In recent years, there has been a fundamental shift in how communication systems are designed, installed, and managed. These systems that were once dedicated, proprietary networks have been replaced by converged infrastructures that allow sharing of resources to optimize bandwidth, network reliability, and cost-effectiveness.
Fiber optic data connectivity has been at the core of this paradigm shift. With the rapid deployment of 4G LTE and 5G networks, the need for high-performance, ultra-low latency applications have become a reality. Individuals and businesses can now enjoy a wide range of solutions, including voice, video, and data.
Fiber providers like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast are constantly expanding their networks to meet future growth and demand. For those looking to be a part of this expanding Fiber market, it’s important to understand the technicalities of Fiber optic installation.
What Exactly Is Fiber Installation?
In simple terms, Fiber installation is the construction of Fiber optic cables within a structured network. The cable is used to transmit data in the form of light signals at high speeds via the core element (one of the three elements of the Fiber) over long distances (from the point of origin to the point of termination).
Establishing a connection to the network requires splicing the Fiber optic cable and then testing the network to ensure optimum functionality. To achieve that, specialized equipment, training, and technical expertise are essential. The result is a Fiber optic network that provides high-speed, high-capacity data transmission for homes, businesses, and other organizations.
Safety Requirements for Fiber Optic Installation
To install Fiber optic systems, strict adherence to safety protocols is required. This ensures the protection of both the contractors and the system’s end users. Here are some of the most essential safety considerations:
Personal Protective Equipment
Fiber optic cables comprise thin strands of coated glass Fibers, each approximately 8 microns in diameter. In comparison, it is significantly thinner than a strand of human hair. When splicing and terminating these Fibers, their ends can become extremely sharp and pose a hazard as they can cut, scrape or penetrate the skin. This is why safety equipment, like protective gloves, face shields, and boots is mandatory.
Awareness of Laser Safety
Laser light is employed in optical Fiber communications as it amplifies the optical signal in the glass. Furthermore, it is a single-wavelength light source. During installation, an engineer would need to inspect the end of the cable to verify that light from the Fiber is being reflected back to the light source. This is where extreme care is needed to prevent the light from being directed into the eyes, causing harm to the cornea or the crystalline lens.
Installing a Fiber optic cable may result in the release of small glass particles from the cable jacket. It is always recommended to install the structure in an area with adequate ventilation to mitigate the potential inhalation of harmful particles.
Equipment Required for Fiber Optic Installation
To perform a successful Fiber optic installation, an engineer will need the following tools:
- Fiber optic cable: this is the physical medium that carries the optical signal
- Optical Fiber cleaver: used to precisely cut the Fiber optic cable to the correct length
- Fiber optic connectors: used to join two Fibers together, usually with the help of connector adapters and a connector tool
- Fusion splicer: used to fuse two Fibers by heating them to a high temperature and then cooling them rapidly
- Optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR): used to test the quality of the Fiber optic link, including the loss and the return loss of the connection
- Optical power meter: used to measure the optical power being transmitted through the Fiber
- Light source: used in conjunction with an optical power meter to test the loss of the Fiber optic link. This includes LEDs and laser diodes
- Fiber optic cable tester: used to check any faults or breaks in the Fiber optic cable
- Fiber optic stripper: used to remove the protective coating from the cable
- Fiber optic splice closure: used to protect and organize the fusion splices
What Are the Steps to Install a Fiber Optic Cable?
Plan the Installation
Determine the route of the cable, the number of Fibers needed for backbone, the type of cable to be used, and the equipment and tools needed for the installation.
Prepare the Route
Conduct the initial reconnaissance of the installation site. Identify possible obstacles like trees, poles, fences, and other utilities that may affect the Fiber installation. Afterwards, install protective pathways, such as conduit or ducts for the cable to follow.
Install the Cable
String the Fiber optic cable through the conduit or ducts to the desired location. Avoid anything that may bend, kink, or crush the cable, as this can damage the optical Fibers inside.
Terminate the Cable
Cut the cable to the desired length and carefully strip the protective coating and buffer tubes from the optical Fibers without damaging them. Install the connectors (such as LC, SC, FC, or ST connectors) on the cable as directed by the manufacturer. To prevent any loss of light, ensure that the connector ferrules are correctly aligned and tightened. Connect the cable to the equipment and terminate the connectors.
Test the Cable
Use an optical time-domain reflector (OTDR) or optical loss test set to verify the cable’s optimum functionality and adherence to the required specifications.
Protect and Organize the Cables
Install cable management and protective systems, such as cable trays, splice closures, and patch panels to organize and protect the terminated cable. Don’t forget to label the cable and connectors for easy identification.
Conduct a final test of the Fiber optic link to be sure that it is functioning as intended.
Rules to Follow During Installation
To get the best output from an installed Fiber optic cable, there are certain general rules to follow:
- Don’t tug at the Fibers directly as they are delicate and can easily break
- Keep the cable’s position within the bend radius defined by the manufacturer
- Protect the internal cables with innerducts
- Don’t spin the cable off the spool end so as not to damage the Fibers, making them difficult to splice
- Keep track of the runs using markers
Optical Fiber cabling is a technical process that requires a lot of care and attention to detail. Not only can incorrect installation lead to data loss, but it can be hazardous to both the installer and the user. There could be damage to the mains, electrocution, and fire. This is why the above guidelines come in handy. Following them will guarantee a safe and fully functional Fiber optic cable.