A common expression is that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That can also relate to an optical fiber cabling link where each component can affect loss, bandwidth and overall system performance. Although each individual component may be sound, how well they connect together also has a big influence on performance. That is why we appreciate the discussion at Interop Las Vegas 2011 between Fr. Robert Ballecer, Sr. (Interop Messaging Lead) and Tyler VanderPloeg (JDSU) on the risks of contamination and the benefits of cleaning within optical networks.

Tyler notes that contamination of connections is the No. 1 cause of issues that require troubleshooting within optical links.

I can relate to these findings from my many years of troubleshooting within data centers, commercial buildings and outside plant networks. I was often fortunate enough to be able to “fix” a system with only some isopropyl alcohol and a wipe, no polishing or re-termination of connectors required.

As higher bandwidth solutions require lower and lower loss, cleaning has never been more of an issue with optical systems than today. As an example within the data center, architects are designing in OM4 multimode optical fiber to run 100 Gigabit Ethernet up to 150 meters (or even farther). With this high data rate and extended distance, only 1.0 dB of total connection loss can be afforded (IEEE P802.3ba); this requires each connection to have a much lower loss than the typical TIA568C based requirements. Any small amount of loss because of outside factors such as dirt cannot be tolerated. That is why CommScope recommends that every installer has access to a cleaning and inspection kit during installation, and that every technician has similar access to support the network during its entire lifetime.

How do you "smart" clean your optical network?

About the Author

Eric Leichter

Eric Leichter is director for business development for CommScope Mobility Solutions, focused on fiber and power solutions for remote radio deployments. He has over 15 years of experience with telecommunications and optical fiber solutions, including roles supporting application and field engineering, product management, standards and training. While supporting a mix of wireless, data center, campus, and outside plant applications, Eric has experience with a multitude of vendor and generic solutions sets. He is a multiple patent holder, has provided several dozen published articles and conference presentations, and is a LEED Green Associate. Eric has an engineering degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and an MBA from Gardner-Webb University.

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