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Insertion loss not alone among key field testing criteria

By Donna Donnawitz
August 23, 2012
When organizations implement new fiber-optic cable infrastructure, they typically perform field testing of the cable systems they plan to install. According to a recent Cabling Installation & Maintenance report, most field tests focus, often exclusively, on insertion loss. The problem is that the slightest fall in the fiber-optic cable can lead to considerable variances in performance and reliability within the network. Therefore, testing the cable setup based on a single parameter is not a good enough evaluation to ensure long-term network success.

The news source explained that successful network installation is dependent on field testing the cable based on more than just insertion loss. One important consideration besides insertion loss is the return loss. Generally, it is best to evaluate return loss alongside insertion loss. Combined, the two metrics will show how the cabling system will work with the actual network appliances to be used. Essentially, it provides a compatibility test.

Insertion loss testing gives engineers insight into how the network links and channels will accept the cabling architecture being installed, Cabling Installation & Maintenance explained. Return loss, on the other hand, is not a required type of test by standards bodies. However, it lets technicians determine if reflected optical signals will interfere with detectors. This makes the testing type critical for installations that will include fiber connectors and assemblies.

According to the report, insertion loss is usually the only method used in field testing, though return loss evaluation is not extremely uncommon. However, organizations also should consider testing methods that evaluate a cable's cleanliness, endface geometry, mechanical integrity and surface defects. All of these issues could have an impact on the performance and reliability of the network over time.

The quality of the cable can have a major impact on network performance and is especially important when businesses are dealing with expensive optical cabling infrastructure. To control costs and ease the complex field testing burden of using fiber-optic cabling systems through a setup, organizations can combine optical and copper cables within the setup. This enables them to control costs while ensuring performance standards are met on an ongoing basis. This is made possible using media conversion tools, which not only provide a way to intersperse copper and fiber within the network, but also enable quality of service and other advanced capabilities.

Perle has an extensive range of Managed and Unmanaged Fiber Media Converters to extended copper-based Ethernet equipment over a fiber optic link, multimode to multimode and multimode to single mode fiber up to 160km.


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