Top 5 Essential Tools Every Technician Needs

Having the right tool for the job is such a common-place phrase for good reason! Whether you are a network technician, a plumber, or a dentist, having the proper tools in your tool kit makes you more effective, efficient, and can help guarantee the highest quality of the job at hand. For a network technician, the tools of the trade help you bring up new links quickly and efficiently, as well as assist in tweaking and debugging those troublesome circuits. Below are five of the key tools an optical technician will have in their tool kit.

Fiber Scope

Dirt, dust, and grease are the enemy. The vast majority of fiber connectivity issues can be attributed to dirty connections, either at the optical transceiver itself, in a fiber patch-panel, or at one of the passive muxes/demuxes. A fiber scope is the best tool to ensure that your jumper connection is clean and free of any contamination. A quality fiber scope allows a technician to visually inspect the fiber endface of an optical transceiver or passive jumper and will automatically provide a PASS/FAIL assessment based on industry standards (eg, IEC 61300-3-35). If your fiber scope can capture and save that end-face image, you have that proof that your circuit was set up properly at start of life.

Optical Power Meter

An optical power meter (OPM) is usually the first thing a technician reaches for when debugging a connectivity issue. Is the laser on? What’s the power level? Depending on the application, you will likely be balancing flexibility and a full list of features in your OPM versus something that is mobile, efficient, and targeted to a specific network topology. CWDM, DWDM, and PON networks will each have specific channels/wavelengths of interest, and a customized OPM will be optimized for those day to day measurements.

VFL

When you are bringing up a circuit, you’ve inspected and cleaned all the connections, your Tx power levels look good, but you’re still having trouble getting that link up and running – that’s when you reach for the visual fault locator (VFL). The VFL may be one of the simplest and yet most useful tools in your tool belt, as it will help you find any breaks or discontinuities in your fiber jumpers. The VFL simply shines a visible (usually red) laser down the length of a cable, and any breaks in the fiber will “leak” the visible red light at the failure point. The VFL can also be a real time-saver when you’ve got a mess of cables or patch panel and want to identify the end point of a jumper.

OTDR

The Optical Time-Domain Reflectometer (OTDR) is an invaluable tool when you want to fully characterize an optical fiber span. Whether it’s debugging, looking for any inconsistencies in the link that might be interfering with your signal quality, or if you’re looking to push the envelope on that 1G to 10G upgrade along a long span, the OTDR can provide a wealth of information about a fiber span. By firing off an optical pulse into the fiber and then analyzing the scattered and reflected light, the OTDR provides valuable information about the length, loss, and distance to various impediments along the span.

Transceiver Coder/DWDM Tuner

With the rapid migration of DWDM optics from the traditional long-haul transport realm into access networks (DAA, R-PHY and R-OLT, 5G front-haul, etc.), tunable DWDM optics and the associated DWDM wavelength/channel tuner are becoming more prevalent in a network technicians tool kit. A portable DWDM tuner allows a tech to carry a single tunable DWDM transceiver to support the full set of C-band DWDM channels, which can be an invaluable timesaver for network deployment and sparing. With the DWDM tuner, a tech is able to set the DWDM channel of the transceiver in less than a minute without even pulling up the network GUI/CLI.

Summary

Which tools are your favorites? At Integra Optics we pride ourselves in providing many of the tools that a network technician will use every day, in addition to the highest quality optical transceivers. For more information on the tools that we can provide, please reach out to your local Integra Optics sales representative or technical support.