How Wild West stories helped me appreciate Automated Fiber Inspection
A New Obsession
This past year, I’ve become hooked on Wild West stories. I owe this new obsession to streaming video services; as they all seem to be churning out new shows that take us back to the 1800’s, when early settlers from all walks of life converge together in the new frontier in search of opportunity and discovery.
After binge-watching a few of these new shows (and staying up much later than I should), I’ve noticed a common theme in all of them – with new discoveries comes misunderstanding, confusion, and disagreement.
This got me thinking about the growth of fiber networks in the present-day. From long haul and access networks, to FTTH, FTTA, and Hyperscale Data Centers, the growing use of fiber connectivity in physical networks is opening doors to a whole new frontier today. And just like the wild west, our new discoveries have brought along some misunderstanding, confusion, and disagreement.
The Early Days of Fiber Connectivity
A fitting example of this is the cleanliness expectation for fiber connector end-faces. From the early days of fiber connectivity, there was a general understanding that having “clean” connector end faces were helpful to ensure a proper glass-to-glass physical connection that minimizes optical loss and back reflection. What people didn’t quite understand was how clean is “clean enough”. Disagreements about this issue created numerous problems between manufacturing suppliers and their customers, as each of them had different expectations for what a “clean” connector looked like.
The IEC-61300-3-35 Standard
This led the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to develop the IEC-61300-3-35 standard; a common set of global requirements for fiber optic connector end face quality. While it was initially released with manufacturers in mind, it has since been adopted for field use as well, and is now commonly referenced as a requirement for many FTTH and Enterprise installations.
The requirements for IEC 61300-3-35 are very detailed, with specific acceptance criteria for singlemode, multimode connectors in both single fiber (ie: LC, SC, FC, etc) and multi-fiber (ie: MPO) connectors. The criteria are based on several factors including size, count, and location of defects and scratches.
One of the reasons that the IEC 61300-3-35 standard has been so widely adopted is because of the availability of automated fiber inspection microscopes. Without these, adhering to the standard is extremely difficult. While the acceptance criteria are very specific, evaluating requirements such as the size and location of defects is very subjective. By using a microscope with automated analysis, users can objectively inspect the fiber end face according to the 61300-3-35 standard, get a pass or fail result, store the results, and even generate certification reports in a matter of seconds.
Manufacturers like this because it gives them a document that proves the quality of their workmanship. This serves as both a value-added differentiator and an insurance policy for them. Likewise, field technicians also prefer to use microscope with automated analysis, because they can test to the same requirements as their vendor. The best part is that it’s easy and repeatable. Manufacturers, installation contractors, and network owners/operators can all test to the same acceptance criteria at the push of a button.
The New Frontier
While fiber networks certainly provide us with new possibilities and opportunities, navigating this new frontier doesn’t have to be like a wild west story. We have good standards and good tools to eliminate misunderstanding, confusion and disagreement when it comes to addressing what a “clean” fiber connector should be.
For more information on the IEC 61300-3-35 standard, automated fiber inspection microscopes, and other information about fiber inspection, check out the following assets:
- Visit www.viavisolutions.com/inspect and submit any comments via the form
- Inspect Before You Connect video series