficient. For connectors, it’s connection loss when mated to another
connector. For cables, it’s the total loss of the components of the
cable, including connectors, fiber, splices and any other components in
the cable run being tested. We’ll use cables to illustrate insertion
loss then look at other components.
- Loss of a cable is the difference between the power coupled into the
cable at the transmitter end and what comes out at the receiver end.
Testing for loss (also called "insertion loss") requires measuring
the optical power lost in a cable (including fiber attenuation,
connector loss and splice loss) with a fiber optic light source and power
meter (LSPM) or optical loss test set (OLTS.)
Loss testing is done at wavelengths appropriate for the fiber and its
usage. Generally multimode fiber is tested at 850 nm and optionally at
1300 nm with LED sources. Singlemode fiber is tested at 1310 nm and
optionally at 1550 nm with laser sources.
loss testing is done on cable assemblies, either patchcords or
installed cable plants. But fiber manufacturers test every fiber for
loss to calculate its attenuation coefficient. Connector manufactures
test many connectors to obtain an average value of the loss the
connector will have when terminated on fibers. Other component
manufacturers also test the loss of their components to verify their
An insertion loss measurement is made by mating the cable being tested to
known good reference cables with a calibrated launch power that becomes
the "0 dB" loss reference. Why
do you need reference cables to measure loss? Why can't you just plug the cable to test
into a source and power meter and measure the power? There are several
1)You need a cable to measure the output power of the source
for calibration of "0 dB" loss.
2) In order to measure the loss of the
connectors you must mate them to a similar, known good, connector.
is an important point often not fully explained. When we say connector
loss, we really mean "connection" loss - the loss of a mated pair of
connectors. Thus, testing connectors requires mating them to reference
connector which must be high quality connectors themselves to not
adversely affect the measured loss when mated to an unknown connector.
3)Testing with reference cables on each end simulates a cable plant with patchcords connecting to transmission equipment.
Fiber Optic Test Sources
addition to a power meter, you need a test source. The test source
should match the type fiber ( generally LED for MM or laser for SM) and wavelength (850,
1300, 1550 nm) that will be used on the fiber optic cable you are
testing. If you are testing to some standards, you may need to add some
mode conditioning, like a mandrel wrap, to meet the standard launch
fiber optic test source must be chosen for compatibility with the type
of fiber in use (singlemode or multimode with the proper core diameter)
and the wavelength desired for performing the test. Most sources are
either LED's or lasers of the types commonly used as transmitters in
actual fiber optic systems, making them representative of actual
applications and enhancing the usefulness of the testing. Some
laboratory tests, such as measuring the attenuation of fiber over a
range of wavelengths requires a variable wavelength source, which is
usually a tungsten lamp with a monochromator to vary the light source
Typical wavelengths of sources are 650 or 665 nm
(plastic fiber), 820, 850 and 870 nm (short wavelength multimode fiber
) and 1300 (long wavelength multimode fiber) or 1310 nm and 1550 nm
(long wavelength singlemode fiber). LED's are typically used for
testing multimode fiber and lasers are used for singlemode fiber,
although there is some crossover. High speed LANs which use multimode
fiber may be tested with VCSELs like the system sources and short
singlemode jumper cables may be tested with LEDs.
wavelength can be a critical issue in making accurate loss measurements
on long links, since the attenuation coefficient of the fiber is
wavelength sensitive. Thus all test sources should be calibrated for
wavelength in case corrections for wavelength variations are required.
sources almost always have fixed connectors. Hybrid test jumpers with
connectors compatible with the source on one end and the connector
being tested on the other must be used as reference cables. This may
affect the type of reference setting mode used for loss testing.
factors affecting measurement accuracy are the stability of the output
power and the modal distribution launched into multimode fiber. Source
stability is mainly a factor of the electronic circuitry in the source.
Industry standards have requirements on the modal output of test
sources for multimode fiber that are important to the manufacturers of
the test sources. Various standards have called for mode scramblers,
filters and strippers to adjust the modal distribution in the fiber to
approximate actual operating conditions. Today, most standards call for
sources to meet output requirements and for a mode conditioner to be
used in testing. The effects of mode power distribution on multimode
measurements are covered in the chapter on optical fiber.
Reference cables and mating adapter
testing requires one or two reference cables, depending on the test
performed and the appropriate mating adapters for the connectors.
Reference cables are typically 1-2 meters long, with fiber and
connectors matching the cables to be tested. The accuracy of the
measurement will depend on the quality of the reference cables, since
they will be mated to the cable under test. The quality and cleanliness
of the connectors on the launch and receive cables is one of the most
important factors in the accuracy of loss measurements. Always test
reference cables by the patchcord or single ended method shown below to
make sure they are in good condition before you start testing other
groups have not been able to successfully specify the quality of
reference cables in terms of tightly toleranced components like the
fiber and connectors but only by the insertion loss of the connectors
on the cables when tested with other high quality test cables. The best
recommendation for qualifying reference
cables is to choose cables with low loss, tested "single-ended" per
order to mate the reference cables to the cables you want to test, you
need mating adapters. Mating adapters are as important to low
connection loss as the quality of the connectors since the mating
adapter is responsible for aligning the two connector ferrules
correctly. Mating adapters must be kept clean, like connectors and
discarded after some number of uses as they wear out from repeated
matings. Mating adapters may have alignment sleeves made from plastic,
metal or ceramic. Plastic alignment sleeves used on the cheapest mating
adapters should not be used for testing as they wear out in only a few
insertions, leaving dusty residue on the connectors. Metal adapters are
good for many more insertions and provide a better alignment, so they
are acceptable. Ceramic alignment sleeves are the best, providing the
best alignment and practically never wearing out.
are two methods that are used to measure loss, a "patchcord test" which
we call "single-ended loss" (TIA FOTP-171) and an "installed cable
plant test" we call "double-ended loss" (TIA OFSTP-14 (MM) and
OFSTP-7 (SM).) Single-ended loss uses only the launch cable, while
double-ended loss uses a receive cable attached to the meter also when making the loss measurement.
Single-ended loss is measured
by mating the cable you want to test to the reference launch
cable and measuring the power out the far end with the meter.
When you do this you measure the loss of the connector mated
to the launch cable and the loss of any fiber, splices or
other connectors in the cable you are testing.
Since you are aiming the connector on the far end of the cable mated to
the power meter at a large area detector instead of mating it to
another connector, it effectively has no loss so it is not included in
the measurement. This method is described in FOTP-171 and is
shown in the drawing. An advantage to this test is you can troubleshoot
cables to find a bad connector since you can reverse the cable to test
the connectors on the each end individually.
In a double-ended loss test,
you attach the cable to test between two reference cables, one
attached to the source and one to the meter. This way,
you measure two connectors' loses, one on each end, plus the
loss of all the cable or cables, including connectors and splices, in between. This is the method
specified in OFSTP-14 (multimode, the singlemode test is OFSTP-7), the standard test for loss in an installed cable
- Setting a "0 dB" Loss Reference
order to measure loss, it is first necessary to set a reference launch
power for loss which becomes the 0 dB value. Correct setting of the 0
dB reference power is critical to making good loss measurements.
single-ended testing, the reference power for 0 dB is set at the end of
the reference cable. Simply attach the power meter to the end of the
cable, measure the output power and, with most meters, set that as the
reference for loss measurements. The meter will then read the loss of
each cable tested directly.
More Than One Way to Set "0" dB Loss Reference
are three methods of setting the reference for a double-ended test,
using one, two or three reference cables, and the method chosen will
affect the measured loss. Why are there three methods? The three
methods developed because of the variations in connector styles and how
test equipment is made.
One Cable Reference
fiber optic connectors are constructed so that the fiber is held in a
protruding ferrule, called a “plug” style connector. Two plug
connectors are mated using a mating adapter that holds the ferrules in
alignment and allows them to meet in the center. If connectors like
these are being tested and the test equipment has interfaces that fit
those connectors, the single cable reference (OFSTP-14 Method B) can be
used. This method is the simplest method and generally considered
the method of choice as no connections are included when setting the 0
After setting a reference, the launch cable is
detached from the meter, but not the source. The launch reference cable
should never be removed from the source after setting the reference to
ensure the launch power remains constant. The receive cable is attached
to the meter and then both reference cables are attached to the cable
to test. The loss reading will include both connections to the cable
under test and the loss of the fiber and any other components in the
Two Cable Reference
the test equipment has an interface for a different style of connector,
so the connectors on the cables being tested cannot be attached to the
instruments, a two cable reference method (OFSTP-14 Method A) can be
used. Reference cables must be hybrid cables with connectors on one end
to match the interfaces of the instruments and the other end to mate to
the connectors on the cable to be tested. The 0 dB reference is set by
attaching both reference cables to the instruments and connecting the
other ends with a mating adapter. After setting the reference, the two
cables are disconnected at the middle and the cable to be tested
inserted in between them.
The loss reading will include both
connections to the cable under test and the loss of the fiber and any
other components in the cable itself less the loss of the connection
between the two reference cables when setting the reference. Thus loss
measured using the two cable reference will be lower than the one cable
reference by the connection included when setting the reference. The
uncertainty of this connection loss included in the reference also adds
to the uncertainty of the loss measurement of any cables tested in this
Three Cable Reference
fiber optic connectors are “plug” and “jack” style connectors where one
has a protruding ferrule while the other has a jack or receptacle. Some
have alignment pins that are only on one side, like the MTP connector
where pins are used on the jack side. They are generally used with
plugs on both ends of patchcords and jacks or receptacles on the
permanently installed cables terminated in racks or outlets.
of these two styles of connectors can only be mated to an appropriate
style of connector, making it hard to do a one or two cable reference.
The solution is a three cable reference (OFSTP-14 Method C),
where the hybrid cables attached to the instruments for reference
cables are terminated in plugs and a third cable terminated in jacks is
inserted between them to create a 3 cable reference. After setting the
reference, the two reference cables are disconnected from the third
cable at the middle and the cable to be tested inserted in between them
in place of the reference cable.
As before, the loss reading will
include both connections to the cable under test and the loss of the
fiber and any other components in the cable itself less the loss of the
two connections between the third reference cable and the two reference
cables when setting the reference. Since the third cable is usually
only a short length of fiber with connections on each end, the loss of
the fiber is ignorable. The loss measured using the three cable
reference will be lower than the one cable reference by the two
connections included when setting the reference. The uncertainty of
these two connection losses included in the reference also adds to the
uncertainty of the loss measurement of any cables tested in this manner.
this three cable method has the highest uncertainty, it is the only
method that works for any connectors and any test equipment. Therefore,
it has become the preferred method in several international standards.
The most popular method and the method called for in TIA-568 is the one cable method, "Method B," it's designation in OFSTP-14.
Choosing a Reference Method
reference books and manuals show setting the reference power for loss
using only a launch reference cable, both a launch and receive cable
mated with a mating adapter or even three reference cables. Industry
standards, in fact, include all three methods of setting a "0dB loss"
reference. The two or three cable reference methods are acceptable for
some tests and are the only way you can test some connectors, but it
will reduce the loss you measure by the amount of loss between your
reference cables when you set your "0dB loss" reference. Also, if any
of the reference cables are bad, setting the reference with the cables
does not reveal that problem. Then you could begin testing with bad
launch cables making all your loss measurements wrong. This means that
it is very important to inspect and test reference cables to ensure
they are in good condition.
More on the differences in insertion loss test reference methods.
Clean your connectors for every test!
Making The Insertion Loss Measurement
on the source, attach a launch reference cable and select the
wavelength you want for the loss test. It's always a good idea to let
the source warm up to a stable power output. Turn on the meter, select
the "dBm" or "dB" range and select the wavelength you want for the loss
test. Attach the source and launch cable to the meter, along with other
reference cables if the two or three cable reference methods are being
used. Measure the power at the meter. This is your reference power
level for all loss measurements. If your meter has a "zero" function,
set this as your "0" reference.
the cable to test as shown above and measure the loss. Record the
wavelength of the source used for the test, the 0 dB reference method
and the loss.
It is very important to always record the method of setting a "0dB loss" reference when testing insertion loss. The two or three cable reference methods are acceptable for some tests and are
the only way you can test if the connectors on the cable plant are not
the same as your test equipment, but it will reduce the loss you
measure from the loss by a single cable reference by the amount of loss between your reference cable connections when you
set your "0dB loss" reference. Also, if either the launch or receive
cable is bad, setting the reference with both cables hides the fact.
Then you could begin testing with bad reference cables making all your
loss measurements wrong. Always test and clean reference cables before beginning to test cables.
Videos on loss testing on the FOA Channel on
Modal Effect on Multimode Loss Measurements
you measure the attenuation of a long graded-index multimode fiber in
EMD (or with EMD simulated launch conditions) and compare it to a
normal fiber with "overfill launch conditions " (that is the source
fills all the modes equally), you will find the difference is about 1
dB/km, and this figure is called the "transient loss". Thus, the EMD
fiber measurement gives an attenuation that is 1 dB per Km less than
the overfill conditions. Fiber manufacturers use the EMD type of
measurement for fiber because it is more reproducible and is
representative of the losses to be expected in long lengths of fiber.
Some standards call for using a higher attenuation coefficient when
estimating cable plant loss than the tested attenuation coefficient of
most fibers would justify, because cables covered in this standard are
much shorter than EMD lengths.
Likewise, when testing cables with
connectors, the loss measured depends on the mode power distribution in
the fiber. An EMD measurement can give optimistic results, since
it effectively represents a situation where one launches from a smaller
diameter fiber of lower NA than the receive fiber, yielding lower
connector loss. The difference in connector loss caused by modal launch
conditions can be dramatic. Using the same pair of connectors, it is
possible to measure several tenths of a dB more with a fully filled
launch than with a EMD simulated launch.
Most testing standards
for cables with multimode fibers call for some method of controlling
mode power distribution. Manufacturers use sophisticated methods that
analyze the output power of the test source coupled into a reference
cable. More practical field test methods call for a specification on
source modal output followed by a mandrel wrap on the launch cable to
remove higher order modes.
You should refer to relevant standards
to determine the proper type of mode filter that should be used. If you
are using patchcords or cables that are made with bend-insensitive
fiber, the dimensions of a modal wrap may be different and you should
use the recommendations of the manufacturer of the fiber.
More on modal effects on multimode cable tests.
What Loss Should You Get When
Before testing, preferable during the design phase, you should calculate a loss budget for the cable plant to be tested to understand the expected measurement results.
Besides proviiding reference loss values to test against, it will
confirm that the network transmission equipment will work properly on
this cable. While it is difficult to generalize, here are some
- -For each connector, figure
0.3-0.5 dB loss for adhsive/polish connectors, 0.75 for prepolished/splice connectors (0.75 max from TIA-568)
- -For each splice, figure 0.2
- -For multimode fiber, the loss
is about 3 dB per km for 850 nm sources, 1 dB per km for 1300
nm. This roughly translates into a loss of 0.1 dB per 100 feet
for 850 nm, 0.1 dB per 300 feet for 1300 nm.
- -For singlemode fiber, the loss
is about 0.5 dB per km for 1300 nm sources, 0.4 dB per km for
1550 nm. This roughly translates into a loss of 0.1 dB per 600
feet for 1300 nm, 0.1 dB per 750 feet for 1300 nm.
So for the loss of a cable plant, calculate the approximate loss
(0.5 dB X # connectors) + (0.2
dB x # splices) + fiber loss on the total length of cable
If you have high loss in a cable, make sure to reverse it and
test in the opposite direction using the single-ended method.
Since the single ended test only tests the connector on one end,
you can isolate a bad connector - it's the one at the launch
cable end (mated to the launch cable) on the test when you measure
High loss in the double ended test should be isolated by retesting
single-ended and reversing the direction of test to see if the
end connector is bad. If the loss is the same, you need to either
test each segment separately to isolate the bad segment or, if
it is long enough, use an OTDR.
If you see no light through the cable (very high loss - only
darkness when tested with your visual tracer), it's probably
one of the connectors, and you have few options. The best one
is to isolate the problem cable, cut the connector of one end
(flip a coin to choose) and hope it was the bad one (well, you
have a 50-50 chance!)
FOA Tech Bulletin on troubleshooting.
are an essential test tool for most OSP installation and restoration.
OTDRs are used during installation to check cable before installation
for shipping damage and after installation for damage caused by the
installation process. Each fiber splice is checked by an OTDR before
the splice is placed in a splice tray and the closure is sealed. After
a cable run is concatenated, the OTDR will inspect the complete cable
and every fiber in it and keep a record of the cable for future
reference in case of changes in the network or comparison for
restoration. During restoration, OTDRs can be used to locate problems
like a cable cut or compare the current data to the installed data for
comparison and determination of problems.
OTDRs are fiber optic
instruments that can take a snapshot of a fiber, showing the location
of splices, connectors, faults, etc. OTDRs are powerful test
instruments for fiber optic cable plants, if one understands how to
properly set the instrument up for the test and interpret the results.
When used by a skillful operator, OTDRs can locate faults, measure
cable length and verify splice loss. Within limits, they can also
measure the loss of a cable plant. About the only fiber optic
parameters they don't measure is optical power at the transmitter or
receiver. There is a lot of information in the OTDR trace, as shown in
the actual trace below.
are almost always used on outside plant cables to verify the loss of
each splice as it is made and find stress points or damage caused by
installation. They are also widely used as OSP troubleshooting tools
since they can pinpoint problem areas such as loss caused by stress
placed on a cable during installation. Most ODTRs lack the distance
resolution for use on the shorter cables typical of premises networks.
are available in versions for standardized fiber optic systems,
singlemode or multimode, at the appropriate wavelengths. In order to
use an OTDR properly, it's necessary to understand how it works, how to
set the instrument up properly and how to analyze traces. OTDRs offer
an "auto testing" option, but using that option without understanding
the OTDR and manually checking its work often leads to problems.
(Read more about the OTDR)
How OTDRs Work
Unlike sources and power meters which measure the loss of the
fiber optic cable plant directly, the OTDR works indirectly.
The source and meter duplicate the transmitter and receiver of
the fiber optic transmission link, so the measurement correlates
well with actual system loss.
The OTDR, however, uses backscattered light of the fiber to imply
loss. The OTDR works like RADAR, sending a high power laser light
pulse down the fiber and looking for return signals from backscattered
light in the fiber itself or reflected light from connector or
At any point in time, the light the OTDR sees is the light scattered
from the pulse passing through a region of the fiber. Only a
small amount of light is scattered back toward the OTDR, but
with wider test pulses, sensitive receivers and signal averaging, it is possible
to make measurements over relatively long distances. Since it
is possible to calibrate the speed of the pulse as it passes
down the fiber, the OTDR can measure time, calculate the pulse
position in the fiber and correlate what it sees in backscattered
light with an actual location in the fiber. Thus it can create
a display of the amount of backscattered light at any point in
Since the pulse is attenuated in the fiber as it passes along
the fiber and suffers loss in connectors and splices, the amount
of power in the test pulse decreases as it passes along the fiber
in the cable plant under test. Thus the portion of the light
being backscattered will be reduced accordingly, producing a
picture of the actual loss occurring in the fiber. Some calculations
are necessary to convert this information into a display, since
the process occurs twice, once going out from the OTDR and once
on the return path from the scattering at the test pulse.
Actual OTDR Trace
Diagram of OTDR trace with events shown
There is a lot of information
in an OTDR display. The slope of the fiber trace shows the attenuation
coefficient of the fiber and is calibrated in dB/km by the OTDR.
In order to measure fiber attenuation, you need a fairly long
length of fiber with no distortions on either end from the OTDR
resolution or overloading due to large reflections. If the fiber
looks nonlinear at either end, especially near a reflective event
like a connector, avoid that section when measuring loss.
the large initial pulse on the OTDR trace. That is caused by the high-powered test pulse
reflecting off the OTDR connector and overloading the OTDR receiver.
The recovery of the receiver causes the "dead zone" near the OTDR. To
avoid problems caused by the dead zone, always use a launch cable
of sufficient length when testing cables.
Connectors and splices are called "events" in OTDR
jargon. Both should show a loss, but connectors and mechanical
splices will also show a reflective peak so you can distinguish
them from fusion splices. Also, the height of that peak will
indicate the amount of reflection at the event, unless it is
so large that it saturates the OTDR receiver. Then peak will
have a flat top and tail on the far end, indicating the receiver
was overloaded. The width of the peak shows the distance resolution
of the OTDR, or how close it can detect events.
OTDRs can also detect problems
in the cable caused during installation. If a fiber is broken,
it will show up as the end of the fiber much shorter than the
cable or a high loss splice at the wrong place. If excessive
stress is placed on the cable due to kinking or too tight a bend
radius, it will look like a splice at the wrong location.
Making Measurements With The OTDR
OTDRs display the trace on a screen and provide two or more markers to
place at points on the screen to measure loss and distance. This can be
used for measuring loss of a length of fiber, where the OTDR will
calculate the attenuation coefficient of the fiber, or the loss of a
connector or splice.
Fiber Attenuation Coefficient
measure the length and attenuation of the fiber, we place the markers
on either end of the section of fiber we wish to measure. The OTDR will
calculate the distance difference between the two markers and give the
distance. It will also read the difference between the power levels of
the two points where the markers cross the trace and calculate the
loss, or difference in the two power levels in dB. Finally, it will
calculate the attenuation coefficient of the fiber by dividing loss by
distance and present the result in dB/km, the normal units for
attenuation. If the fiber segment is noisy or does not look straight,
the OTDR can average the measurement with a method called least squares
Splice or Connector Loss
OTDR measures distance to the event and loss at an event - a connector
or splice - between the two markers. To measure splice loss, move the
two markers close to the splice to be measured, having each about the
same distance from the center of the splice. The OTDR will calculate
the dB loss between the two markers, giving you a loss reading in dB.
Measurements of connector loss or splices with some reflectance will
look very similar, except you will see a peak at the connector, caused
by the back reflection of the connector.
OTDR can also use a least squares method to reduce noise effects and
remove the error caused by the loss of the fiber between the two
markers. The OTDR fits a line to the fibers on each side of the splice
or connector and looks at the dB offset to measure loss.
measure reflectance, the OTDR measures the amount of light that's
returned from both backscatter in the fiber and reflected from a
connector or splice. Calculating reflectance is a complicated process
involving the baseline noise of the OTDR, backscatter level and power
in the reflected peak. Like all backscatter measurements, it has a
fairly high measurement uncertainty, but an OTDR has the advantage of
showing where reflective events are located so they can be corrected if
two traces in the same window is useful for confirming data collection
and contrasting different test methods on the same fiber. Comparisons
are also used to compare fiber traces during troubleshooting or
restoration with traces take just after installation to see what has
changed. All OTDRs offer this feature, where you can copy one trace and
paste it on another to compare them.
OTDR Measurement Uncertainty
all instruments, OTDRs cannot measure with perfect accuracy. Some of
the measurement uncertainty with OTDRs is due to what is actually being
measured. For example, when measuring the length of a fiber optic cable
or the distance to a fault, the OTDR measures time and calculates
distance based on the speed of light in the fiber or inversely the
index of refraction of the fiber which determines the speed. Not all
fibers have the same index of refraction, depending on the type of
fiber and the manufacturer, and it is usually different for different
Group Index of Refraction (IOR) – Single Mode Fiber
|Manufacturer ,||IOR @ 1310nm ,||IOR @ 1550nm|
|Lucent Std. Single Mode,|| 1.468,|| 1.468|
|Lucent TrueWave and TrueWave-RS,|| 1.471,||1.470|
The difference is only about 0.5%
between the highest and lowest index of refraction, but that can mean
an difference of 50 meters at 10 km, a significant error if one is
trying to locate a fault.
The other problem with OTDR distance
measurements is the difference between fiber length and cable length.
Fiber is loosely fitted in buffer tubes and the buffer tubes are
helically wound around the cable so the fiber will not be stressed when
the cable is pulled.
But with this cable construction, the fiber
length is about 1% longer than the cable length, a difference of 100
meters at 10 km. Since the OTDR measures fiber length, not cable
length, this provides another error in measuring cable length, distance
to an event like a splice or locating events in a long cable run.
the actual cable length is known, and it can sometimes be read off the
cable jacket or might have been recorded in the documentation when the
cable was installed, one can use that to calibrate OTDR distances to
actual cable distance. If OTDR traces are taken from both ends of a
cable to an event or a fault, the relative distance to the event or
fault can be estimated by using the ratio of the two measurements.
biggest source of measurement uncertainty that occurs when testing with
an OTDR is a function of the backscatter coefficient of the fibers
being tested, the amount of light from the outgoing test pulse that is
scattered back toward the OTDR. The backscattered light used for
measurement is not a constant, but a function of the attenuation of the
fiber and the diameter of the core of the fiber.
If you look at
two different fibers spliced or connected together in an OTDR, any
difference in backscatter from each fiber is a major source of error.
If both fibers are identical, such as splicing a broken fiber back
together, the backscattering will be the same on both sides of the
joint, so the OTDR will measure the actual splice loss. However, if the
fibers are different, unequal backscatter coefficients will cause a
different percentage of light to be sent back to the OTDR.
fiber nearer the OTDR has more scattering (shown in the OTDR trace as
attenuation) than the one after the connection, the percentage of light
scattered back to the OTDR from the test pulse will go down, so the
measured loss on the OTDR will include the actual loss plus a loss
error caused by the lower backscatter level, making the displayed loss
greater than it actually is. Looking the opposite way, from a low
attenuation fiber to a high attenuation fiber, we find the backscatter
goes up, making the measured loss less than it actually is. In fact, if
the change in backscatter is greater than the splice loss, this shows a
gain, a major confusion to new OTDR users.
While this error source
is always present, it can be practically eliminated by taking readings
both directions and averaging the measurements, and many OTDRs have
this programmed in their measurement routines. This is the only way to
test inline splices for loss and get accurate results.
you are testing short cables with highly reflective connectors, you
will likely encounter ghosts. These are caused by the reflected light
from the far end connector reflecting back and forth in the fiber until
it is attenuated to the noise level. Ghosts are very confusing, as they
seem to be real reflective events like connectors, but will not show
any loss. The best way to determine is a reflection is real or a ghost
is to compare it to cable plant documentation. You can eliminate ghosts
by reducing the reflections, for example using index matching fluid on
the end of the launch cable.
The limited distance resolution of the OTDR makes it very hard
to use in a LAN or building environment where cables are usually
only a few hundred meters long. The OTDR has a great deal of
difficulty resolving features in the short cables of a LAN and
is likely to show "ghosts" from reflections at connectors,
more often than not simply confusing the user.
Using The OTDR Correctly
using an OTDR, there are a few cautions that will make testing easier
and more understandable. Always use a long launch cable, which allows
the OTDR to settle down after the initial pulse and provides a
reference cable for testing the first connector on the cable. If
testing the final connector on the cable is desired, a receive cable on
the far end of the cable plant is required.
The OTDR operator must
carefully set up the instrument for each cable. Again, good
documentation will help setting up the test parameters. Always start
with the OTDR set for the shortest pulse width for best resolution and
a range at least 2 times the length of the cable you are testing. Make
an initial trace and see how you need to change the test parameters to
get better results. Some users are tempted to use the OTDR’s autotest
function. More problems are caused by novices using autotest than any
other issue in using OTDRs. Never use autotest until a knowledgeable
technician has set up the OTDR properly and verified that autotest
gives acceptable results.
Testing Long Haul, High Speed Fiber Optic Networks:
Chromatic Dispersion, Polarization Mode Dispersion and Spectral Attenuation
of the big advantages of fiber optics is its capability for long
distance high speed communications. Attenuation at long wavelengths is
lower. Singlemode fiber has extremely high bandwidth. Fibers can be
fusion spliced with virtually no loss. High-powered lasers and fiber
amplifier regenerators mean long distances are easily obtained.
over very long distances, new factors in fiber performance become
important. Chromatic dispersion, the dispersion caused by light of
different wavelengths, and polarization mode dispersion, caused by the
polarization in fibers, become factors limiting fiber links. Even the
variation of fiber attenuation with wavelength can become an issue when
networks using wavelength-division multiplexing are implemented. All 3
factors may need testing on long distance networks to ensure proper
link performance. (See the page on fiber for descriptions of these fiber characteristics.)
Chromatic Dispersion (CD) in the Cable Plant
with any other component, optical fiber performance parameters can vary
from batch to batch, so a long concatenated cable plant with many
different fibers will have a end-to-end chromatic dispersion which is
an integration of the CD of all the individual fibers. Therefore fiber
in long distance links will probably be tested for CD after
installation or before upgrading a link to higher bit rate electronics.
Testing Chromatic Dispersion
are several methods used for testing CD in fibers. All involve testing
at a variety of wavelengths using several discrete sources of various
wavelengths, a tunable laser or a broadband source with a monochromator
in the receiver and measuring the relative speeds of the signals. The
data taken at discrete wavelengths is then analyzed to calculate the
dispersion in terms of ps/nm/km.
Test methods use phase delay or
time of flight and generally require access to both ends of the fiber
as well as a second fiber for synchronization of the two test
instruments at either end. However, an OTDR test method is also used,
since the OTDR measures time to convert to distance. Since the speed of
light is different at various wavelengths, the OTDR would measure
different distances on the same fiber at different wavelengths. Traces
are taken at several discrete wavelengths and CD can be calculated from
the difference in the distance data (or round trip time of the test
pulse) obtained from the traces. This allows CD testing in the field
from one end of the fiber.
All these methods have international standards for the test methods, instruments and data analysis.
|IEC 60793-1-42||Measurement methods and test procedures—chromatic dispersion|
|ITU-T G.650.1||Deﬁnitions and test methods for linear, deterministic attributes of |
singlemode ﬁber and cable
|TIA FOTP-175-B||Chromatic dispersion measurement of single-mode optical ﬁbers|
|GR-761-CORE||Generic criteria for chromatic dispersion test sets|
Phase Shift Method
Pulse Delay Method
OTDR Test Method
Testing Polarization Mode Dispersion (PMD)
is generally tested for fibers during manufacture or when being cabled.
In the field, it is common to test PMD on newly installed fibers which
are intended for operation at high speeds, generally above 2.5 Gb/s or
when upgrading fibers installed some time in the past. Since PMD varies
over time, a single test becomes an average and tests at a later time
may be done for comparison.
There are a number of commonly used
test methods for PMD, some of which are limited to the manufacturing
environment, while others can be used in the field. Essentially, all
the test instruments have a source which can vary the polarization of
the test signal and a measurement unit that can analyze polarization
Here are descriptions of the methods and relevant standards.
|Description||Test Method||Standards |
|PMD for single-mode optical fibers by the Fixed Analyzer method||Extrema Counting (EC) |
Fourier Transform (FT)
|PMD measurement for single-mode optical ﬁbers by Stokes parameter measurements||Jones Matrix Eigen-analysis (JME) |
Poincaré Sphere Analysis (PSA)
|PMD measurement for single-mode optical ﬁbers and cable assemblies by |
|Traditional Interferometry(TINTY) |
General Interferometry (GINTY)
|Guideline for PMD and DGD measurement in single-mode ﬁber optic components and devices || ||FOTP-196|
|Measurement methods and test procedures—polarization mode dispersion||Fixed Analyzer measurement method (EC / FT) |
Stokes evaluation method (JME / PSA)
Interferometry method (TINTY)
|Portable PMD test sets used for analyzing single-mode ﬁber||GR-2947-CORE|
|Deﬁnitions and test methods for statistical and nonlinear attributes of single-mode |
ﬁber and cable
|Stokes parameter evaluation technique (JME & PSA) |
State of Polarization method (SOP)
Interferometric methods ( TINTY & GINTY)
Fixed Analyzer technique (EC / FT / Cosine Fourier Analysis)
testing is not an easy, reproducible, accurate test. The measurement
uncertainty can be as high as 10-20%, as shown by testing done within
international standards committees. These committees have concluded
that all these measurement techniques are permissible, that there are
factors in making these measurements that are not well understood, and
the methods of data analysis are not without question.
uncertainty of PMD measurements has the effect of making comparisons
between tests and test methods difficult. Variations are particularly
high on tests of older fiber links. Presentations of field have even
shown that variations in PMD can be correlated to wind speed for aerial
PMD testing needs to be done on long links but the data must be analyzed intelligently to be of real use.
More on CD and PMD.
the develoment of low water peak fibers, the possibility of
transmission from 1260 to 1675 nm has been considered. This results
from careful manufacturing of the fiber to reduce the water in the
fiber (in the form of OH- ions) that causes higher spectral attenuation
at around 1244 and 1383 nm.
one may want to use available fibers of unknown spectral attenuation
for CWDM which uses lasers from 1260 to 1670 nm in 20 nm windows, it
becomes necessary to test for spectral attenuation to verify the
usability. At the water peaks, legacy fibers may have attenuation
coefficients around 2 dB/km while low water peak fibers may be as low
as 0.4 dB/km.
Testing spectral attenuation is done per
TIA/EIA-455-61 or IEC 61300-3-7 with broadband sources like LEDs and a
spectrum analyzer on the receiving end of the fiber. Calibration is
done with a short fiber length, the instrument calculates the spectral
attenuation on a long length being tested. The measurement of spectral
attenuation uses instruments similar to those used for CD testing by
the phase shift method, so some instruments do both measurements at one
Troubleshooting and Restoration
The time may come when you have to troubleshoot and fix the cable
plant. If you have a critical application or lots of network
cable, you should be ready to do it yourself. Smaller networks
can rely on a contractor. If you plan to do it yourself, you
need to have equipment ready (extra cables, mechanical splices,
quick termination connectors, etc., plus test equipment.) and
someone who knows how to use it.
We cannot emphasize more strongly the need to have good documentation
on the cable plant. If you don't know where the cables go, how
long they are or what they tested for loss, you will be spinning
you wheels from the get-go. And you need tools to diagnose problems
and fix them, and spares including a fusion splicer or some mechanical
splices and spare cables. In fact, when you install cable, save
the leftovers for restoration!
And the first thing you must decide is if the problem is with
the cables or the equipment using it. A simple power meter can
test sources for output and receivers for input and a visual
tracer will check for fiber continuity. If the problem is in
the cable plant, the OTDR is the next tool needed to locate the
fault. More from FOA Tech Topics: Troubleshooting and Restoration
Getting Started in Fiber Optic Testing
Even if you're an experienced
installer, make sure you remember these things.
1. Have the right tools and test
equipment for the job.
You will need:
Source and power meter, optical loss test set (OLTS) or test kit with
proper equipment adapters for the cable plant you are testing.
Reference test cables that match the cables to be tested and
mating adapters, including hybrids if needed
Fiber Tracer or Visual Fault Locator
Cleaning materials - lint free cleaning wipes and pure alcohol
- OTDR with launch and/or receive cables for outside plant jobs and troubleshooting
- Read more about fiber optic instruments below.
2. Know how to use your test
Before you start, get together all your tools and make sure they
are all working properly and you and your installers know how
to use them. It's hard to get the job done when you have to call
the manufacturer from the job site on your cell phone to ask
for help. Try all your equipment in the office before you take
it into the field. Use it to test every one of your reference
test jumper cables in both directions using the single-ended
loss test to make sure they are all good. If your power meter
has internal memory to record data be sure you know how to use
this also. You can often customize these reports to your specific
needs - figure all this out before you go it the field - it could
save you time and on installations, time is money!
3. Know the network you're testing...
This is an important part of the documentation process we discussed
earlier. Make sure you have cable layouts for every fiber you have to
test and have calculated a loss budget so you know what test results to
expect. Prepare a spreadsheet of all the cables and fibers before you
go in the field and print a copy for recording your test data. You may
record all your test data either by hand or if your meter has a memory
feature, it will keep test results in on-board memory that can be
printed or transferred to a computer when you return to the office.
A note on using a fiber optic
source: eye safety.
Fiber optic sources, including test equipment, are generally too low in
power to cause any eye damage, but it's still advisable to check
connectors with a power meter before looking into it. Besides, most
fiber optic sources are at infrared wavelengths that are invisible to
the eye, making them more dangerous. Connector inspection microscopes
focus all the light into the eye and can increase the danger. Some
telco DWDM and CATV systems have very high power and they could be
harmful, so better safe than sorry. Read our page on Safety.
More on Testing & Troubleshooting Fiber Optic Systems
More good reading on fiber optic testing- The JDSU Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Testing:
The JDSU Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Testing is written for fiber
optic installers, project managers, telecom technicians, and engineers
who need to understand, apply, and correctly measure and record the
performance of fiber infrastructures. It is the best guide available
for fiber optic testing and it's free. Download yourself a copy and
The FOA Reference Guide to Outside Plant Fiber Optics
The FOA Online Reference Guide to Fiber Optics
You can buy the printed version of the The FOA Reference Guide to Outside Plant Fiber Optics from the FOA eStore or Amazon.