Benchmarking is a term that is used widely to evaluate one's performance against a standard, which is typically based on the best organizations or processes in your industry. In most cases, the goals of benchmarking are often centered around key factors such as quality, time, and cost. In the performance of fiber optic communications systems, benchmarking generally applies to the performance quality of the information provided, but on a second level has an extremely significant impact on both time and cost.
In CATV systems, the quality of the delivered information is readily apparent and highly dependent on the quality of the systems delivering that information. One of the most important performance components in a CATV system is the laser transmitter, which is used to translate electrical signal information into equivalent optical signals for transmission through fiber cables. There are many factors, such as aging, noise sources, and distortions that can affect the quality of the signal and thus impact the viewing experience. Questions that should routinely be addressed include:
- Is the laser dying or wearing down?
- Are the laser transmitter electronics deteriorating?
- Are the RF drive levels too high or too low?
- Is there a bad splice or RF connector?
All of these potential issues can have an adverse affect on how the viewing public sees the operator that delivers their information. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the CATV system operators to address these potential issues and develop standards in order to ensure their systems are performing at an optimal level at all times.
The one parameter that can be used to accomplish this is the Optical Modulation Index (OMI) of the laser transmitter. Proper setting of the OMI not only ensures that the laser is operating at maximum power and with minimal distortions, but in turn verifies that all components are secure and working as expected. Once the optimal OMI is set and known for the laser transmitters, an operator should then routinely check the OMI on a periodic basis against their standard in order to always deliver superior quality to their customers. The result is an increase in quality of service to customers, while saving time and money as potential failures can be spotted in advance.
For many CATV operators, checking and setting proper OMI in order to establish a standard has been difficult, as it is very time consuming and costly using traditional equipment. However, new instruments like the FOS 1000A OMI meter have made this into a relatively simple task, as it removes all of the time consuming detail by internally incorporating all of the required, calibrated functions and automating the outcome with a precise OMI value (per channel and total OMI %). As a result the setting, optimizing, and benchmarking of OMI for superior performance becomes an easy, reliable, and repeatable task.
The CATV operators in today's market that receive the highest recognition from customers and peers for their system performance are benchmarking with OMI. In these cases, OMI is used as a standard at several points:
- Laser transmitter setup before and during initial deployment
- Periodic maintenance to ensure ongoing performance levels
- Troubleshooting to quickly identify and resolve network issues when they do occur
In order to achieve the best results, retain customers, and run more efficient operations, benchmarking system performance with OMI is a necessary but easy way to reach the highest standard.
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