The Secret of Maintaining Your Fiber Optic Network
By Colin Yao
Why do you need a fiber identifier and what can it do for you?
If you have ever seen a telephone company technician working on the phone jump box
outside your house, you should have noticed a special handheld phone like instrument. The
technician uses it to identify the incoming telephone wires by tapping onto the wires and
listening for a tone. Once he finds the correct wire, he connects the wire into your house.
During fiber optic network installation, maintenance, or restoration, it is also often
necessary to identify a specific fiber without disrupting live service. This battery
powered instrument looks like a long handheld bar and is called fiber identifier or live
How does it work?
There is a slot on the top of a fiber optic identifier. The fiber under test is
inserted into the slot, then the fiber identifier performs a macro-bend on the fiber. The
macro-bend makes some light leak out from the fiber and the optical sensor detects it. The
detector can detect both the presence of light and the direction of light.
A fiber optic identifier can detect "no signal", "tone" or "traffic" and it also
indicates the traffic direction.
The optical signal loss induced by this technique is so small, usually at 1dB level,
that it doesn't cause any trouble on the live traffic.
What kind of fiber cables does it support?
Fiber optic identifiers can detect 250um bare fibers, 900um tight buffered fibers,
2.0mm fiber cables, 3.0mm fiber cables, bare fiber ribbons and jacketed fiber ribbons.
Most fiber identifiers need to change a head adapter in order to support all these
kinds of fibers and cables. While some other models are cleverly designed and they don't
need to change the head adapter at all. Some models only support single mode fibers and
others can support both single mode and multimode fibers.
What is relative power measurement
Most high end fiber optic identifiers are equipped with a LCD display which can display
the optical power detected. However, this power measurement cannot be used as a accurate
absolute power measurement of the optical signal due to inconsistencies in fiber optic
cables and the impact of user technique on the measurements.
But this power measurement can be used to compare power levels on different fiber links
which have same type of fiber optic cable. This relative power measurement has a lot of
applications as described below.
1. Identification of fibers
The relative power reading can be used to aid in the identification of a live optical
fiber.There are several tests that can be performed to isolate the desired fiber cable
from a group of fibers without taking down the link(s). Three methods that could be used
include comparing relative power, inducing macrobends, and varying the optical power of
the source. No single method is best or necessarily definitive. Using one or a combination
of these methods may be needed to isolate the fiber.
2. Identification of high loss points
Fiber optic identifier's relative power measurement capability can be used to identify
high loss point(s) in a length of fiber. By taking relative power measurements along a
section of optical fiber that is suspected of having a high loss point such as a fracture
or tight bend, the change in relative power point to point can be noted. If a sudden drop
or increase in relative power between two points is noted, a high loss point probably
exists between the two points. The user can then narrow in on the point by taking further
measurements between the two points.
3. Verify optical splices and connectors
Fiber optic identifier can be used to verify fiber optic connectors and splices. This
test must be performed on a lit optical fiber. The optical fiber can be carrying a signal
or be illuminated using an optical test source. Attach fiber identifier to one side of the
optical connector/splice. Read and record the relative optical power. Repeat the
measurement on the second side of the connector/splice. Take the difference between the
reading on the second side and the first side. The difference should be roughly equal to
the optical attenuation of the optical connector/splice. The measurement can be taken
several times and averaged to improve accuracy. If the optical fiber identifier indicates
high loss, the connector/slice may be defective.
Manufactures supplying fiber optic identifiers
You can get fiber optic identifiers from Wilcom, Ideal, 3M, Fitel, Noyes and many more
manufacturers. We prefer Wilcom and Fitel products since both manufacturers have very high
customer satisfaction rate.
Find out even more about
fiber identifiers and
fiber optic identifiers
on Fiber Optics For Sale Co. web site.
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