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December 2020

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News     Technical    Worth Reading    Q&A    Training/FiberU    Resoures    Safety   About

In This Issue
Note we have changed the format to place articles in sections on one topic and all articles are dated so you know if we repeat one - whcih we often do when we think it's very important!


New Fiber U MiniCourses
Reading OTDR Traces
Midspan Access
Recruiting Young Workers - You Can Help!
Back To School To Learn A Trade
The Value Of Certification
For Colleges And Universities Interested in Certifications

Newsletter Sections

Click on any link to jump to that section

Will 2021 Be A Year Of Shortages
US RDOF - $9BUS For Rural Broadband
Statistics On US Labor In Telecom
Technical   Silly Standards, Lasers & LEDs, Total internal reflection , Loss Budget Calculator

Worth Reading  Lots of interesting articles

Q&A    Questions from our readers

Training/FiberU   New Fiber U MiniCourses,  schools, remote OTDR for training, making training classroom safe, onine training, materials, more
Resources New FOA YouTube Videos.  Safety  


FOA Certifications: 

CFOT Total

Time To Renew Your FOA Certifications?
Special offer - 1/3 Off Renewal

See FOA Jobs Web Page and FOA on FOA on LinkedIn
The FOA Jobs Web Page has been updated and a new page added on Using your FOA Training/Certification to Find the Right Job in Fiber Optics

Where Are The Jobs In Fiber Optics? FOA talks about all the applications for fiber optics, what jobs involve and the qualifications for the workers in the field in this YouTube video.

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Trademarks: The FOA CFOT® (Certified Fiber Optic Technician) and Fiber U® (the FOA online self-study program) are registered trademarks of the FOA.
FOA Guide
Want to know more about fiber optics? Study for FOA certifications? Free Self-Study Programs are on "Fiber U®." Looking for specific information? Here's the largest technical reference on the web: The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

Free online self-study programs on many fiber optics and cabling topics are available at Fiber U, FOA's online web-based training website.

 FOA Reference Books
Available Printed or eBooks
The fiber book is available in Spanish and French

FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Premises Cablng book FOA Reference Guide to OSP Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book
FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Network Design book FOA Book on Fiber Optic Testing FOA Outside Plant Fiber Optics Construction Guide  Lennie Lightwave

Lennie and Uncle Ted's Guides are now also available as free iBooks on iTunes.
Lennie Lightwave's Guide To Fiber Optics   Uncle Ted's Guide to Premises Cablling
Click on any of the books to learn more.
Fiber Optic Safety Poster to download and print

FOA Videos on videos

FOA is a member of:

TIA Online
FTTH Council

The FOA Newsletter is edited by Jim Hayes - send your stories, leads, ideas, comments to <jim @>
Jim Hayes

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Current Issue of FOA Newsletter

Time To Renew Your FOA Certifications?

To keep your FOA certifications active, you need to renew them when they expire. Now we have a new more convenient way to renew - an online store at Paypal - where you can quickly and conveniently use your PayPal account or your credit card to renew your certifications.

You can now renew with PayPal or a credit card
PayPal is available worldwide

Join FOA On  Social Media

FOA on LinkedIn

FOA has four LinkedIn Groups

FOA - official page on LinkedIn
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Grupo de La Asociación de Fibra Óptica FOA (Español)

SPECIAL OFFER -  1/3 Off Your Certification Renewal Cost

In the near future, there will be a requirement for continuing education to renew your FOA certifications. FOA is testing an option for renewals where you take a short Fiber U online course. 

If you would like to help FOA test this option, you can save 1/3 the cost of your renewal.  Go here to take the Fiber U CFOT Renewal Course:

FOA Newsletter - Features

Using What We Learn To Develop More Free Online Fiber U Courses

Last month, we ran an article about "What We Learn From FOA Certification Tests" that showed the questions that CFOT candidates missed most on the certification exam were about testing. The three largest categories included OTDRs and information in the traces, the meaning of dB and dBm, loss budgets and insertion loss testing. Last was the units of measurement we use in fiber optics.

FOA is working its way down that list to create new free Fiber U MiniCourses on those very topics. We've already done dB/dBm and loss budgets, just created a new one on Reading OTDR Traces. Insertion loss and units of measurements come next.

If you have ideas for more free Fiber U courses, send us an email and let us know.

Two More New Free Fiber U MiniCourses

Reading OTDR Traces And Midspan Access

FOA has created two more free Fiber U MiniCourses this month.

Reading OTDR Traces
The second course this month covers one of the topics most missed on CFOT certification exams - Reading OTDR Traces. It's all about what elements are displayed in an OTDR trace and what they represent. It's a very different format from other Fiber U courses. OTDR traces are visual, so it's a visual course where you learn by "pointing and clicking" on a simulated OTDR trace, like this:
OTDR Trace
Midspan Access
As promised last month in our tech article on midspan access, we took the new material created about Midspan Access in fiber optic cable installation and made that into a minicourse. This technique is fairly widely used because it saves much time and cost in adding drops to a fiber optic cable, but we've been surprised how many techs are not familiar with it. The MiniCourse takes only a little time, about right for a coffee break.

midspan access

That makes 10 Fiber U MiniCourses, 5 Basics courses, 4 Skills courses, 1 Design course and 6 Applications courses - 26 free online self-study courses for everyone. And we have lots more planned for the near future.

Here is a list of current Fiber U MiniCourses:

All Fiber U courses are free but there is a nominal charge for the tests for a Certificate of Completion to cover the cost of the online testing site we use. Most online courses cost hundreds or thousands of $US, so we are sometimes asked how FOA can offer free courses. The answer is we have very low course development costs since we use the FOA Guide's pages (almost 1,000 of them) and Videos (over 100 on YouTube) and the courses are completely self-study - no instructor to guide you and provide feedback on your work. (And we do not track you.)

The Fiber U course method has been around for over two decades and used by tens of thousands of people  to learn more about aspects of fiber optics or prepare for their FOA certification exams. Since the reference material for Fiber U is the same as used for training for FOA certifications and for the certification exams themselves, Fiber U courses are the ideal study guide for FOA certifications.

Recruiting Young Workers - You Can Help!

Our friend Patrick McLaughlin, editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance magazine has an interesting editorial in the December issue of the magazine. The magazine has an annual survey of the workers in the information and communications technology business, what we generally call premises cabling as opposed to telecommunications or OSP cabling. In his editorial, he revealed some surprising statistics:

"More than half the professionals who completed our survey last year are over the age of 50. Looking again at our survey results, about 20% of respondents are 60 or older.  ...many may be looking forward to retirement soon. What I don’t want, though, is for their expertise to retire with them. I’ve written in this space about the importance of recruiting a new generation of professionals to our trade. Pandemic notwithstanding, many construction trades face the same challenge—convincing young professionals that this profession provides a promising career path, and recruiting them into it."

Patrick, that is a very good point and something we at FOA have been concerned about also. The older practitioners of our trade have something immensely vital to the industry - wisdom. Wisdom was once defined to us as "knowledge tempered by experience, learned over time." For centuries, crafts have been transferred down generations by apprenticeships and mentoring, some through formal programs and some through informal relationships.

Most of us have learned by some training and lots of OJT, on-the-job-training. Our OJT mentors showed us how to do things and watched over us to ensure we could do it on our own. We also learned on our own, often learning from our mistakes how to do it right, but had someone to call on for advice.

Our industry's problem is not unique. All trades have similar problems, caused by the aging of the workforce that joined the trades 20 to 40 years ago and the mistaken assumption of young people that they must have a college degree. All you have to do is read articles how the young people who believed them are now saddled with college debt they may never be able to pay off and realize they need training in a trade to get meaningful employment - just read the next article!

What can we do? We can all be recruiters to the young people we know, encouraging them to join our industry where you can learn a trade while you get paid! Invite them to come to FOA's Fiber U website and sample all the free online courses available, starting with the ones that introduce you to fiber optics like "Fiber Optics In Communications" and our YouTube Video "Careers in Fiber Optics."

And please don't forget that fiber optics is a great opportunity to both sexes. While female fiber techs are only a small percentage of the workforce, they are some of our most skillful workers and some of our best instructors.

If you know any guidance counselors, make sure they know our story too. And FOA has programs that are aimed at high school and technical college levels where students can learn fiber optics and premises cabling (remember FOA has a premises cabling certification that includes copper and fiber cabling and wireless) and may qualify for certification by taking the course or by joining the workforce and gaining experience that is acceptable for certification.

If you are a contractor interested in recruiting and training you people through OJT, FOA can help with a  program we are developing. Contact us for more information.

And, thank you Patrick for the nice mention in your
editorial in the December issue of CI&M magazine.

"Thankfully, efforts are underway on many fronts, from many individuals, to do just this. By naming just a few I know I’ll miss many, but I want to take this opportunity to give kudos to people like .... Jim Hayes and everyone at The Fiber Optic Association..... They all do praiseworthy work for the industry by educating a new generation of ICT professional.

More people with bachelor’s degrees go back to school to learn skilled trades

From Washington Post,  November 20, 2020

A lot of other people also have invested time and money getting four-year degrees only to return for career and technical education in fields ranging from firefighting to automation to nursing, in which jobs are relatively plentiful and salaries and benefits comparatively good, but which require faster and far less costly certificates and associate degrees.

One in 12 students now at community colleges — or more than 940,000 — previously earned a bachelor’s degree, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. And even as college and university enrollment overall declines, some career and technical education programs are reporting growth — and anticipating more of it.

In some cases, bachelor’s degree holders are obtaining supplementary skills — computer science majors adding certificates in cloud technology, for example.

But the trend is also exposing how many high school graduates almost reflexively go to college without entirely knowing why, pushed by parents and counselors, only to be disappointed with the way things turn out — and then having to start over.

FOA has run several other articles like this in the last year including the February issue where we reported about  an article in Fortune Magazine in January 2020 by Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase Bank. "In the next decade, companies will stop relying on the outdated notion that you need a four-year degree to be qualified for a decent job"

The Value Of Certification

FOA is defined as a "certifying body." an organization that is industry-focused to offer certification that attests to an individual's KSAs, knowledge, skills and abilities. As we detailed in our July Newsletter the FOA history, the FOA was founded by industry leaders and trainers in 1995 to "promote professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards." To date, we have certified over 82,234 individuals, most of whom started with our CFOT(tm) Certified Fiber Optic Technician certification. Also, these individuals hold over 110,000 certifications including FOA specialist certifications.

Certifications are mainly used by individuals to show they have reached a level of competence in a field. by employers to evaluate current and prospective employees and customers to evaluate the competence of a potential contractor.


There is a new publication, Understanding Certifications, written by George Washington University, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and WorkCred that thoroughly documents the value of certifications for all three - workers, employers and everybody.

Here are some highlights from this extensive report.

Certifications are credentials awarded by certification bodies—typically nonprofit organizations, professional associations, industry/trade organizations, or businesses—based on an individual demonstrating, through an examination process, that she or he has acquired the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a specific occupation or job.

Certifications can offer short-term pathways to employment. Many certifications can be earned in less time than a degree, making them a relatively “fast” credential to earn and a valuable option for working adults and low-income populations.

Certifications are tuned to rapidly changing labor market needs. Because many certifications use regularly updated competency standards based on job analyses, they are able to stay current in a highly dynamic labor market.

Those who earn certifications and licenses fare better in the labor market. Two recent studies by Gallup and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) find that someone who holds a certification and/or a license is more likely to be employed, earn more, and believe they have a good job or career compared with someone who does not—at every educational level.  BLS research concludes that a certification or license carries as much as a 33 percent wage premium over a high school diploma alone.

Certifications offer employers a tool for skills-based hiring. At a time when employers will have many choices of job candidates, use of quality certifications with transparent competencies as a way of identifying qualified applicants can provide a means for increasing the pool of qualified applicants and ensuring a good fit between job candidates and available positions, as opposed to relying solely on degrees.

Monthly earnings of individuals with a professional certification or a license were, on average, $1,057 more than those with neither type of credential, equivalent to a 6.2 percent earnings premium associated specifically with certification

Quality certifications must be well designed, reflect actual competencies, and let employers and educational institutions know the holder has a particular, valued set of skills that can be rewarded with educational credit, employment, and/or increased earnings.

Ideally, the competencies and standards used for assessment should be based on an on-going, systematic job or practice analysis for the occupation. This ensures that the competencies assessed by the certification and recertification examinations are updated in a timely basis and reflect current practice, which ultimately strengthens the relevance of the certification.

Many of the certifications listing eligibility requirements have multiple pathways to attain the requirements, which typically include different combinations of educational attainment, work experience, and/or another certification. (FOA: training at an approved school or Work-To-Cert)

Individuals considering certifications need clear and easily accessible information about certification requirements, processes, and outcomes. This transparency will also increase the likelihood that a certification will be trusted by employers, a quality which is critical for individuals looking to improve their economic status.

Many certification bodies offer support for individuals pursuing their certifications, which can take the form of online access to reference manuals and/or practice tests. In some cases, certification bodies approve related training provided by other organizations. In addition, certification bodies may form partnerships with educational institutions or other organizations to provide training content, study materials, equipment, and other resources for stand- alone classes as well as classes that are a part of programs of study and articulated career pathways. (FOA's Fiber U and online Reference Guide.)

Download a copy of 
Understanding Certifications

For Colleges and Universities Interested In Certifications

A new framework to support the development and scaling of certification-degree pathways has been published  by Workcred – an affiliate of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) – in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA). This collaborative, nationwide initiative that culminated in the development of the framework was made possible by a grant from Lumina Foundation.

The framework identifies examples, opportunities, benefits, and challenges associated with integrating industry certifications into bachelor’s degrees. The framework can be used by certification bodies and universities to test different strategies and practices to better align certification and degree programs.

Guidance to Universities and Certification Bodies to Explore Certification-Degree Pathways

FOA Newsletter Sections

News     Technical    Worth Reading    Q&A    Training/FiberU    Resoures    Safety   About


Will 2021 Be A Year Of Shortages?

Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting believes that 2021 may be a year of shortages. He sees the industry as being very busy right now and expects 2021 to be much busier. As a result, he sees shortages developing in construction crews, engineers, components, permitting, funding and  more.


" All of these potential resource shortages portend problems for anybody building fiber. It’s hard to imagine a fiber project of any size that isn’t going to hit by at least a few of these delays. I’m sure I’ll hear of a few cases where these delays will be crippling. I think anybody planning to build fiber needs to anticipate delays and build them into their schedule because delays cost time, and time costs money."

Read Doug Dawson's Blog here.

US FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) made awards of >$9BUS to ISPs to deliver Internet. There was jubilation and consternation. Reading these show what we mean:

FCC announces billions of dollars in awards to provide rural areas with broadband access - Washington Post Includes Space X satellites for rural broadband

Listing of RDOF's $9B Recipients - Liight Reading

RDOF Auction Ends but Confusion and Corruption May Just Be Beginning - ILSR

Statistics on US Labor In Telecom

Eric Pearson sent us some links to US Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the US Workforce. Granted it was updated in May 2019, but has lots of useful and interesting information on where the work is and what workers are paid.


Read the reports here:

Telecommunications Line Installers and Repairers   (Install and repair telecommunications cable, including fiber optics.

Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers  (Install,
set up, rearrange, or remove switching, distribution, routing, and dialing equipment used in central offices or headends. Service or repair telephone, cable television, Internet, and other communications equipment on customers’ property. May install communications equipment or communications wiring in buildings.


Brussels - 20 November 2020 -- The Flemish Department of Education and Training has become the second European government ministry (after Poland ) to recognise the value of integrating video games into the classroom, by commissioning the Game.Learn.Grow toolbox, developed by Arteveldehogeschool and Mediawijs.

The toolbox serves as a practical guide for both elementary and high school teachers with over 30 ready-to-use activities for different age groups, including exploring ancient Greece in “Assassin’s Creed”, rebuilding their school in “Minecraft”, lesson sheets and tools for teachers to create their own video-game-based activities.

Spokesman for the Flemish/Belgian video game sector David Verbruggen said:  “We’re delighted with the Game.Learn.Grow toolbox and want to thank the Flemish Department of Education and Training, Arteveldehogeschool, and Mediawijs for making this possible. Here’s hoping the tools lead to an ever-expanding database of quality, game-driven content that prove that games in the classroom are here to stay.”

ISFE CEO Simon Little said:  “It is extremely exciting to see another European government recognise the value of video games to education in this way. We know from our Games in Schools project  that video games have an exciting role to play in the classroom, inspiring an interest in STEM, equipping students with digital skills, increasing student engagement and learning outcomes, developing team-building, problem-solving and mental agility.”

ISFE’s  Games in Schools teachers’ handbook has now been added to Klascement, the official teachers’ platform in Flanders.

The Flemish Government has also just announced a €100,000 fund to support the Flemish video games sector during the pandemic.  Whilst the sales of video games already on the market skyrocketed during lockdown – used by players for education, fitness, entertainment and to stay connected with friends and family - companies with games still in development have been impacted by remote working, employee sickness and much-delayed launches.  Flemish Media Minister Benjamin Dalle referred to the thriving and innovative games sector in Flanders and the importance of investing in its video games companies.

This is something FOA is looking at for online and remote training. The new interactive Fiber U Course
Reading OTDR Traces uses rudimentary interactive game techniques and we believe more can be done in this field.

Poor Net speeds contributing to UK ‘digital divide’

Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) has released the results of its latest major study into real-life consumer experiences of home Internet connections, which uncovers evidence of a stark ‘digital divide’ in the UK.

As more people come to rely on video for working and communicating with family, friends and colleagues, nearly a third (30 per cent) are suffering from inadequate throughputs – download speeds lower than 2 Mbps or upload speeds lower than 1 Mbps. Furthermore, according to Ofcom, speeds higher than 10 Mbps for download and 1 Mbps for upload is considered a “decent” broadband service; using this criterion only 64 per cent of homes have “decent” service.

The extensive study involved GWS testing the speeds of home Internet connections in over 2,000 households along with conducting in-depth consumer research into how home Internet performance has impacted people over the course of the pandemic. The study primarily involves ISPs, as almost all (89 per cent) of the homes tested and surveyed use their home broadband network to connect to the Internet, as opposed to their mobile network.

The findings from the study suggest that there is a noticeable ‘digital divide’ in the UK, with inequalities of home Internet performance impeding some consumers’ abilities to work and stay ‘connected’ during the ongoing pandemic and lockdown periods. When connected to their home Internet, 62 per cent of all respondents reported experiencing a range of issues from being unable to load websites, stream videos or connect to video conferences. As a result of these problems, over half (52 per cent) of the respondents claimed they felt isolated at some point during the first national lockdown.

As the country’s reliance on video conferencing has grown, people are most likely to worry about network performance on video or voice calls, as 34 per cent have had problems with video calling and conferencing over the last few months. But the data shows that video calling is here to stay, as the majority of the people in the UK (65 per cent) intend to continue using video calling platforms after the technology’s prolific rise this year.

Advanced Television 

Cost Of Utility Damages From Excavation in 2019 Around $30 billion

A recently published report estimates the total cost of utility damages from excavation in 2019 to around $30 billion. Billion.  The DIRT report, published by the Common Ground Alliance, estimates around 532,000 excavation damages occurred in the U.S. in 2019, and increase of 4.5% from 2018.
The report determined failure to notify the one-call center as the single largest individual root cause, contributing to 29% of damages. Excavating issues made up 29% of damage root causes, locating issues were responsible for 28% of damages, and the invalid use of locate requests drove 14% of damages in 2019.

Read more.

Recycling Fiber Optic Cable - Contact:
Steve Maginnis
LD4Recycle/ CommuniCom Recycling
(Visit website)


On fiber optic technology, standards, equipment, installation, etc.

The FOA Update Page covers all the new technology and applications we covered in this newsletter recently. Now you can review all that new tech at once.

FOA Guide

Want to know more about fiber optics? Study for FOA certifications? Free Self-Study Programs are on "Fiber U®." Looking for specific information? Here's the largest technical reference on the web: The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

Fiber Optic Sources For Transmitters

FOA has added a new page to its online reference Guide on laser and LED sources for fiber optic transmitters. The types of sources used in fiber optic transmitters are determined by a number of factors including the speed of transmission and the distance needed over the link. It's also tied to the types of fiber being used, affecting coupling to the fiber and the preferred wavelengths of transmission. This page in the FOA Guide covers the types of sources and their characteristics that make them appropriate for each application.

Sources For Fiber Optic Transmitters - LEDs And Lasers  

Standards Make Us Crazy

FOA monitors standards activity worldwide and attends many TIA standards meetings (now virtual) to keep up with the committees' shenanigans (for non-US peoples, that word means (according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary)  a devious trick used especially for an underhand purpose, tricky or questionable practices or conduct —usually used in plural, or high-spirited or mischievous activity —usually used in plural.) Your editor (JH) has been involved with US fiber optic standards since 1983, so we understand the history, processes and, yes, shenanigans.

We've written extensively in this newsletter about the games played with dB, changing the definition so it would be a positive number on an OLTS or OTDR display, ignoring that this change means that gain becomes a negative number, going against more than a century's conventions in technical measurements of sound, voltage,
RF power (wireless), etc.

An email from TIA this month included a meeting report from the last meetings that had this in its summary of meeting business from the committee that covers terms and definitions:

TR425-2020-10-14 was reviewed resulting in the following definitions being accepted without opposition.
  • hybrid cable: cable that contains both optical fiber and current carrying members.
  • composite cable: A cable with two or more cable units, of the same or different media.

In standards, the distinction between hybrid and composite cables has flipped several times in the history of fiber optics and differed among standards bodies.
A hybrid cable originally meant a cable with two types of fibers, usually MM and SM, or a hybrid patchcord with, for example, a SC connector on one end and LC on the other end. In the beginning a composite cable was defined per the US National Electrical Code:

NEC Article 500.8(F) “Optical fiber cable contains conductors that are capable of carrying current (composite optical fiber cable)"

More recent standards like the ones from IECA (Insulated Cable Engineers Association) use the term hybrid for cables with fiber and conductors. Two examples: Hybrid Cables and  FTTA cables

The usually reliable
Merriam-Webster Dictionary is no help here, with several definitions for each word including:

  • Hybrid: having two different types of components performing essentially the same function
  • Composite: made up of distinct parts or elements

Essentially this is a moot argument - standards can, and often do, define things arbitrarily, like dB, and sometimes don't understand the confusion they cause. We bring this up because in the numerous pages of the FOA Guide, Fiber U and other sections of the FOA websites, we have generally stuck by the original definitions (composite has conductors, hybrid has two or more types of components) but note the different definitions used in some standards. We've been trying for years now to purge our quizzes, tests and exams of questions on these terms because of these inconsistencies.

Please inform us if you find where we've missed a mention of this issue in discussing types of cables.

Do any of you call a cable with SCs on one end and LCs on the other a "composite cable"???

Midspan Access - Simplifying Installation Of Drops

Technical questions we get here at FOA often remind us of things many of us take for granted that are not known by many installers and particularly network owners and users. Recently we received an email like this from a network owner working with a contractor on a 15mile (25km) cable plant with roughly 17 locations where cable drops were needed:

"Can the quantity of fiber optic fusion splices and splice enclosures please be confirmed? For 192F cable, there should be 194 splices per splice case at each site where a 4F drop cable is installed."

Neither the user nor his contractor knew about midspan access. We figured that probably meant that lots of other people don't know about it either, so we decided to cover it in this newsletter, add a page to the FOA Guide and maybe even make a Fiber U MiniCourse about it.

Here is an example:

Many installations involve dropping a small fiber count cable from a large backbone cable. Backbone cables of 144-288 fibers are common and larger ones are becoming more common too. Drop cables are often only 2-14 fibers, meaning most fibers are continuing straight through the drop point. Midspan access involves opening the cable by removing the jacket and strength members, opening the buffer tube and splicing only the fibers being dropped at that point. The untouched buffer tubes from the opened cable are carefully rolled up and stored in the same splice closure as the fibers that will be separated and spliced to a drop cable.

Midspan access

If there is a method of splicing only the 4 drop fibers instead of the 144 fibers, we will only have 4 splices instead of 144 or 146 depending on the architecture of our system. The difference is according to how the drop is configured.

midspan access
If you are building a star network where every drop links back to the origin of the network, you will splice 4 fibers in the cable to the drop cable, leaving 4 splices on 4 fibers (instead of 144 splices if the backbone cable is cut and respliced.

midspan access
If you are building a ring network, you may only be splicing two fibers going to the drop and two others that are continuing along the ring network.

All this may seem obvious but in actual practice requires some knowledge, skills and careful workmanship. To do a proper job. Fortunately, manufacturers of cables and tools have good information available online on how to do it, and FOA Master Instructor Joe Botha has provided FOA with a application note on how midspan access is done in his classes also.

The basic process is simple. We will look at a loose tube cable but processes exist for ribbon cables also. You remove the jacket of the cable for a specified length according to the cable type and splice closures used. After removing the cable jacket, you remove unnecessary strength members, leaving enough of the stiff central member on both ends to attach to the splice closure. Identify the tube with the fibers to be spliced to the drop cable and set aside while carefully coiling the other tubes for storage in the closure.

To open the buffer tube, you need a midspan access tube that shaves off a section of the tube to allow removal of the fibers without damaging them. Here two types of Miller tools that shave the tube:

midspan access tool  midspan access

After shaving the tube and removing the fibers - count carefully to ensure you remove all the fibers! - you can cut the tube off to have bare fibers only for the length you need to splice on the drop cable. All these fibers will be placed in a splice tray for safe storage but only the fibers being dropped will be cut and spliced to the drop cable. This is what the closure will look like, ready for splicing the drop cable.

midspan access

In the case of the particular user who contacted us, not every drop would use midspan access. His cable plant was 15miles (25km) long with roughly 17 locations where cable drops were needed. The cable he was using could only be made in 5km lengths, so there would have to be several locations where the cable would be spliced in the 25km run.

The design would need to carefully determine how much cable was needed along each section of the route, including lengths for service loops and midspan access or splicing, to determine which drop points would be using midspan access ans which would be used as splice points for the entire cable.

That's why fiber optic network design is important but sometimes complicated.

Search online for "midspan access" to find lots of application notes and videos on the subject. Or talk to your fiber optic cable vendors.

FOA Guide Page on Midspan Access

Try The FOA's New Online Loss Budget Calculator

FOA has written many articles about loss budgets, something everyone involved in fiber optics needs to know and needs to know how to calculate. We've created a online Loss Budget Calculator that does the work for you. Just input your cable plant data and it calculates the loss budget. It works on any device, especially smartphones and tablets for field use and even allows printing the results.

FOA Loss Budget Calculator

Bookmark this page (especially on your smartphone): FOA Loss Budget Calculator Online

Splice-On Connector Manufacturers and Tradenames   7/2020

FOA Master Instructor Eric Pearson of Pearson Technologies shared a list he has researched of prepolished splice connectors with mechanical splices and SOC - splice-on connectors for fusion splicing. This list shows how widepread the availability of these connectors has become, especially the SOCs and low cost fusion splicers.

Mechanical Splice
1.    Corning Unicam® (50, 62.5, SM)
1.    FIS Cheetah (???)
2.    Panduit OptiCam® (50, 62.5, SM)
3.    Commscope Quik II  (50, 62.5, SM)
4.    Cleerline SSF™ (50, SM)
5.    LeGrand/Ortronics Infinium® (50, 62.5, SM)
6.    3M/Corning CrimpLok (50, 62.5, SM)
7.    Leviton FastCam© (50, 62.5, SM)

Fusion Splice
2.    Inno (50, 62.5, SM)
3.    Corning FuseLite® (50, SM)
4.    FORC (50, 62.5, SM)
5.    Siemon OptiFuse ™ (SM, MM)
6.    Belden OptiMax?? FiberExpress (SM, MM)
7.    AFL FuseConnect® (SM, MM)
8.    OFS optics EZ!Fuse ™ (50, 62.5, SM)
9.    Sumitomo Lynx2 Custom Fit® (50, 62.5, SM)
10.    Commscope Quik-Fuse (50, SM)
11.    Ilsintech Pro, Swift® (50, 62.5, SM)
12.    LeGrand/Ortronics Infinium® (50, 62.5, SM)
13.    Greenlee (50, 62.5, SM)
14.    Hubbell Pro  (50, SM)
15.    Easysplicer (SM)

Note: There are additional manufacturers from the Peoples Republic of China, which advertise on Amazon and eBay.

Worth Reading

Each month we read hundreds of newsletters and online articles. These are the ones we think you will find "worth reading."

Worth Reading:12/2020

Dilbert's Company Rolls Out 5G - DON"T MISS THIS!

Passive Optical LAN shines in Cost Comparison - Lightwave

US FCCs Rural Digital Opportunity Fund made awards of >$9BUS to ISPs to deliver Internet. There was jubilation and consternation. Reading these show what we mean:

Case Studies - Next Century Cities - state of broadband in some US cities.

Fiber Resource Shortages - Doug Dawson, President of CCG Consulting sees shortages of labor and components in 2021

Terminating an eposy/polish ST connector - Linden Photonics shows how to make a reliable termination (excellent visuals show how it's done)

AFL Splice Closure For High Density Cables - up to 3456 fibers (video)

Can one of the architects of AT&T’s woes turn it around?  

Uncool can beat flashy tech - NY Times. Balloon Internet project by Google's parent Alphabet hits snags, remote areas wonder why it's needed - they have Internet on old-tech mobile phones

Power Delivery over Single-Pair Ethernet - TIA Webinar recorded earlier.

Biden, top Democrats lay groundwork for multibillion-dollar push to boost U.S. broadband  

Residents Form Broadband Coop -
“Electric cooperatives worked, why can’t we do the same thing for broadband?”


Saving Lives through Education. Online, worldwide April 6-8, 2021. The Excavation Safety Conference VIRTUAL brings critical damage prevention education to help all stakeholder groups online, providing new opportunities to network with industry peers, learn safe practices, and lower costs associated with underground damages. Register now at

Worth Reading: 11/20

The pandemic makes clear it’s time to treat the internet as a utility - David Lazarus, Business, LA Times

Another company (SpaceMobile) wants to load space with low earth satellites - Light Reading

Chicago And Denver Voters Say Yes to Expanded Broadband Options - ILSR

10 Tips For Installing Fiber Optic Cable - Multilink

Why the 5G pushiness? Because $$$. Shira Ovide, NYTimes

1995-2020 - FOA's 25th Anniversary!

As part of celebrating 25 years of serving the fiber optic industry as its primary source of technical information and independent certifying body, FOA thought it appropriate to create a short history of the organization and how it has developed  to help the fiber optic industry. We also wanted to recognize the contributions many people have made to the organization over the years that made FOA what it is today.

The FOA history is now archived on the FOA website where you can read it anytime or link to it.
Updated info - dB, total internal reflection and science projects,

Worth Reading - News Summary - Past Links Worth Repeating

If you are interested in restoration - aren't we all? - you should also read this article in dpPro magazine by FOA President Jim Hayes: Damage Protection Requies Looking Overheas As Well As Underground - dpPRO Magazine - about the problems with aerial cables. His previous article for the magazine was New Techniques for Fiber Optic Installation.

How much fiber optic cable is manufactured each year? CRU Reports - unsurprisingly China is by far the largest market today

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance weekly newsletter has lots of interesting articles and links.

The Open Technology Institute at New America just published “The Cost of Connectivity 2020,”

US Ignite and Altman Solon issued “Broadband Models for Unserved and Underserved Communities

Universal access to broadband is a cornerstone to a strong economy, Achieving universal access will require community partnerships. by
Alfreda B. Norman, Sr. VP,  Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

FIBER TO THE FARM: The co-ops that electrified Depression-era farms are now building rural internet. Be sure to check out the high-tech equine installation equipment.

Next Century Cities Newsletter - News from cities around the US including Detroit and New York plus small

Infrastructure Get Some Respect, NY TImes "On Tech"   "The magic of the internet requires a lot of very boring stuff behind the scenes. "

Pentagon official: FCC decision on 5G threatens GPS, national security

Internet Statistics and Facts, 2020: Interesting, easy to get lost here!

DIRT Report On Damage To Utilities Common Ground Alliance (CGA) annual DIRT report provides a summary and analysis of the events submitted into CGA’s Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) for the year 2018. The complete report is available for download here. In addition, there is an interactive dashboard that allows users to filter the data more  by factors contributing to damages.

Structured Cabling News - a website and weekly newsletter about cabling.

The Internet Master Plan for New York City. The New York City Internet Master Plan is a comprehensive framework for the infrastructure and services that provide connectivity to New York City residents and businesses. This Master Plan will guide City actions and public-private partnerships to transform New Yorkers’ access to this essential infrastructure for generations to come.

Fiber Trivia From Corning.

Why understanding PoE now is crucial for electricians - To ring in the new decade, IDEAL Networks is urging today's electricians to master new skills and equipment to cope with the growing use of PoE in intelligent lighting applications.

Smart City Projects: Smart city initiatives are underway across the country. But they face funding and technology challenges. Many cities want to upgrade infrastructure to improve resident experience, safety and to generate revenue.

The Future Of Work Is Skills - So Stop Worrying About Degrees - The reality is the future of work is about skills, not just degrees. (FOA Newsletter Feb 2020)

Want a White-Collar Career Without College Debt? Become an Apprentice (NYTimes)
Apprenticeships probably began with the first jobs, where young people work under experienced craftspeople to learn a trade. In the last century, they became more organized under labor unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, one of the FOA's oldest and biggest approved school systems. Today, apprenticeships are expanding as young people look at viable alternatives to loading themselves with debt while attending college.

The job market is hot. So why are half of U.S. grads missing out?  

VIAVI Books On Fiber Optic Testing (2 volumes) - They're back!

books  book 2

Besides the FOA reference materials, two JDSU/VIAVI textbooks, Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Testing, Volumes 1 and 2,  were used as references for some of the FOA courses and are recommended for instructors and students. The books are available from VIAVI as eBooks and the everyone should download them and recommend them to others.Download yours now. Volume 1. Volume 2. Viavi Books

Guidebook To MPO Testing
OptoTest offers this complete guide to MTP®/MPO testing. In this guide, you will learn all there is to know about the different test methods, equipment options, troubleshooting, and best maintenance practices to ensure that you have the best testing experience. Go here to download the book.

50th Anniversary of The Development of Low Loss Fibers
A history of the development of low loss fiber, a fascinating story by Jeff Hecht on the OSA (Optical Society of America) website.

How OFS Makes Fiber

Interesting YouTube video on how fiber is made. Perhaps a little too much "show biz" but fascinating. If you have ever seen fiber manufacture, look at this video. You will be amazed at how big preforms have become!

How Nexans Makes Copper Cables - compare the process to fiber - don't most of the machines look similar?

The True Cost of Telco Damages (what backhoe fade or target practice can cost)

Rural Electric Cooperatives: Pole Attachment Policies and Issues, June 2019.

Clearfield-FOA Certification Training Clearfield is now offering their customers an FOA CERTIFICATION course. This course provides a basic understanding of fiber optic technology, as well as Clearfield product knowledge and how Clearfield’s integrated product systems work together in a fiber network.

Substandard Contractors - Fiber Optic Knowledge Doesn't Always Trickle Down  (EC Mag)

Another Source Of Articles On Fiber

FOA President and editor of this newsletter Jim Hayes has also been writing a column in Electrical Contractor Magazine for almost 20 years now. Electrical contractors do lots of fiber work and this column has covered some topics they are interested in including installation processes, network design, fiber applications and a lengthy series on dark fiber - what it is, how's its used and how it benefits the growth of communication. A recent web site redesign makes it easier to browse all these articles - just go to and you can see all of them.


Tech Questions/Comments From FOA Newsletter Readers Worth Repeating

The FOA Fiber FAQs Page (FAQs = frequently asked questions) gathers up questions readers have asked us (which first ran in this newsletter) and adds tech topics of general interest.

Good Question!

The FOA Fiber FAQs Page (FAQ s = frequently asked questions) gathers up questions readers have asked us and adds tech topics of general interest.

Questions From FOA Newsletter Readers

December 2020

Are FOA Videos and Web Up To Date?
Q: Are the videos on YouTube still relevant by today's standards are are they out of date?
A: Excellent question. We’ve discussed this within the FOA many times.
For example the live action videos on cable preparation, termination, mechanical and fusion splicing and testing are quite old by tech standards but the processes have not changed in two decades. Preparing loose tube, armored or tight buffer cables has not changed in over 20 years, nor has adhesive/polish connector termination. Prepolished/splice connector and SOC process are different and those processes have been updated. Testing processes are the same with the main difference being the automating of OTDR testing. Manufacturers have dumbed-down OTDRs so well that it seems few techs know how they work or how to read a trace, evidenced by the results of the FOA CFOT Certification exam where questions on OTDRs are the most often missed.
We just did a review of the copper installation for the Premises cabling (CPCT Certification) and that has not really changed in three decades - since the introduction of Cat 5 cable!
We review and update the technical pages in the FOA Guide all the time. Look at the Table of Contents (FOA Guide-  and see how many pages have the NEW symbol, indicating updates in the last couple of months.
Also FOA is adding YouTube videos ( ) and Fiber U MiniCourses ( on many topics regularly - monthly this year, covering new tech and the topics we know are lesser-known or new to most techs.
And let us know if there are topics you think we should focus on in the future.

Microscope Power For Connector Inspection
What power microscope do you recommend to inspect singlemode/multimode in 1.25/2.5 format (ST, SC, LC)?
Microscopes in the range of 100-400 power are available. Many people assume higher power is best - and it is for examining polishing results in the center of the ferrule - but lower power helps inspect more of the ferrule for dirt when used in the field before connecting or testing cables. We prefer the lower power.
So for patchcord manufacturers, 400, field techs 100. Patchcord manufacturers will undoubtedly use video microscopes, most field tech the optical ones.

November 2020

Loss For APC vs UPC Connectors
Q: I was wondering if there will be a standard connector loss for a UPC connector and a different lower value for an APC connector.. ex. upc has 0.5dB while APC is 0.3dB.
I would like to make all connectors uniform on a new network infra to avoid mismatch and causing any possible damage on the equipment when APC will be plugged into to a flat.
A: There is really no statistical difference between APC and UPC connector loss. The lower reflectance of the APC actually reduces loss since the reflectance represents a factor in connection loss, This issue of connector grades has been discussed at international standards committees for years. ISO/IEC wants to have grades of connectors, rated for connector loss in ranges from 0.1 to 1dB, but I do not think it’s standardized. I recommend using 0.3-0.5dB for loss budgets, where in OSP networks it matters little, since there are only a few connections and fiber and splice loss is a larger factor.
Keeping UPC and APC connectors straight is easy - APCs are Green, UPCs are blue. Everybody just needs to be taught that!

OTDRs - Launch Cables And Range
Q: I have a question about OTDR launch cables.  In all readings about OTDR testing, it states that the launch cable "needs to be of sufficient length ...".  What length is sufficient?  How long should a launch cable be?  What is the maximum length of cable plant that can be tested at one time?
A: OTDR launch cables need to be long enough to allow the OTDR to settle down after the test pulse leaves the instrument and reflectance at the output connector overloads the receiver. The dead zone is a function of the OTDR test pulse and the condition of the output connector. If you are testing short cables (<1km) with very short test pulses, a launch cable can be 20-50m long. If you are testing a very long cable with very wide pulses (some OTDRs have pulses ~4microseconds long, equivalent to ~1km) you would need a 2-5km launch cable. So the answer to that question is it depends on how long the fibers are you are testing.
As to how far a OTDR can reach, the answer is generally not specified in km but in dB. The best OTDRs have a reach of ~40dB at 1550nm which corresponds to ~150-200km, spending on how good the splices are. That length of fiber would have ~30 splices for say 3dB splice loss.
Here’s the FOA Guide page on OTDR testing and the FAQs page Frequently Asked Questions about OTDRs

October 2020
Last month's article about the installation of a 6912 fiber cable in small conduit prompted a number of this month's questions on social media. And there were more too.

Installation of a 6912 fiber cable

For this post, "Tight Fit: 6912 Fiber Cable Pulled in 1.25 inch Conduit”, he asks if they can see one end completely terminated?
A: It takes about 2 full racks of patch panels or one rack of splice trays. Sumitomo shows the splicing rack here Most systems using these cables will buy fully populated patch panel racks with a splice rack for the cable to splice to 6912 fibers terminated in the rack.

Q: And a second question:: How long does it take to terminate? And over how many panels?
A: A very experienced tech can splice one of these cables in ~75-100 hours using ribbon splicing.

Q: I assume that's smaller fiber like 80 micron cladding
A: All the fibers in the high fiber count cables are made with regular singlemode fiber - 9/125micron. TO make the cables smaller, the buffer coating diameter is reduced to ~200microns to make the fibers smaller.

Q: How was it prepared with the splice tray and ODF? It might require a dedicated panel and splice tray.
A: It takes about 2 full racks of patch panels or one rack of splice trays. Most systems using these cables will buy fully populated patch panel racks with a splice rack for the cable to splice to 6912 fibers terminated in the rack.

Q: Is this an actual photo or was the cable installed in a different type conduit.
A: We were told that is the actual size of the cable and conduit although not of the actual installation discussed.

Q: What is the minimum bend radius of that cable? What procedures did they use to maintain that bend radius through those 90 degree curves?
A: The minimum bend radius is 15X the cable diameter for that cable (diameter 1.14” or 29mm), about  17” or 435mm. The conduit bends had to be controlled to be larger than that radius.

Jobs In The Movie Industry
Does anyone know if there are job positions in the film industry that involve fiber optics? I started out working in film with audio work with some camera as well. I eventually transitioned into fiber optics installation and testing. I've been trying to find out if there's a way to find work that combines the two.
A: There are certainly jobs for fiber techs at the film studios. We worked with a group 20 years ago to find dark fiber in LA to connect studios to sound stages and other facilities. Every studio now has fiber connections everywhere, like this one at Paramount (below). I don’t know where to look for jobs, but I’d guess it would be through the unions - who represents the techs for the cameras, monitors, etc.?

Movie studio fiber

Preparing Cable For Splicing
Is there any standard on the preparation length of strip jacket upto the splice tray. Ideally its better to have a loop of buffer before getting into the tray if ever the closure has enough space for slack.. its also nice to put some hose to the buffer to add on protection. So far, i don't see any standard and can't support the remarks on what to follow. The practice was to take note on macrobend and have enough length of fiber to reach the machine.
A: There is a lot of variation in the size, shape and design of splice closures, so the length varies according to the closure and trays. For loose tube cable, the length of buffer tube from the entrance to the splice tray and the length of fiber needed in the tray are given in the directions for that splice tray. Similarly for ribbon cable, but the variations in ribbon cable designs often requires special handling and sleeving for the ribbons. Most manufacturers have specs available online.

Fusion Splice-On Connectors (SOCs) (From an FOA Instructor)
A question came up from one of our students regarding splice on connectors.  Is there a TIA or other standards body that addresses this issue? We are used to the 0.75 dB loss for a mated pair, however, when this mated pair has two fusion splices that terminate the connector, is there a recommendation? 
One could make the argument that it does not make any difference as the other alternative is splicing a pigtail for termination of a cable.  This pigtail splice is normally included in the link loss budget calculation.   So similarly, with a splice on connector it is the same as splicing on a pigtail.
A: There are no specific TIA or IEC specs that address these splice-on connectors or pigtails. If you used TIA numbers and included the splice and connector it would be 1.05dB - 0.75dB for the connection and 0.3dB for the splice, that’s mated to a factory adhesive/polish connector.   Or if it were two similar connectors, 1.35dB. 
Everybody, including the people in TIA standards groups, know those numbers are too high for most single ferrule connectors. They keep them at 0.75dB for prepolished/splice connectors (w/ mechanical splices) and array connectors (MPOs) which have somewhat unpredictable performance. Internationally, IEC has created grades of connectors from ~0.3 to over 1dB. The newer mechanical splice connector kits now use the Chinese copied cleavers which are super - at least the few we have tested - and the connectors are now much lower loss and consistent.
SOCs (fusion splice-on connectors) are spec’ed as the total termination and are generally just as good as the typical adhesive polish connector - 0.5dB is plenty of margin for a those mated to a factory adhesive/polish connector.
Spliced on pigtails are generally considered a termination and the splice is not broken out - like a long SOC. But I cannot guarantee everybody thinks that way. But a fusion splice is typically <0.1dB anyway.


Dig Once

The word on the "Dig Once" program is getting out - FOA is getting calls from cities asking us for information and advice. Here are some links:

The DoT page on the administration’s Executive Order:
From the Council of State governments:
From the city of San Francisco:
An article about Dakota County, MN:

And the one to download and hand out:
A “How To” Guide from The Global Connect Initiative:

Fiber Optic Cable Plant - The Finished Product 4/2020
In April, FOA received inquiries from several sources that all deal with the same subject - what is involved in the specification and acceptance of a cable plant at the end of a installation project. And what are reasonable specifications for a cable plant.

FOA has a lot of documentation on a project involving  designing and installing a cable plant in the FOA Online Guide and our Textbooks, but the acceptance process has usually been relegated to a few paragraphs. We decided to add a page on project "Deliverables" in the FOA Guide that covers this topic in more depth. This page looks at a project, goes into some depth on loss budgets and includes links to FOA tech documents to help you investigate further.

Correction: In the article, the original list of fiber specs for G.652 was wrong. It should be 0.4dB/km @ 1310nm.

Deliverables in the FOA Guide

Is There A Standard For Fiber Optic Installation?

Another question we get often is "Is there a standard for fiber optic installation." The answer is yes, but not from the usual standards groups you might expect. Over 20 years ago, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) asked FOA to help create a standard for installation. That standard, ANSI/NECA/FOA-301 has been updated three times already and is about ready for another update.

Unlike most of those groups who charge you a fortune for standards, FOA covers the cost so
ANSI/NECA/FOA-301 is available free from FOA.

NECA/FOA 301 Fiber Optic Installation Standard

Download your free copy of
ANSI/NECA/FOA-301 here (PDF)

Older questions are now available here.

/ FiberU

News and resources to help you learn more and stay updated.

Find a listing of all the FOA-Approved schools here.

Free online self-study programs on many fiber optics and cabling topics are available at Fiber U, FOA's online web-based training website.
Free online training at Fiber U

The FOA has >100 videos on videos

More New Fiber U MiniCourses

Got An Hour Or Less? Learn Something New About Fiber Optics.

FOA has introduced a new type of Fiber U course, the MiniCourse, a free online course you could take in a short time, perhaps as you ate lunch at your desk or took a coffee break. The topics of these courses should explain what they are about, and these are all very important topics to fiber optic techs.

Fiber Optics In Communications  

Fiber Optic Network Restoration 

Fiber Optic Connector Identification

The Mysterious dB of Fiber Optics

Fiber Optic Cable Bend Radius

Fiber Optic Link Loss And Power Budgets

Fiber Optic Connector Inspection And Cleaning

Fiber Optic Media Conversion  

Fiber Optic Cable Midspan Access  

Reading An OTDR Trace  

The courses have two components, video lectures and readings, that are complementary. As usual there is a self-test to allow you to check your comprehension. As with other Fiber U courses if you desire, you can take a short test for a Fiber U Certificate of Completion that costs
only $10.

All these free courses and many more are available at Fiber U.

New FOA Schools

Welcome Woodstock Job Corps, Woodstock, MD, School # 385

Welcome To A New International School


University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, FOA Approved School #772

What Fiber Techs Don't Know -

What We Learn From FOA Certification Tests

As FOA moves more testing over to our digital online testing system at ClassMarker, we have access to more data about our testing, including what questions and topics on the tests are answered incorrectly most often. Having this data gives us an opportunity to evaluate the questions and how they are stated, but more importantly it allow us to help our instructors teach the subjects and us to change our curriculum and online courses to emphasize these particular topics. These are some of the topics that we have noticed are answered incorrectly more often in FOA and Fiber U tests.

Most of the questions missed are on testing.

1. OTDRs - particularly what information is in the OTDR trace.

2. The difference between dB and dBm

3. Loss budgets - both the concepts and doing the math

4. Insertion loss testing - single-ended or double ended for testing patchcords or cable plants, how to set 0dB references

5. Units of measure - fiber is measured in microns, wavelengths in nanometers, etc.

At FOA, we're working to add Fiber U MiniCourses on these topics and working with our schools to emphasize these topics in their classes.

If you are going to be taking a FOA certification course or test in the near future, these topics should be on your final exam study list.

What We Learn From Hands On Labs
We learn about students performance in hands-on labs from the feedback of our instructors and our own experiences too. One big problem is the use of hand tools. Growing up today, you learn how to use keyboards, mouses and touch screens, but decades ago, you also learned how to use basic hand tools. This is big enough of a problem that we're considering adding some video lessons on basic hand tools to prepare students for cable prep, termination and splicing that require the use of hand tools.

FOA "Work-To-Cert" Program

Experience Plus Online Study At Fiber U = FOA Certification

This year, more techs have become comfortable with online conferences, webinars and training. Many have discovered that they can become FOA Certified using their experience in fiber optics and study for the FOA certification exams online at Fiber U. Thousands of industry professionals have applied to the FOA directly for certification without the need for classroom training, based on their knowledge and skills developed working the field. Since FOA certifications are based on KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities), current techs already show the skills and abilities required through their field experience. FOA provides free online self-study courses at Fiber U for the knowledge part to prepare you for FOA certification exams which you can also take online.

If you are an experienced field tech interested in certification, and FOA is the internationally recognized certifying body for fiber optics, you can find out more about the FOA "Work to Cert" program here.

If you are already a CFOT, FOA also offers many specialist certifications you can obtain based on your experience as a field tech. See what's available at
Fiber U.

Options For Training Classes  -  Outdoors (11/2020)

outdoor class

Tom Collins, Techtricians, FOA Director, keeps exploring new ideas for training. This time, the course moved outdoors in Daytona Beach, Florida. This solution works well as long as it's warm and dry!

New Approach To Fiber Optic Labs - Sharing Test Equipment (10/2020)

Tom Collins, Techtricians, FOA Director

, a FOA approved school, has taken a new approach in how we provide lab training. Fifteen years ago, we developed a hybrid training model had the participants complete online (remote) lessons with face to face labs. Over the past 12 years trade organizations, colleges, vocational, vendor training, and trade apprenticeships have adopted this model. At the beginning of the pandemic we spent a lot of time, energy, and money developing remote labs. We have incorporated lessons learned from that process to restart safe face to face labs.

First, we provide disposable materials and PPE’s for all learning. Every student has their own work space with 8-9 feet of separation and their own set of hand tools only used by the student. All of the classroom information is accessed online or with USB drives. Our biggest challenge was how to safely share testing equipment so every student could have the practical hands on experience.

We believe we have found that solution with the help of “ezremote”.  The ezremote allows a multitude of students to have practical exposure and experience with using a video microscope, OLTS and OTDR testers. Every student can access the remote via their own iPad or their smart phone, see below picture and movie.

Remote OTDR
The VeEX OTDR set up for remote access in class

Recently, we contacted PCS, Inc. which is a premiere manufacturer’s representative firm serving the Southeastern US since 1974.  Headquartered in Roswell, GA, Marc Wright  a sales representative spent a lot of time and energy helping Techtricians to purchase the VeEX  FX150+ device.  It is a full featured Mini OTDR with high resolution sampling and intelligent link mapping for Metro, Access and FTTx networks remote application. The compact, lightweight platform incorporates built in WiFi, power meter, light source, fiber inspection probe and VFL test options which add exceptional versatility to the unit.

OTDR display on iPad OTDR remote
The remote OTDR displayed on an iPad (L) and on 4 smartphones and 2 laptops

In September we completed our first trial in a face to face lab session in Lake Mary, Florida. The OTDR unit uses a WIFI connection. The students went to the VeEX website with their iPad or their smart phone and connected the to the base unit. The lab module used one OTDR setup for the entire class for testing the cable plant.

The instructor's laptop is connected to the OTDR and projecting the display for everyone to see

The students when logged-in had control over the OTDR. Each student saw the same screen which made the various events much easier to explain. The module is very safe as the OTDR is not touched by any student. The feedback we received from the students was very positive. They provided suggestions for future training modules. Even after the pandemic is over, we will continue to use this new training method. Our best teachers are our students and our hats are off to all of our students.

For more information, contact Tom or Donna Collins at Techtricians.

FOA School BDI Datalynk is offering classroom training with Covid precautions and  remote classes over most of the US.

FOA Master Instructor Eric Pearson of Pearson Technologiesis now offering classroom training with Covid precautions - 9/2020

Contact Eric for details on his classes.

Classroom Training Is Adapting To The Pandemic 8/2020

FOA Director and instructor Tom Collins sent photos of his recent IMSA/FOA CFOT class held in Florida. It shows how Tom dresses for the job and how his students are social distancing. More FOA classes are being held now using techniques like these.

TC class

Instructor Tom Collins perpared to teach in the classroom.

TC Class

Students with appropriate distancing.

Training Is Back - Made Safer (6/2020)

FOA schools are starting to offer classes at their facilities again to provide the personal interaction with an instructor and hands-on labs, but some things have changed to provide social distancing. Serge Rodrigue at Fibre Zone in Quebec, Canada sent photos of his new lab setup that includes individual lab stations with plexiglass barriers.

safe lab at Fibre Zone

Students are following safe working protocols - masks and gloves - to make classes safe and meet local government requirements for social distancing.


Fibre Zone in Quebec, Canada for more information on their classes.

FiberNext in New Hampshire has also rearranged classrooms for safer classes and has begun training in their facilities in Concord, NH.


Contact FiberNext in Concord, NH, USA
or more information on their classes. Also ask about joining their CFOT Club for savings on products and training.

DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Labs (6/20)

Knowledge is easy to get online, but learning skills requires "hands-on" practice and that requires tools and components to practice with. Here at FOA, we've been working on an online course that could help many techs learn new skills or improve others using an online self-study course and their own equipment. Recently, we have updated the materials in the Fiber U Fiber Optics Basic Skills Labs which includes cable preparation, splicing, termination and testing. And we have created a Basic Skills Labs - Copper Premises Cabling to cover UTP (Cat 5) and coax copper cable processes. As with all Fiber U courses, these are free.
Several times in the FOA Newsletter we've discussed the Fiber U Basic Skills Lab. This online DIY lab course assumes you have your own equipment to use for the labs, but most novices, unless they work for a larger company already in fiber optics, will not have equipment. FOA instructors have found a solution: purchase inexpensive equipment online. What they have found are many low cost tools and components that are perfectly suited to training.

If you do not have tools or equipment and want to purchase them, there is a new Fiber U DIY Basic Skills Lab lesson with directions on how to purchase inexpensive tools online and use them to learn basic fiber optic skills. Those tools and components are what we describe here.

For example, you need a fiber cleaver for splices and prepolished/splice connectors. A good cleave is essential for a good splice or termination with a splice-type connection. Good cleavers are now available online at prices in the US starting at $20US. 


Besides the cleaver, another really good tool for learning or teaching is a visual fault locator. These devices used to be very expensive, but now are available online for $10-20.

Many online sellers offer sets of fiber optic tools in a kit for very low cost.

With plenty of tools available online, the next things you need are components to practice on. No problem here either. You need a patchcord, some mechanical splices and some prepolished/splice connectors. The connectors and splices are available from online sellers for ~$1 each, easy to afford plenty to practice on.

FOA has used all these available parts together into a do-it-yourself hands-on lab as part of the Fiber U Basic Skills Lab. You can do this yourself at a very low cost. We even provide directions on how to search for suppliers of these tools and components.

FOA has not exhaustively tested these tools or components enough to recommend them for field use. The work we did with them to create teaching labs shows they are certainly good enough to use for teaching the installation processes in a training lab. We suggest read the buyers reviews and do some of your own testing before using them for anything other than training and practice.

FOA Guide "Basics Of Fiber Optics" Now Available Online in Portuguese (6/2020)

FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book

FOA has now translated the Basics of Fiber Optics textbook in our Online Guide into Portuguese, joining Spanish and French translations. For those speaking Portuguese, we have the technical information and for schools we also have curriculum available.

Here is the FOA Guide in Portuguese, Spanish and French translations.

Time To Learn - Online - (Update 4/5/6/8 2020)

Schools have generally been closed during the pandemic lock-downs, so FOA has been working with some of them to create new online learning experiences that can in some cases lead to certification online. FOA certifications are still based on the KSAs - knowledge from the classroom, skills from the labs and abilities judged by instructors or proven by actual experience.

Much of what we're doing benefits from the capabilities of "Zoom." Others have created videoconferencing apps, but none work so well, especially with limited bandwidth. We've seen remote labs that have an instructor showing students how to use the tools they were sent then watching them duplicate their actions. We have worked out methods to use Zoom to proctor FOA's online certification exams.

Blended Learning
While most FOA schools have suspended in-person training during this period, some are offering a "blended learning" option. That means that students sign up for a FOA certification course, take the classroom sessions on Fiber U with the assistance of a FOA certified instructor. Now online instruction can include reviewing the labs using the
Fiber U Basic Skills Labs, then when it's possible to attend classes at the school, complete the hands-on labs and take the FOA certification exam.

Online Remote Labs
Alternatively, some schools are experimenting with "remote labs," where the students get sent tool kits and components and labs are conducted by videoconferencing. Before the labs, the students may watch demos by their instructor on videoconferencing and/or review the relevant "virtual hands-on" lessons in the Fiber U
Fiber Optics Basic Skills Labs  so they will already know the steps in the exercises.
And Fiber U has the new Fiber U DIY Basic Skills Lab lesson with directions on how to purchase inexpensive tools online and use them to learn basic fiber optic skills. Videoconferencing allows the instructor to remotely monitor their work and provide help as needed. Contact the FOA for more information.

FOA Zoom Exam Proctoring

Online Certification Testing
FOA has all its certification tests available online, both for use by our schools and by our direct "Work to Cert" applicants. All FOA certification tests require a proctor to oversee the applicant taking the exam. In this time of social distancing, getting a proctor can be difficult, so FOA now has procedures for online proctors administering the exam.
Contact the FOA for more information.
OJT - On-The-Job-Training
Many novices get a job and learn on the job. They usually have an experienced tech who helps them gain the knowledge and  learn the skills they need to perform their job. Thinking about this in relation to the 
FOA KSAs, the knowledge, skills and abilities needed by a fiber optic tech,  the tech will learn skills but not the basic knowledge that helps them understand the processes involved. FOA can offer help here, using our Fiber U online self-study programs. While the tech learns on the job, they become a Fiber U trainee, getting the knowledge they need, while working under their "mentor" at work. This is particularly good for contracting companies who need techs but do not have the usual training courses available. Interested in OJT programs? Contact FOA for more information.

Can You Learn Hands-On Skills Online?

basic skills lab

Knowledge is easy to learn online, but learning skills requires "hands-on" practice and that requires tools and components to practice with. Here at FOA, we've been working on an online course that could help many techs learn new skills or improve others using an online self-study course and their own equipment.
Recently, we have updated the materials in the Fiber U Fiber Optics Basic Skills Labs which includes cable preparation, splicing, termination and testing. And we have created a Basic Skills Labs - Copper Premises Cabling to cover UTP (Cat 5) and coax copper cable processes. As with all Fiber U courses, these are free.

FOA offers free online self-study programs at Fiber U. Many users are preparing for FOA certification programs - taking courses at our schools or using the "Work-to-Cert" program. Some of our schools are requiring Fiber U programs as prerequisites for their classroom courses so they can spend more time on hands-on activities.

New FOA Approved School: Central Electrical Training Center, FOA School #656.

Find a listing of all the FOA-Approved schools here.

FOA School Offers Toolkit With Online Training

Slayton tool kit

Slayton Solutions (FOA Approved School #156) is offering a simple fiber optic tool kit that includes a 29-piece set of fiber optic tools and a power meter along with training videos and online instruction for only $499. 29 Piece Kit includes all tools and devices a technician needs to install fiber optic connectors and test optical power.  Information on the kit is available on YouTube. You can contact them for more information at or

/ Resources

FOA Guide

More New FOA Video Lectures On YouTube

As part of developing the new Fiber U MiniCourses, we added several new YouTube videos:
Lecture 56 explains the issues of cable bend radius limitations, typical cable specifications and how to gage the proper radius or diameter when installing or storing cable. Lecture 57 covers problems with dirty connectors and how to inspect and clean them.

Videos added last month:

FOA Lecture 51 Fiber Optic Restoration Part 1 - Causes of Damage To The Network  
FOA Lecture 52 Fiber Optic Restoration Part 2 - Planning For Restoration 
FOA Lecture 53 Fiber Optic Restoration Part 3 - Troubleshooting And Repair
FOA Lecture 54 Fiber Optic Connector Identification - New and old
FOA Lecture 55 The Mysterious dB of Fiber Optics. - Understanding dB 
FOA Lecture 56 Fiber Optic Cable - Bend Radius -  Important for Installers to Understand
FOA Lecture 57 Fiber Optic Connector Inspection and Cleaning -  Most Connection Problems Are Caused By Dirty Connectors
FOA Lecture 58 Fiber Optic Media Conversion  - Copper To Fiber Made Easy

Lectures 51, 52 and 53 are about fiber optic network restoration, broken into 3 parts: what causes damage, how to plan for restoration and finally troubleshooting and repairing a network outage. Lecture 54 is a short history of the development of fiber optic connectors and a overview of the ones most used today. Lecture 55 will teach you about dB, it's origin, an explanation of the math behind it and why standards can make it confusing.  Lecture 56 explains fiber optic cable bend radius limits and reduces the confusion over radius and diameter. Lecture 57 is a quick tutorial on cleaning and inspecting connectors. Lecture 58 is about converting fiber to copper or multimode to singlemode fiber.

Like all our YouTube lectures, they are all short and easy to understand.

FOA Loss Budget Calculator On A Web Page 5/2020

FOA has written many articles about loss budgets, something everyone involved in fiber optics needs to know and needs to know how to calculate. We recently discovered how to get a spreadsheet ported to a Web page, so we created this web page that calculates loss budgets. We have an iOS loss budget app, but with this web page, you can calculate loss budgets from any device, smart phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer that has web browsing capability.

FOA Loss Budget Calculator 

Bookmark this page (especially on your smartphone): FOA Loss Budget Calculator Online

FOA Guide

We are continually updating the Online Reference Guide to keep up with changes in the industry and adding lots of new pages of technical information. When you go to the FOA Guide Table of Contents to see the latest updates - look for New.

Recent updates:

10GPON on PON Protocols in the FOA Guide.

Coherent Communications Systems in the FOA Guide.

Updated (and more illustrations): Basic Fiber Optic Jargon, OSP Fiber Optic Jargon and Fiber Optic Jargon for managers.

Fiber Optic Network Restoration
Fiber Characterization goes in to more depth, why fiber characterization is important and how to interpret results.

Fiber Optic Network Management for managers

FOA has created a section on OSP Construction and a Fiber U course based on it.

FOA Guide section on inspecting and cleaning connectors.

Go to  The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

FOA Reference Books

Available Printed or Kindle Books
The fiber book is available in Spanish and French (printed) and Portuguese (online). The design book is available in Spanish (online)

FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Premises Cablng book FOA Reference Guide to OSP Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book
FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Network Design book FOA Book on Fiber Optic Testing FOA Outside Plant Fiber Optics Construction Guide  Lennie Lightwave

FOA has reprinted "Lennie Lightwave's Guide" on its 25th anniversary in a special print edition.
Lennie and Uncle Ted's Guides are online or as free iBooks on iTunes.
Lennie Lightwave's Guide To Fiber Optics   Uncle Ted's Guide to Premises Cablling
Click on any of the books to learn more.

Fiber Optic Safety Poster to download and print

Resources For Teachers In K-12 And Technical Schools
Teachers in all grades can introduce their students to fiber optic technology with some simple demonstrations. FOA has created a page for STEM or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) teachers with materials appropriate to their classes. Fiber Optic Resources For Teachers.



On Safety

FOA considers safety an integral part of all our programs, curriculum materials and technical materials. We start all our textbooks and their online versions with a section on safety in the first chapter, like this: Before we get started - Safety First!
There are pages on the FOA Guide on Safety procedures Including Eye Safety  and.
Digging Safely 

And a YouTube lecture: FOA Lecture 2: Safety When Working With Fiber Optics
In our OSP Construction Section, these pages cover many safety issues including those related to the construction of the cable plant: Project Preparation And Guidelines, Underground Cable Construction, Underground Cable Installation and Aerial Cable Installation.
There is even a safety poster for the fiber activities: PDF Safety Rules For Fiber Optics
The FOA is concerned about safety!

There is a toll-free "call before you dig" number in the USA: Dial 811

See for more information

The Common Ground Alliance has an excellent "Best Practices Guide" online

The US Department of Transportation has a website called "National Pipeline Mapping System" that allows one to search for buried pipelines.   

Why We Warn You To Be Careful About Fiber Shards
fiber in finger
Photo courtesy  Brian Brandstetter,  Mississauga Training Consultantcy

Safety Leader Magazine

Safety Leader Magazine

Safety Leader, a new quarterly magazine, informs and educates electrical contractors on safety from various angles—electrical, workplace, PPE, regulations, leadership, line work, NFPA 70E, and more. Safety Leader is bundled with ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR in February, May, August and November. To receive Safety Leader subscribe to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine here or subscribe to the ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR newsletter here.

2021 Conference On Damage Prevention Goes Virtual

2021 Global Excavation Safety Conference VIRTUAL, taking place April 6-8, 2021
More information in an article in the dp-PRO announcing the Global Locate Masters:


The magazine, dp-Pro, sponsor of the conference, has also published it's latest issue with an article by FOA on "New Construction Techniques in Fiber Optics" and a overview of the FOA. You can read the magazine here.

Best Practices Guide For Underground Construction
Best Practices - CGA

We assume you are familiar with the "One Call" and "Call Before You Dig" (811) program, but are you also familiar "Click Before You" and with the people behind it - the Common Ground Alliance and their Best Practices website?

Officially formed in 2000, the CGA represents a continuation of the damage prevention efforts embodied by the Common Ground Study. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation and completed in 1999, this Study represents the collaborative work of 160 industry professionals who identified best practices relating to damage prevention. Any best practice or program endorsed by the CGA comes with consensus support from experts representing the following stakeholder groups: Excavators, Locators, Road Builders, Electric, Telecommunications, Oil, Gas Distribution, Gas Transmission, Railroad, One Call, Public Works, Equipment Manufacturing, State Regulators, Insurance, Emergency Services and Engineering/Design.

Read the CGA Best Practices Guide here.

Here are all the CGA resources for damage prevention.

The US Department of Transportation has a website called "National Pipeline Mapping System" that allows one to search for buried pipelines.   


About The FOA

Contact Us: or email <>

FOA on LinkedIn

FOA has a company page and four LinkedIn Groups

FOA - official company page on LinkedIn
FOA - covers FOA, technology and jobs in the fiber optic marketplace

FOA Fiber Optic Training - open to all, covers fiber optic technology and training topics

Grupo de La Asociación de Fibra Óptica FOA (Español)  

What is The FOA? 

The FOA is a, international non-profit educational association chartered to promote professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards. 

Founded in 1995 by a dozen prominent fiber optics trainers and  leaders from education, 
industry and government as a professional society for fiber optics and a source of independent certification, the FOA has grown to now being involved in numerous activities to educate the world about fiber optics and certify the workers who design, build and operate the world's fiber optic networks.

FOA is 25 years old this July - read about FOA's history in this newsletter above.

Learn More About FOA's History.

Contact Us
The Fiber Optic Association Inc. or email <>

The FOA Home Page

FOA Guide
Want to know more about fiber optics? Study for FOA certifications? Free Self-Study Programs are on "Fiber U®." Looking for specific information? Here's the largest technical reference on the web: The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

Free online self-study programs on many fiber optics and cabling topics are available at Fiber U, FOA's online web-based training website.


Contact Us
The Fiber Optic Association Inc. or email <>
Phone: 1-760-451-3655

The FOA Home Page
(C)1999-2020, The Fiber Optic Association, Inc.

 FOA Logo Merchandise

New FOA Swag! Shirts, Caps, Stickers, Cups, etc.
FOA T Shirt
The FOA has created a store on offering lots of new logo merchandise. It has lots of versions of shirts and other merchandise with "FOA," "Fiber U," "Lennie Lightwave" designs and more so you should find something just for you! See FOA on Zazzle.

Your Name, CFOT® - It pays to advertise!

The FOA encourages CFOTs to use the logo on their business cards, letterhead, truck or van, etc. and provides logo files for that purpose. But we are also asked about how to use the CFOT or CFOS certifications. Easy, you can refer to yourself as "Your Name, CFOT" or "Your Name, CFOS/T" for example.

Feel free to use the logo and designations to promote your achievements and professionalism!

Contact FOA at to get logos in file format for your use.

Privacy Policy (for the EU GDPR): The FOA does not use cookies or any other web tricks to gather information on visitors to our website, nor do we allow commercial advertising. Our website hosts may gather traffic statistics for the visitors to our website and our online testing service, ClassMarker, maintains statistics of test results. We do not release or misuse any information on any of our members except we will confirm FOA certifications and Fiber U certificates of completion when requested by appropriate persons such as employers or personnel services.
Read the complete FOA Privacy Policy here.