FiberOptic.com gears up for more work in Iraq

Optical-fiber trainers from FiberOptic.com are gearing up for four more visits this year to war-torn Iraq to help the country continue to set up its telecom network.

Optical-fiber trainers from FiberOptic.com are gearing up for four more visits this year to war-torn Iraq to help the country continue to set up its telecom network.

FiberOptic.com (www.fiberoptic.com) has been working with Bechtel (www.bechtel.com) to train Iraqi telecommunications workers in Baghdad, and recently completed a contract with the company. Bechtel is the global engineering, construction and project management company now rebuilding in Iraq. The company is under contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID; www.usaid.gov) for the emergency repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction of critical elements of Iraq’s infrastructure.

FiberOptic.com’s staff conducted its most recent training sessions onsite last November. The trip represented the third time in 2005 that FiberOptic.com, a provider of optical-fiber products, training and rental solutions, conducted training in Iraq. The company plans to conduct four more training sessions in Iraq this year.

Bechtel was given the contract by the U.S. government, and its initial effort included assessing and repairing selected power, municipal water, and sewage systems; dredging, repairing, and upgrading the Port of Umm Qasr; rehabilitating selected schools, clinics, and fire stations; reconstructing three key bridges and constructing a key rail line.

Bechtel employees helped restore telephone service to more than 200,000 Baghdad subscribers and restore Iraq's main 2,000-kilometer, north-south optical-fiber communications backbone. This is where FiberOptic.com was brought in. Company representatives worked with one of Bechtel’s offices in Jordan, and trainers were deployed to Iraq from there.

“Betchtel has been awarded bids to restore much of the telecommunications infrastructure in Iraq,” says Chris LaBonge, president of FiberOptic.com. “FiberOptic.com is assisting them in training Iraqis in the areas of fiber-optic installation, testing, and fusion splicing.”

During the training sessions, FiberOptic.com technicians worked with Iraqi technicians to teach them the latest optical-fiber theory, fiber splicing and testing techniques. During the recent visits, technicians performed fusion splice and optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR) training with NetTest (www.nettest.com) units and Sumitomo Electric Lightwave (www.sumitomoelectric.com) splicing units. They also conducted installation and maintenance training. “We are helping the Iraqi people design, build, and maintain their own networks,” says LaBonge.

“Since lines of communication are considered primary targets in any major military engagement, much of the communications infrastructure has been destroyed,” says LaBonge. “Both the physical plant and equipment being used on this project is new.”

The FiberOptic.com employees also taught Iraqi telecom workers about the latest in optical-fiber installation techniques. “When we arrived, we found $400,000 worth of testing equipment sitting there, ready to be deployed,” says LaBonge. “Our responsibility was to get the students up to speed on how to use it. The Iraqis attending our courses haven’t been responsible for putting together a project of this scale.”

The FiberOptic.com employees work in a relatively safe Green Zone, and travel with tight security. They visit specific telecom facilities to show the Iraqis how to conduct splicing and testing. Bechtel allows Fiberoptic.com to deploy only one person at a time, however, and they often conduct training in a modular training facility.

“If the conditions were better, we would deploy three or four instructors at a time, but given the safety concerns, the work needs to be done in small groups,” says LaBonge.

Employees must go through two days’ worth of security training, fly to work sites in Black Hawk helicopters, and wear flack jackets and Kevlar helmets during their stay.

LaBonge says the Iraqis are very careful about protecting their identity. They realize that, by working with American contractors, they may be putting their safety in jeopardy.

During the November visit, the FiberOptic.com trainers helped the Iraqis configure switches, perform OTDR trace analysis, and terminate or splice optical fiber.

FiberOptic.com says it is looking for additional instructors to assist in future opportunities in Iraq for dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM), chromatic dispersion and polarization mode dispersion training.

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