Fast Light a Management System for today's networks

With demand for services increasing, including the provision of value-added services such as TV and video, existing copper networks are beginning to reach their breaking point. Operators need to switch to fibre networks now. The good news is that fibre optic networks are very resilient and far less prone to problems than the copper they replace, but the bad news is that many of these networks are installed incorrectly, causing more problems down the line.

At UTEL, we have been researching and designing centralised copper test systems for many years and have developed a good understanding of the issues operators face, both in copper and fibre networks. A lot of these issues are caused by poor installation work and poor record keeping that makes finding and fixing faults a major headache. There is a lack of experienced staff working for the operators and diagnosing issues is taking too long.

Operators needed a game-changing solution, so we developed a fibre optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR) based solution - Fast Light - for passive optical networks (PONs) that allows users to map networks and see any changes in the network to pinpoint the problem, even if it is as simple as the user disconnecting the fibre from the optical network terminal (ONT). This unique ability to test PONs, see each individual's ONT and find faults in the network that are causing issues enables operators to be able to decide quickly what action needs to be taken and send the right team to resolve the issue.

Using Fast Light during construction can ensure that the network is installed correctly which in itself will reduce the risk of future issues. During the construction phase, Fast Light can test each element as it is installed to ensure the quality standards are met and future issues are prevented.

One of the most important issues during construction is ensuring cleanliness of the connections that are made, which if not ensured will build up a raft of future problems. We have developed a technology that allows the system to see the reflections caused by faulty connectors and then light technology is used to show the users which connectors need to be cleaned.

If operators use this type of centralised testing system to test each phase of the construction of the PON networks, they can gain control of the quality of the installation, whether it is installed by themselves or private installation companies. Once complete, the installation can be mapped into the system and any changes that occur will be flagged up to the operator. This can be by automatic tests if an alarm is generated by the optical line termination (OLT), through routine tests which can be scheduled or by on demand tests when customers report a fault.

However, if a fibre network is already installed and help troubleshooting is needed instead, a centralised testing system can still be used. There are many solutions for finding faults in point to point networks from simple visible light sources to complex platforms that will perform a range of tests to find almost any issue. The other big gain for operators is that each time a network is modified in any way a new reference can be generated ensuring that records are up to date and field staff is always directed to the exact location of any issue found.

It is our aim to ensure fibre optic networks run as smoothly as possible, and that requires careful planning and proper installation during the setup. Should there be problems down the line, this will make troubleshooting networks easy, accurate and reliable.