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What is OTDR Testing Instrument?

Date: 09, May, 2023
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OTDR optical time-domain reflectometer is an important instrument for many enterprises to certify the performance of new fiber optic links and detect problems in existing fiber optic links.


The health of your network depends on the quality of your network infrastructure. This quality begins with the contractor or system integrator certifying the fiber optic cabling infrastructure installation correctly and completely. To protect critical business applications, maintaining the reliability of fiber optic lines is a necessary foundation. As a network administrator, it is important to understand how to achieve optimal performance from cable investment and quickly resolve issues when they occur.


Smart OTDR certifies new links


Most customers are familiar with basic certification – sometimes called Level 1 fiber optic certification – to measure attenuation (insertion loss), length and polarity. This test ensures that the fiber optic link displays loss lower than the maximum expected loss of the tested application. Simple light source/power meter or more complex Automatic Fiber Optic Loss Test Sets (AFLTS) can perform this function. Advanced or Level 2 fiber optic certification adds end-to-end Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR), which complements Level 1 testing. OTDR trace is a characteristic graph of fiber optic attenuation along its length, which enables you to look more deeply at the performance and installation quality of link components (cables, connectors, and splices) by inspecting inconsistencies in OTDR trace. Higher-level devices facilitate understanding of the event map and loss values for individual components and links.


Smart OTDR traces help characterize individual events that are typically not exposed in performance beyond the length / loss (Level 1) test. Only with full fiber optic certification can installers fully understand fiber optic installation and network owners demonstrate whether the quality of the installation is satisfactory. This fiber optic test is used to certify that the installation process and quality conform to current and future application design and warranty specifications.


Smart OTDR bi-directional testing


Level 2 OTDR testing of bi-directional fiber optic link testing is not only an industry standard and required by most manufacturers for warranty, but it is also the only way to understand the actual overall loss of the link. This is because fiber optic connector and splice loss measurement, as well as overall link loss measurement, depend on the test direction. Fiber optic link testing in one direction can provide results that are opposite to fiber optic link testing in the opposite direction. Since testing from both ends requires a lot of time and cost, technicians often test all links at one end first and then go to the other end to save as much time as possible. Unfortunately, this approach doesn't work. In order to accurately measure the fiber optic link in both directions, the launch and receive fiber optics must be kept in the original measurement position during both tests (this is also required by the standard). But if you test all links at one end first and then go to the other end, this is impossible.


Smart OTDR detects problems


OTDR can also maintain the performance of fiber optic lines. OTDR can draw wiring diagrams and indicate the end connector quality and fault location that may affect network performance. Smart OTDR allows probing of issues that could affect fiber optic long-term reliability along the fiber optic channel length. OTDR analyzes attenuation consistency and rate, fiber optic segment length, connector, joint position and insertion loss characteristics, as well as other events that may occur during or after cable installation, such as sharp bends.


When selecting the appropriate OTDR, network engineers should ensure that the tool has certain functions, such as loss length certification, channel/event view, power meter function, user-friendly interface, and smart remote options. In addition, the OTDR needs to provide a reliable method for recording results. For users who are not OTDR experts but need to quickly locate the problem, automatic equipment and event graphs are essential to make OTDR easy to use.

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