Could fiber monitoring technology be your secret superpower?

Richard Auld
Boy in superman costume in front of cityscape

Our world is connected by fiber. No other medium can satisfy soaring demand for bandwidth and, with 5G emerging and the digital transformation gathering pace, communication infrastructure is becoming more and more reliant on optical fiber networks. Across all industries, the fiber plant is among the most precious assets and squeezing maximum value from it can be the key to gaining competitive advantage. 

But fiber is inherently fragile and susceptible to a host of dangers. Whether caused by water damage or rodent attacks, mechanical diggers or malicious tapping, fiber breaks mean network unavailability and the loss of critical services. Rapid action to limit or prevent downtime is indispensable. That’s why new fiber assurance methods enabling field forces to quickly isolate faults, reduce repair times and prevent unnecessary maintenance efforts are so crucial.

Targeted troubleshooting

At Concept Solutions People, we serve a wide range of organizations in the UK, developing fiber optic solutions that address specific needs. But what all of our customers have in common – whether they use dark fiber networks or deploy dedicated data center connectivity – is that the security and reliability of fiber infrastructure can make or break their business.  

For a long time, we’ve been able to light our customers’ fiber and monitor their active network equipment, but we haven’t been able to actively monitor the status of the fiber itself to detect interference, bends and breakages … until now.

We have kilometers of fiber in ducts and chambers running through streets and fields with no power to run any kind of monitoring device. This is where the appliance of optical science comes to our aid. By using the optical characteristics of the fiber and reporting on changes to this, we can now detect bends, damage and breakages and pinpoint these to within a few meters using permanently installed remote-monitoring equipment.

Proactive monitoring

The equipment sends a continuous test signal. It then analyzes the reflected signal, checking the optical characteristics of the fiber every few seconds. If the fiber is bent or broken, an alarm is raised instantly from the monitor based at one end of the fiber.

When a customer calls in a fault, we can tell them instantly if there’s a break in the fiber and even where it is. This enables us as maintainers of fiber networks to rectify faults more quickly. Long spans of fiber can be instantly ruled in or out of the customer’s reported fault. Repairs can start immediately with an instantaneous read-out of the location of the break.

Damage is often caused by construction or utility contractors, so an instantaneous alarm could allow us to catch the culprit with their big yellow digger still onsite, enabling us to re-charge the repair costs to the company responsible for the damage.

Real-time assurance

With our partner ADVA’s ALM fiber monitoring solution we can:

  • Know about fiber breaks before customers call in a fault
  • Know the location of the break
  • Fix faults more quickly
  • Reduce the cost of breaks
  • Provide professional customer service

All this is done through the fiber itself, meaning it’s robust, highly sensitive and immune to electromagnetic and radio frequency interference. Monitoring is also non-intrusive and entirely service-agnostic.

The ADVA ALM is easy to implement and straightforward to operate. Its passive monitoring is also very cost-efficient – it requires no power or additional space at remote sites as no active, onsite equipment is needed. This makes it easy to deploy even in extreme environmental conditions.

Richard Auld

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