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April 2021

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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!


Project Management For Managers
FOA/Fiber U OJT-to-Cert Program
Second Opinion
100G Passes 10G Ports in Data Centers
Good Small Cell/Streetlight Design
Biden's Plan To Fix America's Internet
As Telecoms Spend Billions on Wireless, Where Does That Leave The Wired?

Newsletter Sections

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Is It April 1st Already?
OFC Goes Virtual

Technical  Taps For Rural FTTH? MM or SM FIber Continued, 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

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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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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

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FOA Newsletter - Features

Project Management and On-The-Job Training (OJT)

At FOA, We talk To Managers As Well As Techs  While it's the techs who are installing the fiber optic networks, it's those who manage the projects they are working on who are responsible for the project. They manage the design, contracting, construction and operation of networks, and, as many find out, it's important for them to understand fiber technology and processes well enough to plan and manage the project.

FO has been working on two online resources, one aimed at managers who are in charge of fiber optic projects and one aimed at managers and their new hires who need to learn fiber optics or premises cabling fast to get up to speed and become productive at installing cable plants.

Project Management For Managers

While this subject could take an entire book to cover or a long class, we did not do that. We thought about it but decided managers are very busy and what they want/need is a short overview of the issues of managing fiber optic projects with listings of available resources. We ended up with two pages for managers: Guide To Fiber Optic Projects and Fiber Optic Project Management (For Managers).


The FOA Guide To Fiber Optic Projects summarizes what's involved in a fiber optic project. Then it becomes a resource guide, with links to other pages in the FOA Guide that provide much more information on the details of a fiber optic project. A manager can read the page in a few minutes, familiarize themselves with the links to other pages in the FOA guide that can be used for future reference.

The page
Fiber Optic Project Management (For Managers) page discusses the role of the manager in a fiber optic project and makes recommendations on what the manager needs to know and focus on to make a project successful. Again, it's an overview but provides links to additional resources that can be used as needed.

We encourage managers to use these two pages as resources and give us feedback: What do you think is missing and how can we make it better?

FOA/Fiber U On-The-Job Training (OJT) Program

OJT is the well-known term for "on-the-job training." Workers learn on the job under the supervision of experienced co-workers. FOA has been asked many times how its resources like Fiber U can be used to help employers and their employee trainees involved in OJT. The interest in OJT has been so high, especially during the difficult year in 2020, that FOA has worked with employers and employees to formalize an OJT program and create training aids to help employers develop qualified techs using OJT.


The FOA Fiber U “OJT-To-Cert” program  includes both fiber optics and premises cabling (copper, fiber & wireless), so it covers techs working in both outside plant and premises jobs.

The FOA Fiber U OJT program combines online study at Fiber U with OJT with mentoring by experienced co-workers and their supervisor to help new employees develop into FOA-certified technicians in only one year.  Upon completion of this program, the trainee will be prepared to take the exam for the FOA CFOT (Certified Fiber Optic Technician) and/or CPCT (Certified Premises Cabling Technician), the most widely recognized fiber optic and premises cabling certifications in the industry.

Like other FOA programs, the OJT-To-Cert program is free. The FOA provides directions for use of the free Fiber U online training programs and we provide a log for the trainee to keep track of their progress. The only cost is the two fiber U certificates of completion and the FOA certification exam at the end of the program.

If you and/or your company is interested in the FOA OJT-To-Cert program, contact FOA.

Second Opinion

While researching a topic on home improvement (as many others have been doing during the pandemic), we came across a piece of good advice: Read a number of online articles and look for a consensus, because so many articles are perhaps more opinion than fact and often they are trying to sell you something. Likewise, if you have a serious illness that requires treatment, you want to get a "second opinion" and maybe a third.

This reminds us of some fiber optic projects that went awry because there was insufficient research into possible options for the project and/or those making recommendations were of questionable intent. Here are some examples:

Several FTTH projects have been designed around 10G GPON when regular GPON would be perfectly adequate. It's very hard to conceive of a situation when the 32 or fewer users of a GPON port would have inadequate bandwidth. Most ports serve about 15-25 users anyway since the service provider plans for future expansion of the number of subscribers. We've heard some of the reasoning behind 10G, often based on the lack of knowledge of how networks work. Networks share bandwidth among the users who are using it randomly - the network term is stochastic usage. If you have 1G available for 25 users, each doesn't get 40Mb/s, they all get 1Gb/s when they are downloading, which is actually not very often, so their average use is low, often only a few Mb/s. Streaming HD video from Netflix only needs ~4 Mb/s. 10G is for power users or big corporations, not FTTH. Better to analyze and invest in a Internet connection of sufficient capacity for the total number of subscribers.

Construction costs vary by the type of construction used, of course. Aerial is usually the cheapest option but it's not allowed in many cities, towns and suburbs. If cables must go underground, finding spare ducts or inserting  fabric or microdcuts to expand capacity saves construction costs.  Microtrenching and blowing in microcables is probably the next cheapest option.Yet we've seen proposals for regular trenching or directional boring that never mention looking for alternatives, nor do they mention the idea of "dig once" where you install fiber ducts whenever any construction is done. We've discusses some of these options with project managers and have found some do not know of nor understand some of these options.

If you are managing a new project, talk to a number of people from consultants, manufacturers and contractors. Consider sending out a RFP - Request for Porposal - to a number of potential consultants and contractors and get several opinions before committing to one path. Before you commit to a project, get a "second opinion."

100G Ports Surpass 10G Ports In Data Centers

Shipments of 100 gigabit Ethernet (GbE) data center switch ports increased more than 20% during 2020, according to a recent report from Crehan Research Inc. The 100G increase, combined with a continuing decline in 10G resulted in 100G surpassing 10G to become the most widely deployed data center Ethernet switch connection speed (see graph.)


Crehan’s data center Ethernet switch report further shows that this speed transition has occurred very rapidly, with 100G becoming a majority of shipments approximately just five years after initial deployments. The hyperscale cloud service provider customer segment has been a key driver of the transition, accounting for the majority of cumulative 100G data center switch shipments to date.

“The data center Ethernet switch market’s transition to 100GbE as the most popular network connection speed is a reflection of the strong customer adoption of public data center networking: statistics analysis insights
cloud services,” said Seamus Crehan, president of Crehan Research. “100GbE has been the de facto switch port speed in some of the largest hyperscale cloud service provider data center networks for over four years.”

"The robust 2020 growth for 100GbE shipments was impressive, given that two of the largest data center switch customers – Amazon and Google – have been ramping 400GbE deployments strongly," Crehan said.

Crehan Research Inc. produces reports with very detailed statistics and information on the data center switch and server-class adapter & LOM/controller markets.

Certifying Smart Buildings For Connectivity

Did you know that there is a group certifying smart buildings for conectivity? It's called "WiredScore." WiredScore was started in 2013 to evaluate and certify "smart" buildings for digital connectivity. WiredScore evaluates office buildings in terms of the robustness and security of the digital infrastructure, the quality of mobile/wireless connectivity, choice of providers and future readiness. Unfortunately their website is pretty but pretty uninformative, but we plan to try to find out more about them. WiredScore

Welcome New FOA Approved School 388:  Global Com of Sterling, Virginia, USA

Where Are The Industrial Designers? Update with Comments

If some companies like Labrynth can design nice small cell structures, why can't everybody? Instead we see these kinds of cell sites on poles everywhere.

small cells


Our photos got a response from Charles Industries's Tom Randstrom:

"Read your latest newsletter and had to comment about the “Where Are The Industrial Designers?” article.
The driver for what we call “direct attached” (to poles) wireless infrastructure is cost.  The more elegant the solution, the more it costs. The sheer quantity of small cell sites needed results in a quickly escalating cost structure as each individual site cost increases. Our company expends a copious amount of design and engineering resources to develop aesthetically pleasing solutions that blend into the environment.  Unfortunately, at this stage in the small cell roll-out, the equipment is still rather large, so that when you try to “obscure the equipment”, the solution can get larger and more difficult to blend in! We also have to design around the multitude of requirements and restrictions placed on the network deployments; whether from pole owners, municipalities, codes, clearances, equipment operating specs, homeowner feedback, etc.. 
With the sheer number of wireless nodes required to support our 5G (and beyond) build-outs, it frightens me as to what the landscape is going to look like in the coming years; if they all look like some of the examples you provided".

Here are some Charles Industries products for wireless deployment.


Charles Industries is a broad line supplier of products for fiber optics and more. See more products for wireless (and lots more) at the Charles Industries website.

Worth Reading:

Biden’s plan to fix America’s internet Shira Ovide, NY Times

"Millions of Americans don’t have modern internet service. It’s a symptom of our internet dysfunction that we don’t even know how many. The unreliable number from internet providers is 14.5 million households. Or maybe it’s 157 million people. Even for people who have reliable access, Americans generally pay more for worse internet service than our counterparts in most other rich countries.

The White House’s new infrastructure plan includes a proposal to spend $100 billion to extend fast internet access to every home. Its central premise is a powerful one: To achieve the internet that we all deserve, the federal government must be more involved — but not too much.

We currently have the worst aspects of free market capitalism and heavy handed government.

The government now hands over a lot of money and authority to internet companies.

But the funds often help maintain AOL-era internet pipelines. And money is spent on short-term solutions."

As telecoms spend billions on wireless, where does that leave the wired? - Marketplace/NPR

"Telecom companies are spending a lot of money on wireless infrastructure to support their 5G networks. In a Federal Communications Commission auction announced last week, Verizon spent $45 billion on acquiring new spectrum. AT&T spent $23 billion. But wired infrastructure is not seeing the same kind of love.

In the company’s (AT&T's) last earnings report, CEO John Stankey said he basically doesn’t think there’s any way to extend fiber to many rural areas at all.

Now, as a contrast, look what’s happening in Mississippi. CNET has a story about how the state used a huge portion of its coronavirus stimulus and went to independent, member-owned electric utilities and asked them to use the money to build broadband infrastructure, which they did, and now the state is being called a “broadband miracle.”


Worth Reading below

FOA Newsletter Sections

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


Lots more news in Worth Reading below

NeoPhotonics Demonstratesf 400 Gbps Transmission over 800km in a 64 Channel DWDM System Using A  Pluggable Coherent Module

NeoPhotonics Corporation, has demonstrated that its 400ZR+ QSFP-DD coherent pluggable transceiver can effectively transmit at a 400 Gbps data rate over a distance of 800 km in a 75 GHz-spaced DWDM system.  This 400ZR+ coherent pluggable transceiver module is based on NeoPhotonics high performance coherent optics and its ultra-pure color tunable laser, and achieves a reach of 800 km. The Company believes these 400ZR+ QSFP-DD modules will find wide application in the Cloud-based Metro 5G networks, and will extend use cases for IP over DWDM into metro-core and regional networks.

In this case, a fully loaded fiber operating in the C-Band would provide a total of 25.6 Terabits per second (Tbps) capacity.

coherent module
What's interesting is not the speed, but the fact that coherent communications is being developed into products that can now be considered for more than long-haul networks. Capacity of metro type networks is going to have to be expanded if 5G service providers do anything close to what they promised, so maybe this, and the technique below, offers possibilities for greater utilization of existing fiber networks.

More from NeoPhotonics  

Using High Speed WDM Optics For Multiplexing

Infinera has some interesting ideas for how to use 400G. Everybody touts speed but how do you really use all that speed? 400G is a lot of bandwidth. Traditionally fiber optic links connected one device to another, at 1G, 10G, 100G etc., but few devices need 400G. Infinera has a better idea. 400G can be considered 16x25G, 8x50G, etc. Suppose instead of having one 400G link, you have 16 channels of 25G that can be mixed to provide connections to multiple devices at different speeds.

Infinera XR Optics uses one 400G coherent transceiver with subcarriers at each WDM wavelength. Digital subcarrier technology takes a single-carrier wavelength and divides it up into multiple lower-bandwidth subcarriers generated by a single coherent laser/transceiver using advanced digital signal processing.

These subcarriers can now be routed to and from access transceivers in a variety of ways. A 400G hub transceiver could support 16 access nodes with a single 25 Gb/s subcarrier each, or four access nodes with four 25 Gb/s subcarriers each. It is also possible to have different numbers of subcarriers assigned to different access nodes depending on their bandwidth needs, as shown in Figure 2.


Comment: While this may be mind-boggling, think of it as a PON like FTTH GPON - multiple users connected to a single transceiver through a splitter at different wavelengths. Sort of 400G GPON.

Read more about Infinera XR Optics.  

OFC Conference Goes Virtual For 2021

OFC 2021

OFC, the biggest technical conference in fiber optics, will be virtual in 2021.


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.

How Many Fibers? - What's The Optimal Cable Size? (March 2021)

The idea of tapping was to reduce the number of fibers in a cable and therefore reduce the cable cost, assumed to be important on long rural cable runs. But is the cost of fiber such a big part of the cost of the cable plant? We decided to analyze cable costs for standard loose tube cable capable of being pulled into conduit for underground or lashed to a messenger for aerial installation.

Gathering data was not easy, but we found several large, reputable US distributors who listed prices for several types of loose tube singlemode OSP cables from top cable makers. All prices are for small quantities (km, not 10s or 100s of km).  Prices are how they were quoted, in $US per foot, so our readers outside the US should feel free to convert into another currency and meters.

This graph shows what we found:

cable cost

The curve looks reasonable above 24 fibers, but unpredictable below that, so we analyzed the data by cost per fiber per foot and got the graph below.


The cost per fiber per foot increases rapidly below 24 fibers, probably because the cost of making cable doesn't change much with fewer fibers; it's the cost of the plastics, strength members and manufacturing process that dominates the cost. However, after 24 fibers, the cost settles down and slowly decreases for higher fiber counts, reflecting then the cost of the added fibers.

Another way to think of this is that below 24 fibers, you are paying for the cable; above 24 fibers you pay for the fibers.

The thing to note of course is the cost of each fiber is less than 2 cents per foot for any cable above 24 fibers. When OSP construction costs are $5-25 or more per foot, the cost of fiber seems to be quite cheap. Certainly installing cable with additional fibers is very cost effective if it means having fibers to expand the network without having to install another cable. And, of course, that applies to urban and suburban networks, not just rural.

Compared to our analysis of tapping fibers in this issue to reduce fiber optic cable cost, one wonders how the cost of using tapping leads to savings in the cost of fiber optic cables. Only a detailed analysis of several networks would provide that answer.

Tapping Fiber To Reduce Cost - Is It Viable? (March 2021)

One question asked occasionally is if there are FTTH architectures that are cheaper than a traditional PON? A designer had read a Commscope brochure that about using taps for rural FTTH drops, saying it was cheaper than a regular design.

Using taps is not a new idea. Back in the 1980s a California company tried to develop a FTTH system that would use clamp-on taps to make the drop to subscribers. The tap worked like the LID alignment system in a fusion splicer. A clamp-on tap put a bend in the fiber which causes loss. The light lost is focused onto a detector which becomes part of a fiber optic receiver. The transmitter is a laser focused on the fiber which couples enough light into the core of the fiber to become the transmitter. That approach never overcame the technical problems and was dropped.

A few years later fiber optic couplers or splitters (both names are used ) made by fusing fibers in high heat were invented. These couplers/splitters became commercially available and fairly quickly became cheap, making passive optical networks (PONs) and FTTH using PONs feasible. FTTH PONs - passive optical networks like GPON - are based on splitters with split ratios of up to 1-to-32 splitting. FTTH can be built using 1X32 splitters, but many networks used cascaded splitters, say 1X4 to 4 different areas of a city or suburb, then 1X8 splitters to local subscribers. 1X4 split again by 1X8 multiplies out to 1X32. Likewise one can design a system around cascades of 1X2 and 1X16, 1X2 and 1X4 and 1X4 and other combinations.

Cascaded FTTH PON splitters

The idea of tapping a fiber is one way to increase the reach of a FTTH network using a variation on cascaded splitters. Lets look at how it works with a couple of simple examples.

(Remember GPON is specified for a 28dB power budget, meaning the cable plant can have up to 28dB of loss to any subscriber. A split of 32 adds about 19dB of loss, leaving 9dB for fiber and splice losses. Add some margin and you have a potential length of about 20km.)

Most PON splitters  are 1X32 or 2X32 or some smaller number of splits in a binary sequence (2, 4,8, 16, 32, etc.). Couplers are basically symmetrical, say 32X32, but PON architecture doesn't need but one fiber connection on the central office side, or maybe 2 so one is available for monitoring, testing and as a spare, so the other fibers are cut off. Splitters work by splitting the signal equally into all the fibers on the output side, Splitters add considerable loss to a FTTH link, limiting the distance of a FTTH link compared to typical point-to-point telco link. When designing a fiber optic network, here are guidelines on loss typical in PON splitters.

Splitter Ratio 1:2 1:4 1:8 1:16 1:32
Ideal Loss / Port (dB) 3 6 9 12 15
Excess Loss (dB, max) 1 1 2 3 4
Typical Loss (dB) 4 7 11 15 19

Tapping uses a different type of fiber splitter. Instead of a 1X2, 1X4, 1X8, 1X16 or 1X32 split where all ports are designed to be equal, you use a tap that has two ports, one having most of the power (say 90%) and one having less power (10%). The one that has the most power continues ahead while the lower power becomes the "tap" for a local connection. Adding a tap splitter can be done with midspan access and the drawing below shows the effect on optical power for a typical 90/10 splitter.

FTTH tap
Tapping a fiber with midspan access

If the splitter is near the OLT, the drop fiber probably has enough power to allow a splitter to serve several subscribers, making it an efficient use of the tap and the fiber in the cable.

Determining if this is a favorable architecture for FTTH requires some careful analysis. Let's start with power budgets. If we have a 28dB power budget for GPON, downgraded to 25dB to allow 3dB margin, how many taps can we have?

Ignoring fiber losses, just considering the requirements at the subscriber ONT, we could have 13 drops maximum, since each tap loses 1dB, that would be a drop of 13dB plus the loss in the tap splitter of 12dB to the drop gives us 25dB loss at the last drop.

If fiber loss is 0.4dB/km, for each 2.5km of fiber, we lose 1dB and therefore must eliminate a tap. So if our length is 10km, we lose 4dB or 4 taps, so were down to 9 taps. 20km, we lose 8 taps so we are down to 5 taps or 5 subscribers total.

But remember we have 25dB or margin (with 3dB excess margin set aside for contingencies), so at our first tap we have extra margin so we could add another splitter to the tap and connect up more users, as many as 8 if the tap were close to the OLT or 4 even if the tap were 10km from the OLT.

There are many possible examples for this approach. Each network can be analyzed using the tap method to see if it is feasible. But the designer must not forget the total system cost evaluation which must consider the utilization of each OLT port as well as the use of the fibers in the cable.

Other Options
You don't necessarily need to use taps to reuse fibers after a splitter is used. Here is an example. At a junction you need to add a splitter for drops to a number of subscribers, so you insert a splitter. That terminates a fiber, leaving a downstream unused fiber. You can also add a 1X2 splitter that you need for drops later in the cable route and use that fiber, like this:

FTTH splitter
You could even use the downstream fiber to connect to one port of the splitter. There are many possibilitiies.

To make either a tap system or cascaded splitters system work requires carefully selecting split ratios, but to make it cost effective must also consider how to most efficiently use the OLT ports as well as the fibers available. And optimizing a network design to save the cost of some fiber, as we see in the analysis of cable costs in this newsletter, is not so simple either.

All this illustrates a simple truth; every installation is unique and there is no one way to design it.

Multimode or Singlemode Fiber?  Update

Crosstalk A Problem In Fiber Optics?
Recently in the FOA Newsletter we looked at the continuing debate about whether one should choose singlemode or multimode fiber for new premises networks. OSP is almost exclusively singlemode, of course.
We ran an article about Space Division Multiplexing (below) that used a modal multiplexing scheme where several signals can be multiplexed by transmitting them in separate modes in a multimode fiber. We were contacted by a reader about a problem that may exist with this technique - something that UTP copper has a problem with - crosstalk. If you get any mode mixing in the fiber, it appears as crosstalk and can affect transmission. Crosstalk may make this approach less successful.

You can read about crosstalk in
Space Division Multiplexing in this paper.     

Space Division Multiplexing
Another technique used to expand the bandwidth of MM fiber is called space division multiplexing. The "space" here is the core of the multimode fiber and the multiplexing uses separate modes to send different signals. It's like WDM where you have several signals at different wavelengths, but here it's separate modes. Considering the complexity of some multiplexing technologies in use today, this sounds simple.

One company, Cailabs in France, has developed this technology to a state they claim they can multiplex 45 signals in MM fiber and they offer products that have gained some customers. They have some very high profile customers so one assumes the technology works as described. But in an article in CI&M recently, they say they can use their technology to expand the bandwidth of MM fiber by transmitting a "singlemode" signal down the center of a legacy fiber. They say "A central-launch mode adapter can elicit from a multimode fiber a propagation similar to that of a singlemode fiber." But have they encountered legacy fibers with the central index dip that causes so many problems with the early applications of gigabit Ethernet?

A similar technique was used to send 1petabit/s data over multimode fiber using space-division multiplexing. Read the article in SciTechDaily.

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. They were not aware of the technique of midspan access, so we created a new page for the FOA Guide on the subject (FOA Guide Page on Midspan Access), a YouTube video and a Fiber U MiniCourse.

Try The FOA's 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

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: New - 04/2021

Communities Responding to Natural Disasters Through Network Resilience, Next Century Cities examines how broadband networks fared during a variety of natural disasters

Five Fiber Outages Prove The Importance of Telecom Damage Prevention    dp-Pro Magazine
Fiber damage caused disruptions in education, elections, 911 emergency calls and even a "Call Before You Dig - 811" call center.

2020 Pandemic Network Performance Report - BITAG
ISPs saw significant growth in both downstream and upstream traffic, increasing at least 30% and as much as 40% during peak business hours and as much as 60% in some markets. From the Boradband Internet Technical Advisory Group. The link above is to the summary. Download the whole report here.

AT&T serves up 5G plans with healthy dose of pragmatism (Light Reading)
AT&T executives shied away from the kind of grandiose, change-the-world statements about C-band spectrum and 5G that peppered the Verizon and T-Mobile analyst events.

America’s drowsy telecom giants face a 5G wake-up call - T-Mobile is leaving them standing (Economist)

GPS is endangered by a misguided FCC decision made during the Trump administration - Washington Post
Opinion by Diana Furchtgott-Roth
The Biden administration has an opportunity to undo a potentially devastating ruling that ignored government-wide, bipartisan criticism.

Communications Systems Grounding Rules: NEC Article 800 provides specific requirements - Electrical Contractor Magazine

A new subsea cable between Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and more telecom stories this month. - Telegeography

Sumitomo's Ribbon Splicing Guide - download from one of the leasers in splicing.


Current Map Of Undersea Fiber Optic Cables  by TeleGeography

"Who Lost Lucent?: The Decline of America's Telecom Equipment Industry"
This is a MUST READ for managers in telecom or any industry!

This long and well-researched and annotated article in American Affairs Journal should be mandatory reading for every high level manager in a telecom company - or any other company for that matter. To summarize the article, today, America has no major telecom equipment company and fears the major suppliers of equipment who are all foreign, especially the Huawei from China. This article explains how America got into this deplorable state.

Optical fiber for 1310nm single-mode and 850nm few-mode transmission a Corning invention that is not commercially available yet.

Tired Of Hearing About 5G?  You Can Read About 6G Instead  (Yes there is a group with a website already.)

Connecting Carteret A PLAN FOR DIGITAL INCLUSION A North Carolina county evaluates its current situation and looks at the future. Good model for any government looking to survey its population.

Things You Should Know About IEEE Std 802.3cm™-2020; 400 Gb/s over Multimode Fiber. OFS - 400GBASE-SR4.2 is the first multimode standard to use two wavelengths (850nm and 910nm), enabling 100 Gb/s transmission over a single fiber pair. It also includes a new concept - using a single 400G port for 4 100G links, saving panel space on switches.

OFS also has an excellent website and blog of tech articles worth browsing.

California State Broadband Action Plan - California Broadband Council developed the “Broadband for All” Action Plan with the understanding that broadband access, adoption, and training are essential components of digital equity. Includes a detailed cost model.

More Than 12 Million US Households Have Cut the Cord on Their Home's Broadband Service -
Parks Associates: New research on the US broadband market estimates the US has more than 15 million households that have only mobile broadband service. "High cost is the most prominent issue driving households to cut the cord and go mobile only, although service-related issues, from slow speeds to poor customer experience, also contribute,"

IEC 60050 - International Electrotechnical Vocabulary - An extensive dictionary for fiber optics in English and French. Highly technical - this is one definition: "mode - one solution of Maxwell's equations, representing an electromagnetic field in a certain space domain and belonging to a family of independent solutions defined by specified boundary conditions"


Over 1 Million 400G Data Center Ports Shipped in 2020, CI&M. And that is from one company, Innovium, only, maker of Teralynx switches for data centers.

Recently in ILSR's Community Networks Weekly Newsletter - lots of interesting reading about communities and broadband.  Week of 2/8/2021, 2/1/2021 1/25,2021

Telecom Industry Wants Federal Broadband Initiatives to Support Training - Telecompetitor - As the Biden administration considers federal broadband initiatives, 10 telecom industry associations are urging the administration to include support for broadband skills training in those plans.

Thinking About Changing Jobs To Telecom? Use the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's "Occupational Mobility Explorer" Scroll way down on the lists of occupations to find several options for telecommunications, like Telecommunications Line Installers and Repairers to see what skills are involved.

Recommendations for a National Broadband Agenda, Benton Institute for Broadband and Society - We need a national, comprehensive broadband strategy, a plan that ensures that everyone in America can use High-Performance Broadband as soon as possible.

Low-Earth Orbit Satellites: Great Idea but Not for Everything – And Not Cheap. By Steven S. Ross  |  Broadband Communities (And maybe as "loony" as baloons.?)

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.

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

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

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. "

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.

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)

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

April 2021

ultimode In Premises Cabling
Q: I wonder when/if single mode fiber will start invading the enterprise. There's a whole ecosystem, of course, in addition to physical fiber cabling.  Switches, server connections, protocols, etc. But I'm wondering if you see the industry moving towards some set of standards using single mode?

Today, singlemode transceivers are as cheap as multimode for 10G and cheaper at higher speeds. Indoor cell systems (DAS) use singlemode. FTTH PONs (passive optical networks using singlemode) are being used for LANs because they are cheaper too. Both technology and costs point to the advantages of SM. Multimode is the historical design and it's hard to change. But structured cabling standards (TIA-568, ISO 11801)  include singlemode and POLs (passive optical LANs.)

February 2021

Documenting Test Results
We’re currently working on a bid that includes presenting some test sheet documentation for OTDR & Light loss testing. What should I do?
A: High end LSPM or OLTS should store data and have some software to report test results. Simpler units should simply require logging data into a spreadsheet showing Cable ID, Fiber ID, wavelength and loss. Details like launch & receive cables and test results can be kept separately on the spreadsheet. Today’s OTDRs will show you a trace and an event table that lists each even in the fiber tested as well as overall loss. Whatever OTDR you use should have software for reporting test results. Here is an example of a report from an EXFO and a trace from a Yokogawa.

Installing Cable
Below are specs for an installation. We’ve never installed a Fiber Optic run this long. Please see below questions and info.
-Fiber Optic cable to be used is a 24 strand Single Mode application
-Length of run is 7200 m long
-Appears that all the Fiber is on one reel. However do you recommend having some junction points on pedestals along the way for testing-maintenance purposes or just one continuous run if possible?
A: FOA has lots of information to help answer your questions:
Re underground installation. See and in the FOA Guide.
There are other questions you need to ask:
Are there no intermediate connections or drops required? It’s just one straight fiber run? You should be able to install it continuously.
What is the installation type? Pulled in conduit or direct burial?
If pulled in conduit and you can pull in one try, that’s best. You should use a pulling capstan to limit tension, attached to the cable with a breakaway swivel pulling eye and use lubrication. Use the American Polywater guides ( for choosing lubricant and decide if you need an intermediate pull.
Direct burial is simple for a long run, just ensure you have the proper equipment.

January 2021

Maintaining Dark Fiber
Do you have any standards that speak to how often dark fiber should be tested with OLTS and OTDR? Such as just at installation and when troubleshooting, or should they be done on a regular basis?
A: We at FOA know of no standards calling for periodic testing of fiber optic cable plants.
Fiber optic networks generally do not require maintenance and it is often detrimental to the network. It is the opinion of FOA and most people in the industry that testing should be done upon completion of the installation and data submitted to confirm proper installation of the cable plant. Data should then be stored for reference in case of problems requiring troubleshooting or when new dark fibers are turned up. Before lighting a dark fiber, it should be tested and the results compared to earlier data. Since both tests have some uncertainty, test results can vary as much as 0.5dB on short cables, higher on longer runs.
If older fiber is being upgraded to higher speeds, now cities like Santa Monica where we live are upgrading to 100G networks, fiber characterization including chromatic dispersion, polarization mode dispersion and spectral attenuation (for DWDM) are advised. Of course, every time a connection is opened, it should be inspected and cleaned. And patchcords should be tested; even new ones in sealed packages are often dirty. There is a reason people call the plastic protective caps on connectors “dust caps!”
Otherwise, with fiber, we suggest the patch panels be locket to keep unauthorized personnel from accessing them and causing problems. Even disconnecting a connector can add dirt to the connections and cause problems.


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's Newsletter 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. See the Fiber U MiniCourse
Fiber Optic Cable Bend Radius

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

Welcome New FOA Approved School 388:  Global Com of Sterling, Virginia, USA

More New Free Fiber U MiniCourses

How Fiber Works
Another of the mysteries of fiber optics, like dB, is how optical fiber actually guides light in the core of the fiber and transmits it with low loss. FOA has several pages in the FOA Guide on how fiber works with animated graphics that illustrate the different ways step index multimode, graded index multimode and singlemode fiber work. We also have YouTUbe video showing live demonstrations with a large plastic rod simulating the core of an optical fiber.

Graded index optical fiber

When we decides this was a good topic for a Fiber U MiniCourse. we decided to create a new video lecture on how fiber works. The lecture uses our usual lecture format but with videos that animate the process of total internal reflection and guided rays (modes) in the cores of the three types of optical fiber.

How Optical Fiber Works - Fiber U MiniCourse  

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  

How Optical Fiber Works 

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.

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  - 

Social Distancing and Masks


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.

In September 2020 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.

DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Labs

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 4/2021)

Ssome schools have been closed during the pandemic, so FOA has been working with 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.

Offline Fiber U
FOA has also created offline Fiber U modules to allow students with poor or limited Internet access to use the Fiber U Basic Fiber Optics and Premises Cabling programs without Internet access. Contact FOA for information on using this option.

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 with our
FOA's OJT-to-Cert Program, 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? Click on the link below or contact FOA for more information.

FOA's OJT-to-Cert Program

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.

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
FOA Lecture 59 Fiber Optic Cable Midspan Access   - How to drop fibers from a cable with minimal splicing
FOA Lecture 60 How Fiber Works   - Animated explanations of how fiber transmits light

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:

Fiber Optic Projects - the FOA Guide to projects from concept to operation

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.

2022 Conference On Damage Prevention In Phoenix

Global Excavation Safety Conference

Phoenix AZ

March 1-3, 2022


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.

Read More  

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.