Cabling Mistakes #10: Skipping Fiber Inspection Steps

December 10, 2015 / General, 101 learning, Installation and testing, Upgrading and troubleshooting, Best Practices

While the smart people who install, test and certify network cabling plants know the importance of meeting standards performance parameters and ensuring application support, even the best of us can make mistakes that adversely impact the bottom line and customer satisfaction.

Let’s take a look at the #10 Dumb Thing that smart people do when testing network cabling systems—skipping out on proper fiber inspection.

That One Tiny Speck

Despite the constant reiteration and education surrounding the need to inspect fiber endfaces before connecting any piece of equipment, contaminated connections remain the number one cause of fiber related problems and failures in a data center, Enterprise backbones and other fiber networking environments.

Whether at a fiber cross connect, equipment port or at the end of a jumper, wherever a fiber endface is exposed there is a risk of contamination. Even the slightest particle on the core of a fiber can cause loss and reflections that increase error rates and degrade performance. And unfortunately, even the smartest fiber technician who knows how to properly clean a fiber endface can make the mistake of forgetting to properly inspect before making that final connection.

And when it comes to inspecting DO NOT think that a manual inspection with a fiber microscope is the best method of proper inspection. Depending on your experience, ambient lighting, eyesight, or even how rushed or how tired you are, what you deem as clean with a manual inspection may not be. There is always a chance that you didn’t see that one tiny speck of dirt on the fiber core.

And with today’s faster data rates of 40 and 100 gigabit having tighter loss budgets that ever before, one tiny speck could mean the difference between moving on to your next job with a satisfied customer and having to spend the extra time (and money) troubleshooting a problem.

There’s a Standard for That

Remember Apple’s ubiquitous catchphrase, "There's an app for that.”? Well the saying in our industry is, “There’s a standard for that.” And when it comes to fiber inspection, that’s good news.

The IEC 61300-3-35 Basic Test and Measurement Procedures Standard for Fiber Optic Interconnecting Devices and Passive Components contains specific cleanliness grading criteria to assess pass or fail certification for inspection of a fiber end-face, removing the human subjectivity factor and avoiding any disputes.

For various connector types and fiber size, IEC 61300-3-35 certifies the cleanliness of a fiber end face based on the number and size of scratches and defects found in each region of the endface, including the core, cladding, adhesive layer and contact zones.

And the even better news? Fluke Networks’ FI-7000 FiberInspector Pro certifies fiber end-faces to IEC 61300-3-35 industry standards in just over a second, providing automated PASS/FAIL results that take the human subjectivity (and hopefully mistakes) out of fiber inspection.