Despite demand and funding, the industry faces a lack of skilled labor that threatens to slow rollouts and adversely impact fiber network performance and reliability. While states can use BEAD funds for training and workforce development, more than half of available funds will go to cover make-ready costs—surveys, planning, permits, approvals, utility pole upgrades and expansion, and other processes necessary to prepare for deployment. With the bulk of the remaining monies for deployment and promoting user adoption, very little (if any) will be allocated for upfront training, creating a cyclical problem of needing trained, skilled workers to later fix improperly installed networks. But there is more to the challenge that demands attention.
When the Fiber Optic Association (FOA) began online certification testing, the results showed an unusual area of confusion. 25% of the test-takers missed the answer to what should have been a simple question: “What do you strip when you strip fiber for splicing or termination?” Instead of answering “the buffer coating,” a quarter of students answered that you strip the cladding. Even some instructors on their instructor certification exams answered that question incorrectly.
The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) and the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) have entered into a Collaborative Workforce Development Agreement to advance critical workforce education and training for the broadband communications industry. The agreement promotes both associations’ workforce development programs: the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), nationally sponsored by WIA for broadband and 5G technicians; and the Fiber Broadband Association’s Optical Telecom Installer Certification (OpTIC Path) program that trains fiber technicians.
Pearson Technologies recently updated three Fiber-To-The-Home/Passive Optical Network (FTTH/PON) hands-on training programs. One is an installation program, another a design program, and the third is a combination of design and installation. “Since the principles for design and installation of both FTTH/PON and optical LANs are similar, these programs develop the knowledge, skills and abilities (SKAs) for both,” Pearson Technologies said when announcing the updates.
The performance of a fiber optic system depends heavily on the cleanliness of the interfaces. Dirt particles, grease, dust, etc. can have a highly negative impact on the transmission characteristics. They can actually destroy a fiber optic connection depending on the circumstances. If the connector is plugged in without first being tested, it could well be too late. The high pressure in the connection means that particles are immediately pressed in and this causes irreversible damage. This is why it is becoming increasingly important to test all connectors and adapters, and, if necessary, to clean them before they are mated – even new products that have just come out of the packing.
Contamination is the primary cause of network disruption or failure. Dirty fiber splices can cause network problems including back reflection, signal loss and even fiber breakage at the splice, causing complete network failure.There is a right way to clean fusion splices. Because high heat is generated by arcing electrodes during the fusion splicing process, technicians should always follow the recommended processes supplied with the fusion splicing equipment.
For years experts have been telling fiber-optic technicians not to use isopropyl alcohol (IPA) to clean fiber endfaces. Some technicians have listened; some haven’t. Today, one of Covid-19’s many effects on global commerce is the scarcity of IPA. Sticklers national accounts manager Rick Hoffman talks about the IPA shortage and its practical impact on fiber cleaning in this article.
85% of network failures are caused by dirty connectors. The connectors entrusted to carry the critical information that passes through your network deserve far more than a wipe on a t-shirt. As data center bandwidth continues to increase, adherence to best practice fiber endface cleaning and inspection methods must improve. Download AFL’s best practices guide for cleaning.
Operators are lining up to deploy 5G technology. That means small cell architectures, centralized and cloud radio access networks (C-RANs) – and lots of optical communications technology. This issue of On Topic examines the role fiber optics likely will play in 5G deployment, describes the options available, and offers tips for successful deployment strategies.
African-American folk hero John Henry is known both for his skill as a steel driving man and for his resistance to embrace new technology — in his case a steam-powered rock drilling machine. He raced against the machine only to die from heart failure, hammer in hand. How does this relate to fiber connectivity? Many fiber optic splicers still hand-strip fibers one at a time when they could be using thermal strippers which is not only faster but also won’t damage the fiber.