Things You Should Know Before Choosing an OTDR
OTDR that is short for optical time domain reflectometry, is a fiber optic tester for the characterization of optical networks that support telecommunications. It can be used to measure loss, optical return loss (ORL) and optical distance on a fiber optic link. Besides, by providing pictorial trace signatures of the fibers under test, an OTDR can offer a graphical representation of the entire fiber optic link. However, there are so many OTDR brands in the market. Choosing the right OTDR for your application can be challenging. So this post is intended for giving some reminders when choosing an OTDR. Hope it may help you.
Why You Need an OTDR?
As we all know, fiber testing is an essential procedure to make sure that the network is optimized to deliver reliable and robust services without fault. So here are two reasons for why an OTDR is needed.
First, service providers and network operators want to insure that their investments into fiber networks are protected. Installers need to use OTDR performing bi-directional tests and providing accurate cable documentation to certify their work. Of course, OTDRs can be used for troubleshooting problems such as break locations due to dig-ups.
Second, premises fiber networks have tight loss budgets and less room for error. Therefore installers have to test the overall loss budget with a light source and power meter, which is a big task. While OTDR can easily pinpoint the causes for excess loss and verify that splices and connections are within appropriate tolerances, which saves lots of time. Besides, it is also the only way to know the exact location of a fault or a break.
What and Where Will You Test?
Before choosing a suitable OTDR, ask yourself the following two questions.
Loss, reflectance, splicing alignment and distance, which one are you going to test? Make sure the OTDR you choose can do what you want easily, quickly and accurately. If you need to make “live” test (like during a “hot cut”—splicing of fibers in a working cable), you need an OTDR that can do an active splice loss measurement in “real time”.
Where are you going to do testing? A good understanding of the applications of an OTDR will help you make the right choice for specific needs. For example, what kind of networks will you test? LAN (local area network), metro or long haul? What is the maximum distance you might have to test? 700 m, 25 km, 150 km?
What Should Be Focused on When Choosing an OTDR?
Many people may be familiar with OTDR but not know how to choose a real right one. Except for the quality that we must focus on, the following three factors also should be attached great importance to.
A Simplified and Task-focused User Interface
Maintaining fiber health is just as challenging and makes fast troubleshooting critical. Almost every OTDR on the market today is designed to cover carrier applications. As a result, many OTDR have very complex user interfaces which require the user to make sense numerous buttons and controls and navigate cumbersome multi-level menus. It’s bad for users improving operating efficiency. So a simplified and task-focused user interface test equipment is important.
Precision Fiber Channel Information
With the wide use of short patch fibers and various types of fiber connectors, details on network link—loss, connector and reflectance—are critical to ensuring performance. However, OTDR with an attenuation dead zone of more than 3m are no longer applicable for testing data center fiber. But when problems arise, an OTDR with precision fiber channel information can help users with various skill levels efficiently perform troubleshooting and accelerate network recovery.
Effective Planning and Documentation
As data centers grow and change, it’s challenging to ensure all fibers are installed with certificated quality. Therefore, integrated project management capabilities with cable-by-cable granularity can save time and planning effort. An OTDR with built-in project management capability that allows users plan day-to-day activities without using a personal computer or laptop.
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