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Fiber Network Testing Tips

5 Tips to Proper Fiber Optics Testing


From time to time we receive calls and emails from fiber technicians in the field with questions about how to test fiber networks.  Many have received formal training and many have OJT training. Unfortunately, many have no training at all.  Nonetheless, the questions are almost always dealing with the same subjects.  The question that usually comes up is “What exactly am I testing for?”  Another popular question is “How do I use this equipment?”  This article will provide basic tips on how to test fiber optics networks.


Tip # 1 – Relax.

Fiber optics networks are much easier to test and troubleshoot when compared to UTP copper networks.  It usually takes much less time, effort, and manpower to get the job done on fiber.  As a matter of fact, we fiber technicians are usually having a cold drink somewhere while the copper testing technicians are just getting started.  Also, their equipment is much more expensive than ours and usually requires a very delicate touch during actual operation, not to mention the fact that when testing 10Gig UPT networks, they have to hold their mouth right or the segment will not pass.  So, relax fiber technicians the copperheads usually have a tendency to sweat profusely when their 10Gig network fails the Alien Cross talk tests.


Tip # 2 – Beware of Your Customer’s Fiber Optics Testing Requirements

Be prepared to explain to a customer why he/she should not run an OTDR test on 50 meters of installed cable.  It is your responsibility as a knowledgeable fiber optics technician to know the limitations of OTDR testing.  It is also your responsibility to inform the customer in terms that he/she can understand why an expensive OTDR trace will be a waste of time and money.  Most customers have read in industry periodicals about OTDR traces and feel they deserve one if a fiber network is to be properly tested.  Unfortunately most do not understand the limitations of OTDR testing but still insist on having them done.  You must know the loss budget of the equipment that is going to be used.


Tip # 3 – Know Your Test Equipment

It makes since to learn all you can about the equipment you are going to use.  It is very important to read the manuals from page to page while you are in the shop and before you get to the customer’s facility.  It is much easier to sit down in the conference or break room while your customer and your boss are not watching and learn everything you can about the equipment you are going to use long before you arrive at the job site.  How embarrassing it would be for you if your customer (who is paying you lots of money) sees you reading the manual while you are trying to figure out how to use your equipment.  Makes sense doesn’t it?  Even if you don’t consider yourself a very intelligent person, at least you can make yourself look intelligent by knowing everything about your test equipment long before you arrive at the job site.  You’ll not only impress your customer but you will also impress yourself.


Tip # 4 – Have the Correct Network Documentation

All networks, both UTP and copper, are easier to test and troubleshoot when you have all of the documentation (past and present) handy.  If you are testing an existing fiber optics network that has been previously installed, it is an extremely good idea to get the As Built Test Reports.  Upon project completion, all reputable integrators should provide a customer with final test reports in the same folder that contains their invoice.  These test reports provide proof that the network has been tested and conforms to the requested contract or industry performance parameters. 


Tip # 5 – Get Some Good Instruction on Fiber Optics Networking

Forget about obtaining quality fiber optics networking knowledge with OJT.  The problem here is there are too many opinions about how things should be done.  Many of these opinions are incorrect.  Sorting out the correct procedures from the wrong procedures is going to take a long time, if at all, and will do nothing but confuse the technician whom wants to do the job right the first time.  A professional fiber optics technician will seek out good, economical training that he/she can be proud of with the understanding that doing the right things right the first time will be much more rewarding than attempting a haphazard solution to an otherwise easy task.

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