Sticklers - “Clean & Inspect” for 21st Century Optical Networks

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“Clean and Inspect” must be the mantra for the 21st century optical communications.

Optical networks are playing a more crucial role in our communications networks, our way of life as well as our daily lives. High definition TV, internet gaming, medical data imaging, general commerce and social networking all have increased the demand for bandwidth. Be it long haul, backhaul, FTTX, WAN or LAN, all the elements of optical networking are experiencing bandwidth growth. But, while the technology and reliability of the optical components has improved over the past decade, there still remains predictable system vulnerability at the points of interconnect.

Interconnects Are the “Weak Links” of Optical Networks

An interconnect is the point of mating two fiber optic connectors, or the mating of a fiber optic connector and an optical device. These connection points are the source of about 70% of the optical network failures and more than 70% of those failures are a result of connector contamination. This is because an interconnect is the only point in the network where the glass core of the fiber carrying the optical signal can be exposed to contamination from the external environment.

Most of the time connectors are mated and remain in physical contact within an alignment sleeve. They are held in place by springs contained within the connectors. This ensures that physical contact will be maintained, contamination will be kept out, and the integrity of the optical path will be preserved. However, during installation, maintenance, rerouting and upgrades, connectors may be demated and exposed to the environment. It is at this time when they may be contaminated by accidental human contact, such as by mating a clean connector with a contaminated test jumper, or by coming in contact with airborne contaminates...

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