Optical Connectors

A coaxial drop plant, which includes the coaxial drop cable, connectors and other RF passive and active components, has been a maintenance challenge for decades. The majority of subscriber disruption and truck rolls can be attributed to the coaxial drop plant, and most of the time the problem found is at the F-connector interface. The F-connector has improved over the years, but remains craft sensitive.  The connector must be properly applied, the cable properly prepared and the interface adequately tightened. Even then, moisture, pollution and dissimilar metals can lead to issues over time.

What about optical connectors? Does a maintenance team need to anticipate similar service degradations and trouble calls? The answer is a resounding no. You can trust optical drop connectors.

Optical connectors commonly used in the drop space are SC-APC or SC-UPC standard (IEC 61754-4) types. The connector can be fused on, assembled mechanically or assembled and polished in the field, but more commonly it is deployed as a factory assembled jumper or pigtail. A factory assembled connector ensures that proper cable preparation and connector application is guaranteed, removing that aspect of craft sensitivity. Also, the connector interface is push-and-click, so variations in tightening do not exist. If the connector is inserted and a click is heard, it is properly installed.

Unlike a coaxial F-connector, an optical connector is not affected by environmental aging. The interface is non-metallic, so moisture, pollution and dissimilar metals cannot create corrosion issues or develop distorting products over time. In outdoor use, a connector does require environmental protection, which is commonly provided by hardening the connector or installing it inside a splice case.  Hardening adds another level of reliability, since it allows connections to be made on the outside of a sealed terminal. If a case never needs to be opened, risk of unintentional damage or leakage is virtually eliminated.

There is one required process to learn when installing optical connectors, and that is cleaning of the ferrule end face. Any time a fiber connector end face is exposed, even briefly, dust, dirt and oil can collect on the end face.  A simple cleaning step using readily available tools will address this issue. Only cleaned connectors should ever be mated, but once done, contaminants will not develop over time.  Best of all, inspection tools exist to ensure the end face is truly clean. Try to find F-connector corrosion products that way!

So can you trust an optical drop connector? Absolutely! Less craft sensitivity, higher reliability and a dramatic reduction in maintenance calls awaits.

Optical_Chart

About the Author

Mark Alrutz

Mark Alrutz is the senior director of service provider FAE for CommScope, a global leader in infrastructure solutions for communications networks. He is responsible for technical solution sales, applications engineering, pre- and post-sales technical support, and customer training. Mr. Alrutz received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and master of science degree  in management from Georgia Tech. He has been an active SCTE member since 1996. He also participates on the SCTE Interface Practices Subcommittee and the Energy 2020 program. Mr. Alrutz holds numerous U.S. patents and has been published in several industry trade magazines.

 

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Comments

2 comments for "Can You Trust Optical Drop Connectors?"
Harry Davis Friday, December 16, 2016 2:11 PM

Mark: Can you make some comments on the comparison of Ethernet cables vs fiber connection for equipment connections at the base of towers, to tower mounted radios?

Mark Alrutz Thursday, December 22, 2016 9:28 AM

Harry,
All metallic connectivity will share in some of the challenges I have outlined for coaxial drop connectors. In the case of tower connections, PIM (passive intermodulation, see more here: http://www.commscope.com/Blog/Preventing-PIM/ ) is the primary challenge. While CommScope has made huge strides in the elimination of PIM, a fully dielectric optical connection is a foolproof way to eliminate risk of developing intermodulation components.

Where copper connections are deployed, factory terminations (pre-assembled jumpers) are helpful, and sealing against the OSP environment is critical.

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