Fiber Network Simulation – 4 Tips for Improving Test Results

Posted by Kevin Miller on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 @ 10:06 AM

Engineers performing fiber optic network simulation testing with the goal of certifying that their equipment will work as intended once deployed in the field, often require the use of optical fiber spools to complete these procedures.  Since it is crucial these tests produce both correct and reliable results, below are some tips for ensuring the most positive results.

Tip #1 – Invest in a quality testing platform

Using a quality testing platform with integrated optical fiber spools provides a number of benefits for engineers.  First, the valuable fiber and connectors are protected from common, accidental damage which can lead to poor results and shorten the usage life of the fiber.  Second, having a sturdy enclosure means that results will be consistent for every test, which is also a key factor in these procedures.  Lastly, test platforms make life easier for the user, as packaged fiber allows for worry-free handling while enhancing the look and organization of your test lab or demonstrations.  While it may cost less in the short term to just use bare fiber spools, a small investment in addition to the fiber itself for a test platform/enclosure will be well worth it in the long run for achieving ideal results.

Tip #2 – Use only new or existing high quality optical fiber

With engineering departments often under tight budget constraints, engineers are sometimes forced to seek alternative routes when acquiring test fiber, such as purchasing used fiber from a 3rd party source (auction website, used equipment providers, etc).  While used fiber is often easily found and offered at well below market price for new fiber, it should be avoided as there is never any guarantee as to what is being received.  Aside from often not being the exact length required, used fiber can have issues such as bends/crimps, damaged connectors, splices that should not be there, and more that a user is not aware of until working with it.  Purchasing or using new and high quality fiber from a reputable, proven source guarantees receipt of exactly what is needed for testing procedures.

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Tip #3 – Match the test fiber type with the type deployed in the field

In recent years, industry organizations (ITU, etc) have helped to establish standards that ensure optical fibers meet certain specifications in order to allow various types of equipment and networks to operate seamlessly around the world.  While G.652 single mode fiber, for example, is very similar across different manufacturers due to these standards, engineers should still match their test fiber with the type of fiber that is deployed in the field whenever possible.  Although the fiber is principally the same, the various manufacturers do produce it using different, proprietary methods and equipment.  The result is that fibers may often have slightly different performance specs in certain areas.  This being the case, if engineers want to ensure their equipment works exactly as intended when deployed in the network, they will want to test using the same fiber, so as to have an “apples-to-apples” comparison in simulating the network exactly.

Tip #4 - Clean connectors frequently

It is very important to keep connectors and adapters clean, as dirt on a connector can have a negative impact on equipment performance.  As most are already aware, one of the first steps in troubleshooting equipment and systems that are not performing optimally is to check to make sure all connections are secure and clean – the same thinking applies when testing equipment in the lab.  Remember to clean connectors prior to testing, especially during times of increased handling or after longer periods of minimal use.

Topics: optical fiber, network simulation