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Network Certification

Fiber Network Certification

Network certification is the process of testing certain network parameters and then comparing the actual results against an industry or user-defined standard. A network is certified good if every tested link meets or exceeds (passes) the test limits as defined in the standard.

Historically fiber network certification consisted of measuring insertion loss using a power meter and light source. While this form of certification is still most common, fiber network installers and owners should be aware of emerging trends in fiber certification. Fiber network certification recommendations, such as TIA's TSB140 bulletin, provide guidelines on how to test fiber optic cabling systems in the field - offering two tiers of fiber network certification.

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Basic or Tier 1 fiber network certification is required in all fiber optic cabling links; tests attenuation / insertion loss, length and polarity. This test ensures that the fiber link exhibits less loss than the maximum allowable loss.

Tier 2 fiber network certification supplements Tier 1 testing with the addition of an OTDR trace of each fiber link.  An OTDR trace is a graphical signature of a fiber's attenuation, and provides insight into the performance of the link components - cable, connectors and splices. It does that by revealing non-uniformities in the trace.This test certifies that the contractor's workmanship and quality of the installation meets the design and warrantee specifications.

Fiber Wiremap
As multi-fiber and duplex connectors gain in popularity, verifying proper orientation or polarity is increasingly important. Polarity is analogous to copper UTP wire map. You can use either a visual light source or an optical loss test set to verify and ensure that the transmitter on one end of a fiber connects to the receiver on the other end.

Installation Quality
While insertion loss testing provides an indication of whether a fiber link was properly installed, an OTDR furnishes more details on cable installation and termination quality, including attenuation uniformity, attenuation rate, segment length, location and insertion loss of connectors and splices, and sharp bends resulting from cable installation. All these readings are crucial in any fiber network certification job.

Connector Condition
Every fiber connection is critical to network performance, especially in high-speed, low power margin networks. It is essential to verify the condition of fiber connector endfaces. Recent studies show that more than 85% of all fiber failures encountered in LANs are due to contaminated end faces. Such contamination is easily seen with fiber microscopes. Documentation of the condition of connector endfaces may become a more common component of fiber network certification.

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