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OTDR - A Picture of Your Fiber Optic Cable Health

by:TBT     2020-08-16
Optical Time Domain Reflectometer or OTDR inner workings can be very complex but I would like to try and describe how it works in basic terms. They use the actual properties of the fiber cable as they respond to light. We normally want to see light traveling forward down a fiber; however, light can also travel backwards. This backwards light or also called backscatter is what the OTDR uses to calculate measurements. This backscatter is also used in both photography and medical instruments. All of them can be described as simple as backscattering measuring devices but with different applications.
The technician is presented with a visual result usually available both on a screen and printed version. It is now the technician's job to interpret those results much like a doctor would interpret the results from an xray. Experienced fiber technicians can see certain results and quickly determine that is showing a splice, a cut or even a loss caused by a connector. It is important that a technician keep practice just like an intern doctor would get practice or experience. The results are only as good as the person interrupting them and also the data that is entered.
The data you enter is just as important as the person interrupting the data. Imagine if an intern doctor was given the results of a blood pressure test from a lab technician and it showed extremely low pressure. The doctor would look for other symptoms before they send them off to get some medicine for low blood pressure. You always need to check your data points. A fiber technician would enter such parameters as mode, pulse width, length and attenuation. Enter some of the wrong parameters and it could give you a false sense of security. All of these things will come in time as a technician gets familiar with this useful but complex device.
An OTDR is a must have to determine the health of your fiber optic cable network. The data entered is as important as the technician analyzing the results. Every fiber technician should have one of these devices within reach to quickly determine if their fiber system is sick.
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