Fluke launches certifying OTDR
The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) has drafted a new standard, TSB140, "Additional Guidelines for Field-Testing Length, Loss, and Polarity of Optical Fiber Cabling Systems," outlining a two-tiered approach to testing and certifying fiber in commercial buildings. Tier 1 describes loss and link testing with an optical loss test set (OLTS) and polarity verification by means of an OLTS or visual fault locator, which is the traditional method of testing installed cable. The new standard now specifies a second tier of testing, however, which includes the parameters of Tier 1 plus an optical time domain reflectometer (OTDR) trace of the cable plant to certify that it was in fact correctly installed.
Enter the OptiFiber Certifying OTDR from Fluke Networks (Everett, WA). OptiFiber integrates loss/link certification, auto OTDR analysis, and fiber endface inspection—all the tools needed to do Tier 1 and Tier 2 testing as prescribed by the TSB140 standard, according to Eric Anderson, fiber optics product manager.
The OptiFiber conducts automatic two-fiber, dual-wavelength insertion-loss measurements and provides an immediate pass or fail indication, which takes care of the Tier 1 requirements. The Auto OTDR function meets the needs of Tier 2; it automatically analyzes the trace and its events, compares them against user-selected limits, and assigns a pass or fail status to the link.
Committed to providing what Anderson calls "the best vision into the network possible," Fluke engineers have incorporated an optional video inspection system. OptiFiber's integrated 250X FiberInspector enables users to view the actual fiber-connector endfaces. The user can then grade the connector and save the image for inclusion in the certification report.
Fluke's OTDR also features a short dead zone, which is critical for short-haul, connection-rich networks. A long dead zone can erroneously overlook events, but the dead zone of the OptiFiber OTDR is <1 m. "[K]ey for the premises cable installer is the short dead zone, the ability to see closely spaced events and to have the onboard integrated camera," explains Anderson. To see a basic graphical representation of the entire link under test, users can access the ChannelMap function.
Now that the TSB140 standard is nearing completion, other test equipment vendors will likely enter the market, including NetTest, Agilent Technologies, and Acterna. "They have the expertise to do something similar," contends Sailaja Vepa, research analyst at Frost & Sullivan (New York City). "I'm sure they will soon follow suit."
There is certainly more than enough incentive to enter the market. "[The premises network] is where a lot of the new fiber is being installed," says Anderson. "We've done a good job in the U.S. of cabling the long-haul infrastructure, and now we're seeing more fiber in the metro, more fiber in the campus."
More fiber in the metro and the campus means more potential sales for Fluke Networks. "It's not like they came up with a new product in a declining market," maintains Vepa. "I don't think there is any functionality they left out. It's a robust product. They have made something innovative in the sense that they have addressed all the contractor's needs."