Can You Trust Optical Drop Connectors?

A coaxial drop plant has been a maintenance challenge for decades. What about optical drop connectors? And can you trust them? CommScope’s Mark Alrutz has the answer in this blog post.

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.