Global relevance of passive-component standards

Much of the current activity in passive-component standardization is focused on the development of international standards. It makes better business sense to meet the requirements of a single international standard that is valued across all markets worldwide, rather than address numerous, sometimes conflicting, regional requirements. Since each product qualification requires significant resource investment, the potential cost savings in performing this activity once instead of several times can be substantial.

A route to international standards is through the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Within the IEC, subcommittee SC86B is responsible for fiber-optic connectors and passive components. To effectively support its workload, SC86B has established four working groups. One of these groups, IEC/86B/WG7, deals with passive-component standards. Much of WG7's recent activity has been in the development of performance standards for the primary types of passive components, including branching devices, attenuators, switches, isolators, circulators, and dispersion compensators. Such standards define the optical performance over a specified series of tests, with clearly stated sample sizes, severities, and pass/fail criteria. The series of tests, referred to as an operating service environment or performance category, is intended to be run on a "one-off" basis to prove the product's ability to satisfy the requirements of a specific application, market sector, or user group.

There are eight performance categories within the IEC. Three categories are designed specifically for closures and terminating hardware. Of the remaining categories, two are used primarily for passive components and intended to define controlled (Category C) and outside plant (Category O) environments. There are 17 performance standards at various stages of publication. This portfolio is designed to provide a set of functional product requirements that have worldwide acceptance.

In the past, a similar need in the North American market was met by industry use of documents such as the Telcordia Generic Requirements. The IEC passive-component performance standards are intended to provide the same level of utility, with the added benefit of global relevance.

Robert Johnson works at Corning Inc. and is a U.S. representative to IEC/SC86B/WG7, where he serves as secretary. He can be reached at tel: 607-974-7359; fax: 607-974-4941; e-mail:

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