5 Benefits to Using Pre-Terminated Fiber
Written by Ben Hamlitsch, trueFIBER Fiber Technical Specialist, RCDD, FOI
While bulk fiber cable, or field terminated fiber assemblies, are used in many installations, there are also benefits to using pre-terminated fiber cables. It is especially more common to see pre-terminated fiber cables used for 40Gb and 100Gb connectivity solutions. Why would these types of cables be more common and what benefits are there in running a pre-terminated fiber cable? Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of both field terminated and pre-terminated cables as we go into more detail and describe 5 benefits to pre-terminated fiber assemblies and what pre-terminated fiber assemblies are.
What Are Field Terminated Fiber Optic Cables?
Field termination describes the termination of the fiber optic cable in the field or, after installation has taken place. When these types of cables are terminated, they need to be pulled between two points, then connectors will need to be attached and then connected to a patch panel. In addition, before they can be attached to a panel, connectors need to be attached to each individual strand, and a variety of tools will be needed.
Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of field terminated fiber cable:
- Precision lengths: Because these cables are cut to length before adding connectors, it's not necessary to have these cables pre-determined for length.
- Easy pull system: Fiber optic bulk cable is very easy to pull from either end of the installation circuit.
- Higher labor costs: When fiber optic cables are terminated in the field, costs can be high. There are a variety of other tools needed, many steps need to be taken, and field technicians need to have the right training.
- Slower installations: Installation will take longer due to terminating connectors and making sure the fiber optics cables and assemblies are working properly with testing.
- Potential termination issues: Termination issues can occur depending on the skill level of each technician and knowledge of fiber optic cables and assemblies. Field terminated fiber optic cable may be inexpensive at the time of purchase. However, extra expenses could be encountered in the field through termination, raising the cost of any project.
What Are Pre-Terminated Fiber Optic Cable Assemblies?
These cables are the same as fiber optic cables that are terminated in the field; the only difference is the manufacture will terminate these cables and assemblies prior to shipment. This allows the manufacturer to precision polish all the end faces of the fiber connectors and ensure the terminations are within the required specification.
Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of pre-terminated fiber cable assemblies:
- Lower costs and time savings: Since these cables arrive pre-terminated on site there are no cable termination preparation, connectors, tool kits, nor testers needed. These cables require minimal time and effort for implementation for any installer.
- Project efficiency: These cables are manufactured and shipped to the job site with the connectors already terminated, properly polished, and the entire cable assembly tested on both ends for ease of installation.
- Need for accuracy: For these cables to perform, they need to have accurate measurements. Users will generally need planned lengths and lead times in advance to avoid extra cable lengths.
- Associated costs: Miscalculations of measurements can lead to additional expenses, which could increase material costs of a project.
What are the 5 Benefits to pre-terminated fiber cable?
Installing (1) 12-strand pre-terminated fiber cable assembly, or pre-terminated fiber assemblies can reduce overall installation costs by nearly 50% (or more). This is done by eliminating rework, achieving termination efficiency whereby the pre-terminated cable is precision polished. It may also be possible to eliminate in-depth testing as the pre-terminated links have already been tested at the factory and provide insertion loss and return loss results. It can also eliminate the need for end equipment and consumables because there is no need to cleave, splice or polish the connector. Utilizing these savings can help pre-terminated fiber installations significantly reduce overall installation cost.
The manufacturing process has improved in speed and can provide pre-terminated fiber optic components in two to four days (they may take longer to reach the destination depending on where it is are coming from). Pre-terminated fiber can be ideal for helping to shorten project deadlines and increase overall deployment speed. Without the need to wait a week, two weeks or even three weeks to get a custom fiber optic component can be a real time saver when it comes to fiber deployment.
Designed for rapid deployment, pre-terminated fiber cabling requires no field termination. This reduces the labor required so you can get the job done faster. You need to do some pre-planning, but once you receive the cable, you can start.
Mission-critical fiber networks require the highest-level performance in the cable assembly. Due to poor air quality, low-end face polishing efficiency, and poor cleaning and test protocols, field termination can affect the overall quality of the termination which will result in higher insertion loss and poorer return loss. Pre-terminated fiber optic components are manufactured in a clean room and undergo a series of inspections, including multiple end face inspections and certification of specific insertion loss/return loss thresholds. The cable is tested end to end before it reaches the job site to ensure it is a quality, high performance cable.
In many cases installers must contend with waste removal from the job site. In many projects, this includes cable reels. Some installers may mix their projects together, leaving a box filled with odd-length cables, and I hope there is a project to use them.
Which should I choose?
The decision ultimately depends on what you are looking for, as well as the skill level of the technicians you have working on your project. Some would prefer pre-terminated fiber optic cables or assemblies since they can be faster and simpler alternatives to field terminated cables and require less training for technicians.
When you are calculating fiber optic costs, make sure to factor in production costs such as labor, tools and other elements needed to terminate fiber optic cable accurately. Then, decide which type of fiber optic cables and assemblies will work best for your project.
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