100 years ago, Warren G. Harding coined the phrase “A Return to Normalcy” during his 1920 Presidential campaign in a post WWI world. As we navigate through the Coronavirus Pandemic by social distancing and working remotely to focus on our health, I soon look forward to getting back to our own “normalcy” in the Telecom world; and that normal is connecting people and creating solutions. In these times of isolation, I think back over the years of my fiber optic field work and want to share some stories of “normal” things I have comes across while out in the field with our partners and some of the solutions we came up with to make sure we were able to get connected.

One of the solutions that comes to mind is when I was working with a small community college in New York State. It was during the summer months, and the project at hand was a substantial update to their broadband capacities across campus – FIS was able to offer our customized interconnect boxes, custom made assemblies to run through the buildings, and the patch cords that came out the front of the panels. When the time came to test the network, we found that there were some OTDR traces that were showing a different number of events than it should have and was showing some weird insertion losses at points we were expecting to be good. When using an OTDR to test your network, an important spec to be aware of is what they call the “Event Dead Zone” – the Event Dead Zone is the minimum distance required between two reflective events (such as two connectors) to be able to distinguish them as separate events. Event Dead Zone is proportional to pulse width, but it’s typical in most of today’s industry leading OTDR’s to see Event Dead Zones of 1m up to 3m, which means that your connectors must be that far apart to be seen separately. What was happening at this community college was that the “failing” links had patch cords in the run that were closer together than their OTDR’s specific Event Dead Zone and ended up seeing two good connection points as one big failing connector with high loss. Once we swapped out the short patch cords to ones with lengths that hit the OTDR specs, the network tested out and worked perfectly; A very “normal” real life situation with an even easier solution to it.

An even more “normal” experience was back in 2014 working with globally known broadcast companies to help distribute a feed of the world famous Nick Wallenda doing a tight-rope walk 600ft above the streets of Chicago, IL. FIS had the privilege of building custom made, highly specialized tactical assemblies to be used to connect HD cameras throughout the production. These tactical cable constructions are specially designed to be used in just this exact broadcast application: they can handle being dragged across the ground, spooled and re-spooled over and over, and they can stand up to being stepped on as these cables are typically in high traffic areas. We started seeing that certain fiber strands in these cables were not transmitting data when the other fibers in the same cable were working fine. After doing some trouble shooting we found the culprit: the cable bundles in question were being bent over the rooftops and hanging down to the ground levels. So what was happening was that the same specific fibers that were having transmission issues were the same fibers that were positioned on the sides of the bend created while hanging over the roof. At FIS we use Corning glass in all of our cable constructions, and this particular cable at the time was built with Corning SMF28e+ glass and was designed to be able to hold a 50mm bend radius while still able to operate at
And lastly, just a short time ago we were working with a local art studio that was having a hard time getting their new fire alarm system connected. It was a fiber optic back bone that they were trying to support on their own instead of using an experienced contractor, and their link just was not giving the loss budget that the fire system needed. They were able to run some basic Power Meter/Light Source testing which confirmed their loss budget issue, but it wasn’t obvious what the problem was until we were able to bring them an OTDR. Once we were able to use our OTDR to locate the issue at the connection, we found the culprit: it was the mechanical ST connectors that were installed. They were failing for high Insertion Loss! While mechanical connectors are viewed as quick, and simple to install – they typically have higher insertion loss than a factory terminated assembly or a field fusion splice would because of the index matching gel used. Just as a point of reference, an active-clad alignment fusion splicer’s loss is 0.01-0.03dB whereas a typical mechanical splice is 0.20-0.50dB. Luckily, we were able to splice on a few dozen FIS Cheetah Splice-On Connectors, and it brought our loss budget right down where it needed to be. A “normal” thought out there for businesses is to try and support their own IT networks when possible. As more and more people are introduced to fiber for the first time, it’s more important now than ever before at FIS, to support our customers.

These are just a few real life situations that come to mind when I think of words like solutions, and customer support. Like Warren G. Harding, this is the “normalcy” in the telecom industry that myself, and FIS, look forward to getting back to. Over the next few weeks, I wish for nothing but everybody’s health and safety because on the other side of this we will be here to support whatever the telecom world has to throw at us.