The 5G lottery: are you gambling with your fibre’s performance? MIKE JONES


e know 5G is coming, but are we ready? Tis next generation of connectivity promises increased network capability, much faster

speeds, higher data volumes and improved reliability. With connected devices thought to reach 75.441 billion worldwide by 2025, 5G connectivity will be a welcome arrival. It will, however, require forward-thinking from network providers, especially when it comes to fibre performance. 5G networks will need to handle more data to

seamlessly stream demanding bandwidth. Tis means network infrastructure must be in place to support the billions of devices and increasing amount of data. To ensure the promised capacity of 5G, it is essential that service providers implement cleaning procedures to guarantee system performance. Tese practices should be used not only on new installations but also on existing infrastructure.

Easing the contamination threat Te most common threat to an optical network is contamination on the optical interconnects. As each fibre is only slightly thicker than a human

22 FiBRE SYSTEMS n Issue 23 n Spring 2019

hair, the smallest speck of dust is detrimental to its signal path. Any contamination found on the core of the fibre – where the signal travels through – can cause back reflection, insertion loss and equipment damage. Tis will become even more apparent with the deployment of 5G, as every milliwat of power will be required for faultless connectivity. End-face contamination is defined as a

removable defect that negatively impacts the performance of mated connector pairs. Tis can include fingerprint oils, lint, moisture, exhaust fumes or simply dust. Te main cause of dust-based contamination is connector ‘wear debris’. Wear debris dust is caused by the contact friction when connectors are mated. For example, from the connector slider, the retention clips in adaptors and transceivers, and also from the guide pins. Dust particles can be ground into the ferrule surface, resulting in scratched, pited or scarred end-faces. Although most contaminate is just several

microns in size and only visible with a microscope, it can still introduce serious problems to networks and cause complete system failure. Contamination can block the

light through the fibre, changing the index of refraction. If a fibre end face is contaminated, it will change the path of the signal through the fibre. If the contamination is very severe, the refraction angle can alter enough for the signal to be completely lost. Tis is particularly acute in dense wavelength division multiplexed (DWDM) fibre systems where, instead of passing just one wavelength of light along a fibre, multiple separate wavelengths are passed. Te higher the frequency of the light, the greater its sensitivity to changes of the refractive angle. Tis means that modern, faster networks, like 5G, will be more vulnerable to contamination.

Why clean new infrastructure? It would be a mistake to assume that a new cable assembly will have a pristine connector end-face free of contamination. 5G will see the installation of huge amounts of new fibre, but this may not always come pristine and ready to use straight from the box. Many moulded plastic end-caps include

chemicals called ‘plasticisers’, to improve the durability of the end-cap. Unfortunately, many plasticisers outgas, leaving small oil droplets @fibresystemsmag

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