fiber optics

  1. Pros and Cons of Five Different Training Methods

    hands on instruction

    Hiring subcontractors not only closes a manpower gap on large projects; it also closes an expertise gap. Subcontractors and consulting engineers often have skills that the operating company does not.

    A familiar example might be hiring a consulting engineer to draw up system plans or draft a Statement of Work. For a company installing an FTTx system for the first time, this is often the best way to determine the optimum placement of splitter cabinets and Multi Service Terminals (MSTs). Consulting engineers have specific expertise for this task, which is not easily duplicated. They also have dedicated software to make the task more efficient and precise.

    Hiring outside talent is nonetheless a perishable solution. When the consultant departs, their expertise leaves with them. Designs, documents, and any work done by the consultant remain behind and that may represent an acceptable ...

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  2. We Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts!

    Ghost Image in an OTDR

    Optical time domain reflectometers (OTDRs) are critical instruments for evaluating optical fiber spans. Like any technology, they are not infallible. As the term ‘reflectometer’ implies, OTDRs work by analyzing optical signals which are reflected (and scattered) back to them. Some people call them “cable radar” because they analyze a reflected signal and not the transmitted signal. Due to this, OTDRs will sometimes generate measurement “artifacts”. One such artifact is a secondary reflection, or an “echo” - often referred to as a GHOST! After reading this article, you won’t be afraid of no ghosts!

    Ghosts in the noise

    The most common ghosts occur on short spans with a highly reflective open fiber end. In this case, the end of the fiber at distance L1 will generate a high-powered reflection that will arrive back at the OTDR connector. Much of it is received ...

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  3. Fiber to the North Pole

    Fiber to the North Pole

    Well, not exactly to the North Pole, but close! 947 miles from the pole, to be precise.

    In the summer of 1991, I was Project Manager for a 30-mile cable install at Thule Air Force Base in the Northwest corner of Greenland. We were placing submarine grade, armored fiber optic cable. The Air Force was upgrading: A new digital switch, new copper cabling on base, and new fiber optic links connecting to the two sites that are the base’s mission to support. These sites were an early warning missile radar at ”J Site” and the ”Polar Orbit Geophysical Observatory” or POGO.

    The cable itself was from Northern Telecom (remember them?) and was a loose tube design with a single armor layer, polyethylene (PE) sheath with a Jute layer over the PE, then galvanized wire wrap and finished with an asphalt impregnated jute layer over the wire. These were the same type of layers used in ‘near ...

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  4. OTDR Dynamic Ranges

    Flex Scan OTDR

    The OTDR is one of the most powerful tools you will purchase to support your fiber network. This article discusses one key but sometimes confusing OTDR specification, Dynamic Range.


    Dynamic Range

    The informal definition of Dynamic Range is “how far can my OTDR see?” There are at least two formal definitions of Dynamic Range, the Telcordia definition (the most widely accepted and specified), and IEC definition. Each of these specify the amount of (one way) fiber loss from the initial backscatter (fiber) signature to a given Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) level on the OTDR trace.

    OTDR Dynamic Range Specification (SNR Limit)
    IEC 98%
    Telcordia 50%

    The IEC range wil ...

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  5. Beyond Pressing the AUTO Button

    Beyond Pressing the AUTO Button

    Learn how to optimize your OTDR

    Optical time-domain reflectometers (OTDRs) are complex and powerful devices that can clearly document fiber optic installations or troubleshoot deployed cable links. Are you getting the most from this capital investment?

    Let's face it, there is more to an OTDR than just pressing the ‘AUTO’ button. They have many capabilities and functions, can be complex and can vary by manufacturer. Proper set-up and testing with an OTDR — any OTDR — requires not only knowledge of the device’s operating principles, but also the ability to analyze the trace results. To fully utilize this valuable diagnostic device, technicians need to understand how to set up their equipment and how to evaluate results when something goes wrong.

    Now that you have made the investment in an OTDR, why not get the most out of it?

    Light Brigade’s two-day OTD ...

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  6. Train to Retain and Gain

    construction site

    Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, are the largest generation in US history. As they continue their mass exodus from the workforce, organizations face a staggering loss of skills and knowledge.  The common term to describe the shortage of experienced workers and the growing talent gap is ‘brain drain’. Many companies report they are ill-prepared to deal with baby boomer brain drain and few have succession plans in place to address this rapid loss of knowledge.

    Complicating the situation is that today's jobs are much different then they were a generation ago. Evolving and increasingly complex network technologies require new skills and employees who have the right knowledge to problem solve.  The demand for wireless infrastructure is outpacing the industry’s existing labor pool of trained technology professionals, engineers and field technicians. Companies are s ...

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  7. Can your Front-line Talk Fiber Optics?

    Female working on laptop

    Optical Time Domain Reflectometer is a mouthful and a crucial component to understand for anyone working in fiber optics. Yet many sales representatives and support staff fumble over OTDR along with other basic principles of fiber optics when interacting with customers.

    Employees, especially new hires, frequently rely on inconsistent on-the-fly training to grasp the basics of fiber optics. Second-guessing, asking for help over a cubicle wall, or telling customers “they will get back to them” has a detrimental effect on employees and makes customers wonder if your company really understands the industry.

    What if there was a cost-effective and convenient way to enable your employees to be conversant in fiber? There is – Light Brigade’s online training courses. Just like instructor-led training, our online courses were created with 30 plus years of industr ...

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  8. Chicago Deep - Installing Fiber 40 Feet Below the Streets of Chicago

    Splicing Cable Below the Streets of Chicago

    Most underground terrestrial fiber optic cable infrastructure is only several feet below grade. However, there is one network in particular that is far deeper.  Below the streets of Metropolitan Chicago is an extensive tunnel system that is about forty feet below the street level.

    Originally licensed by the City in 1899 for telephone cables, the tunnel system was mostly used to move freight, coal, and mail throughout the city by small electric narrow gauge trains.  Major commercial use of the tunnel system ended in the 1950s with the bankruptcy for the operator. Chicago’s Grant Park was expanded in the early 20th century with landfill, much of it from excavations of the tunnels.

    A new use for the tunnels was initiated in the late 1980s with the development of the Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC), a telecommunications provider company created t ...

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  9. Reduce Expensive Truck Rolls with Cost-Effective Training

    Reduce Expensive Truck Rolls with Cost-Effective Training

    Your organization's bottom line is impacted every time skilled technicians are dispatched into the field. Truck rolls for new installations or service upgrades generate revenue, but truck rolls to correct avoidable issues are lost revenue opportunities.

    Industry analysts estimate the average cost of a truck roll to be between $150 to $600 depending on variables like travel distance, road and weather conditions, labor regulations, and administrative costs. The Technology Service Association reports that the realistic, fully-burdened costs can exceed $1,000 due to the growing complexity of technical issues that require field staff to have more training on a wider range of technology platforms.

    To determine what an average truck roll is costing your organization; calculate the costs of your labor, vehicles, and lost opportunities ...

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