Editor's Picks

The PFC-400 portable optical-fiber cleaver from Vytran cleaves standard and specialty fibers.

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From the July, 2012 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine

Compiled by Patrick McLaughlin

Portable optical-fiber cleaver

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The PFC-400 portable optical-fiber cleaver from Vytran cleaves standard and specialty fibers. The company says it is intended for use in telecom, fiber laser, aerospace, defense, medical, sensing and research applications.

Vytran president and chief executive officer Jean-Michel Pelaprat says the PFC-400's "precision cleaving provides a key building block for the high-quality splices typical of CAS and other Vytran splicing systems." It uses so-called tension-and-scribe cleaving technology, which Vytran says produces flat, clean, low end-angle cleaves. The company adds that the cleaver can be used with virtually any splicer, but shares a transfer clip with Vytran's CAS-4000 Series splicers, which "allows the user to easily move an optical fiber from the PFC-400 to a CAS splicer without compromising fiber positioning," Vytran says.

The battery-operated cleaver weighs 2.4 pounds, is 3x6x5.9 inches in dimension, and can be used on fibers ranging from 80 to 200 microns.

Unloaded mini patch panel

comCables has introduced an unloaded mini patch panel, which the company describes as "a flexible solution which is ideal for use at a consolidation point." The panel features folded edges that are designed for added cable clearance. It also includes a flush-mount design, which comCables says provides a neat finished appearance.

Andy Work, director of product management for comCables, said, "We are excited about the added features of the new unloaded mini patch panel. This will definitely help during installation with its folded edges ensuring the added cable clearance."

Fiber-optic connectors support harsh environment voice/data/video

New from Optical Cable Corporation, the "rugged yet small" MHC II mini hermaphroditic fiber-optic connectors are available in 2-4 and 6-8 channel sizes for easy installation in high-speed, high-bandwidth communication systems. OCC says the connectors are especially suitable for use in harsh environment voice/data/video, as well as deployed broadcast and industrial, applications.

According to the company, each MHC II connector uses a bayonet-style mechanical coupling interface for easy mating to receptacles with a simple twisting motion. The 8-channel version allows multiple combinations of fiber-optic termini and electrical contacts to co-exist within the same hermaphroditic system for deployment of both power and communications at the same time. The MHC II fiber-optic termini feature pin and socket contacts to accommodate 62.5/125µm, 50/125µm, 9/125µm singlemode/multimode fiber or a combination of fiber types, depending upon cable construction requirements. The hermaphroditic, bayonet-style design also accommodates simple plug-to-plug connections, making daisy-chaining of cables faster and easier, contends OCC.

The company says the MHC II series incorporates proprietary 1.25-mm ceramic ferrule technology to achieve high density paired with excellent insertion loss performance. Plug and receptacle insert caps are easily removed for cleaning, while ceramic alignment sleeves allow for uncomplicated field maintainability in harsh environments. All connectors are available in a variety of plating/base materials, including Teflon nickel and black anodized aluminum, brass and stainless steel, to complement diverse installation requirements.

Fiber-optic distance extender links access control card readers, control panels

ComNet has introduced a fiber-optic distance extender interface that allows optical connectivity between one access control card reader and its associated door or gate locking hardware, and any Wiegand, Magstripe, or F/2F-based control panel.

The ComNet FDW1000 transmits Wiegand data optically over multimode or singlemode fiber at distances up to 3.5 km or 40 km, respectively. An associated expansion module, the EXP100, allows up to 7 additional card readers be integrated onto the fiber-optic network. The company says that both device models are designed to inhibit tampering while providing safe and secure operation.

"Wiegand data interfaces are extremely popular for access control applications," comments Andrew Acquarulo Jr., president and COO of ComNet. "This application might be considered a niche market, but as the ComNet product line expands, we're able to develop solutions for these niche applications. Being U.S.-based, our engineering and product development teams can quickly develop the products that solve customer challenges."

Cleaner for fiber-optic assemblies and lenses

Optixx is the newest fiber-optic cleaning system from MicroCare, makers of the Sticklers brand fiber-optic cleaning products. According to MicroCare, Optixx is used to clean optical assemblies and lenses, as well as solar cells, laser hardware, scientific instruments and high-precision optics.

Jay Tourigny, MicroCare vice president, noted, "We developed a new cleaning wipe and dispensing package specifically for this application. The wipes are pivotal to high-performance cleaning ... The new wipes actually will make a surface shed dust and particles without any topical coatings."

The lint-free wipes make wet/dry cleaning fast, efficient and convenient, MicroCare says. They are fast-drying, non-flammable, non-hazardous and plastic-safe, the company adds.

Prysmian debuts bend-insensitive multimode fiber based on Draka technology

Prysmian Group has released a new line of bend-insensitive multimode fiber-optic cable under the Draka brand. The UC-Future multimode cables are designed to exceed modern data center space and bandwidth growth requirements while providing the handling ability of copper.

The Draka UC-Future bend-insensitive cables come with either Om3 or Om4 multimode fiber using Draka's BendBright technology. The family includes four cables, in counts up 144 tightly buffered fibers within a 9-mm cable diameter. Prysmian believes the cables are particularly well suited for use as distribution cables inside data centers as well as for the central exchanges of telecommunication systems.

Draka introduced the first versions of BendBright in 2002, in singlemode. The company unveiled its MaxCap-BendBright-Om3/4 multimode bend-insensitive fiber in 2009. Prysmian says the demand for bend-sensitive fiber and cable is intense, with singlemode bend-insensitive cables alone exceeding the 3 million km production mark.

Prysmian notes that, alongside the continued evolution of Om4 multimode fiber standards, bend-insensitive fiber has inspired new, reduced-size cable designs that are lighter in weight, improve cooling efficiency, and offer reduced environmental footprints. The resulting compact cable cabinets may reduce cost of ownership, while smaller diameter, flexible cables enable increased cabling density.

Report: Gig-speed residential service can be a real bargain

A report commissioned by the Fiber To The Home Council and conducted by Telecom ThinkThank Inc. and RVA Market Research LLC sizes up the "typical" residential broadband subscriber who receives gigabit-per-second service to the home. Among the analysis in the report is that pricing for early gig-speed connections are out of whack, on a cost-per-bit basis, with other, more widely-available broadband service.

Entitled "Residential Gigabit Subscribers: Services, Applications and Attitudes," the report states, "Our March 2012 estimate is that global residential subscribers number is in the hundreds." So the population analyzed in the report is small. However, the report adds, "In 2012, it is anticipated that South Korea, Singapore and Google (Kansas City, USA) will deploy large FTTH networks and offer gigabit services."

The report points out that gigabit-speed service was first introduced by Hong Kong Broadband in 2010. In announcing the report's availability, the FTTH Council said, "Since then, the number of telecoms offering gigabit services has been rapidly growing and includes mostly small-footprint operators serving densely populated areas and a few rural telecoms that are using their fiber infrastructure to attract new business and to bring their rural populations into the information age."

Most current service offerings are symmetrical, the report notes, meaning that subscribers have both upload and download speeds of 1 gbit/sec.

In the report, Telecom ThinkTank Inc. and RVA Market Research point out, "These early gigabit prices do not seem to correlate to competitors' service offerings. Comcast Xfinity Xtreme 105 Mbps service in California is $199 per month while Sonic.net is $70 per month. Verizon's top tier is 105 megabits at $195 per month, and AT&T's tops out at only 25 megabits." The FTTH Council points out that prices from gbit/sec service providers vary widely, "from a low of US$26 per month from Hong Kong Broadband to a high of US$560 per month at network operator Turkcell." The report adds that services from the likes of Comcast and others have monthly data caps, but most offerings from current gigabit-speed providers do not cap subscriber use. "What's the use of having gigabit speeds if you have to watch your use?" the report asks rhetorically.

The FTTH Council summarized three characteristics of gbit/sec residential subscribers, saying they are:

  • Online an average of 8 hours/day, compared with U.S. internet user average of 2.5 hours/day,
  • The "earliest of early adopters," with home networks consisting of five or more devices, and
  • Content creators - a characterization supported by traffic measurements showing that Hong Kong Broadband's gbit/sec subscribers use three times the upload bandwidth compared to their download use.

"Upload speed is critical for distributing HD photos and videos, efficient cloud computing and virtual presence video conferencing," the FTTH Council notes.

Heather Burnett Gold, president of the FTTH Council Americas, commented, "Essentially, this study confirmed what one might expect, that those who subscribe to gigabit service have multiple applications in play at all times, including social networking, HD downloads, and streaming media via Netflix, Hulu and other sources, all while they participate in several multiplayer online games through multiple consoles."

Intelligent platform bridges BTS, DAS connections

CommScope has unveiled its i-POI [Intelligent Point of Interface] system, an "all-in-one" platform developed to bridge the connections between base transceiver stations (BTS) and distributed antenna systems (DAS) that enable wireless connectivity in buildings and large venues. The company says the i-POI system blends BTS conditioning, signal combining, splitting, monitoring, power management, E911 support and various test options into a single, integrated, modular component. The system is also designed to rein in issues related to passive intermodulation (PIM), and provides power control for multi-operator deployment.

"Wireless operators, systems integrators and facility owners commonly face issues when planning a DAS deployment or upgrading an existing system," explains Matt Melester, senior vice president and general manager, distributed coverage and capacity solutions, CommScope. "Their most pressing concerns surround the lack of visibility into the BTS conditioning process, drops in data throughput due to PIM and space constraints. i-POI meets these challenges head on, whether in current CommScope Intelligent Optical Network (ION) environments or a third-party DAS infrastructure."

By combining multiple functions within a single unit, CommScope claims the i-POI system requires up to 75 percent less installation space than alternative multi-component implementations. Further, the company says the system eliminates the need for external splitters, couplers and terminators, allowing for plug-and-play installation while leaving space for other essential system components.

Fiber inspection, analysis system documents connector cleanliness

AFL has introduced its Noyes FOCIS family of integrated fiber inspection and analysis tools, designed to provide network personnel with the capability to document fiber connector cleanliness.

"Fiber optic network performance depends on clean fiber connections, and cleanliness will become paramount as the use of higher data rates and multiplexed wavelengths grows," comments Bill Thompson, marketing director at AFL's Noyes test and inspection division. "Our new FOCIS solutions combine the power of laptop-based inspection systems with the simplicity, ruggedness and ergonomics of live-only fiber viewers."

Intended for use by network installers, maintenance and node activation personnel, the FOCIS platform enables users to view, capture, store, recall, review and share fiber endface images, and document that fiber connections are contamination free. AFL says the rugged, field-ready platform's patent-pending image pairing capability lets users document before/after, input/output, jumper/bulkhead and as-built/as-found fiber installation and maintenance scenarios. Kits are available for PC/UPC, APC and MPO/MTP fiber connector configurations.

The FOCIS kits consist of a custom-designed touchscreen tablet, a digital video fiber inspection probe and the AFL SimpleViewPlus inspection software. The FOCIS systems employ a user interface that mimics smartphones and personal navigation systems. Over 1,000 images may be stored and image files may be transferred to other devices via off-the-shelf USB memory sticks or SD cards. Tools are packed in a hard-side carry case that keeps all inspection and cleaning components at hand and ready for use.

"When combined with our One-Click cleaning products, the FOCIS inspection and analysis solutions enable users to achieve the contamination-free fiber connections they require," concludes AFL's Thompson.

CommScope reorganizes business segments, management

Network cabling and communications infrastructure supplier CommScope has reorganized its business unit management structure around three key customer segments—enterprise, wireless and broadband—and has named new heads for each.

Kevin St. Cyr has joined CommScope as senior vice president, enterprise solutions, where he will lead engineering, R&D and product line management. St. Cyr comes to CommScope from Berk-Tek, a Nexans company, at which he was president since 1998 and senior vice president of marketing and sales from 1996-1998. St. Cyr has also held various management positions at Champlain Cable, a subsidiary of Huber + Suhner, and General Electric. He holds a bachelor's degree in plastics engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and a master's degree in business administration from the Pennsylvania State University.

"Kevin is the perfect choice to head our enterprise segment," commented Randy Crenshaw, chief operating officer, CommScope. "He is widely known within this market for his expertise, success and leadership capabilities. I welcome Kevin to CommScope and look forward to the positive impact he will make on our team and the customers we serve."

Morgan Kurk, who previously headed CommScope's enterprise segment, has been named senior vice president, wireless. He will have responsibility for product line management, engineering and R&D for the segment that serves wireless operators and OEMs. Kurk has more than 15 years' experience in the wireless industry, including senior roles with Andrew Corporation, Allen Telecom and Motorola. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Brown University and master's degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan and business administration from Northwestern University.

Ric Johnsen will continue as CommScope's senior vice president, broadband, leading the business responsible for serving cable multisystem operators and other broadband network providers. Johnsen, who joined CommScope in 2010, previously held senior management positions with Alcatel, OFS and AllOptic. He has a master's degree in electrical engineering with an emphasis in communications engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and a bachelor's degree in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"By reorganizing our management support structure around key verticals, at home, at work, and on the go, we can best leverage CommScope's deep, broad capabilities around the world and deliver better integrated solutions to our customers," said Crenshaw. "Ric, Morgan and Kevin are three strong leaders who will help us build upon CommScope's excellent market positions and take advantage of the many opportunities ahead of us."

Double digit growth seen for building automation institutional markets

IMS Research forecasts that the market for building automation equipment for institutional users, such as schools and hospitals, will see double digit growth over the next three years. However, the analyst firm emphasizes that to take advantage of this growth, integrators and manufactures alike need to understand the individual requirements of these user markets.

"Schools and hospitals are large consumers of energy, with the occupants of the building often not paying the bill. Institutional facilities are also long term users of their buildings and infrastructure, which enables them to install equipment that has a longer payback period," comments William Rhodes, market analyst at IMS Research. "Building automation is one way in which these types of facilities can maximize energy efficiency and save money in a time of budget cuts and austerity measures."

The firm's latest research notes that hospital buildings are open 24/7 and tend to be large complex buildings with nurse call, infant abduction and other low voltage systems running in tandem or separate to the automation solution. Education facilities tend to be more simplistic buildings in terms of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) control and automation. However, increasingly there has been an emphasis on ensuring sufficient ventilation within classrooms with studies showing high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) can make children drowsy and tired.

Rhodes continues, "To ensure hospital projects are successful, integrators need to understand the complexities of the hospital building to take advantage of the energy savings and efficient operations that can be achieved. Additionally, one of the largest applications for CO2 sensors is education facilities. CO2 sensors are increasingly installed in classrooms as part of a wider building automation system to ensure sufficient ventilation and reduce the build-up of CO2."

IMS posits that institutional users are in a prime position to take advantage of the movement to intelligent buildings because they are large consumers of energy, use many operational systems and are long-term users of a facility. The management of the building's environment, physical security and other systems in a single unified solution can save energy and ensure the building runs as efficiently as possible, notes the analyst firm.

The IMS Research report on the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Americas markets for building automation controllers, software and sensors presents base year and forecast data for nine end-user industries across EMEA and the Americas region.

An upcoming systems integration and aftermarket report looks at the trend towards integrated intelligent buildings.

EZ Patch dispenser offers "patch cords in a box"

EZ Patch from Legrand Ortronics is designed to quickly and easily dispense patch cords. Legrand Ortronics says the "patch-cords-in-a-box" concept reduces installation time and waste, and improves staging-area organization. "There are no bags to open, tie wraps to undo or straightening necessary," the company says.

A clip (made from 25 percent regrind plastic) connects the patch cords together, enabling them to be distributed over an internal cardboard reel and fed through the EZ Patch box's front opening. According to the company, the corrugated cardboard box and internal dispensing reel are made from 100 percent recyclable materials. The box, reel and clips are fully recyclable during use.

Ortronics Clarity 6 or 5E patch cords, in a variety of standard lengths and colors, are available in the EZ Patch packaging. Clarity 6A cords will be available in the EZ Patch packaging soon, Legrand Ortronics says.

Total Cable Solutions acquires Optica's data center fiber business

Total Cable Solutions (TCS) announced that it has acquired Optica Technologies' Fiber Services business line. Optica now refers all data center fiber-optic cabling, component and services business opportunities directly to TCS.

TCS has been a supplier to Optica for several years, and says the acquisition provides it with access to a new set of enterprise data center partners and customers. The company says the acquisition also accelerates its growing structured cabling business.

"TCS is very excited about the new strategic relationship with Optica," comments Charles Hoskins, owner and director of operations at TCS. "We are looking to continue our rapid growth and this investment allows us to offer additional capabilities to all of our current and future customers."

"The TCS [acquisition] ensures that our partners' and customers' fiber services needs are fully met while we increase our focus on being the leading provider of mainframe connectivity solutions for IBM System z customers," adds Michael Dailey, COO and VP of worldwide sales at Optica Technologies.

2-hour-rated circuit integrity fire alarm cables

The VITALink brand 2-hour fire-rated circuit integrity cables from Comtran Cable LLC are low-smoke, zero-halogen type FPLR-CI cables developed specifically to meet the circuit survivability requirements of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. The cables established a minimum two-hour fire-resistance rating by passing the applicable requirements of UL Test Standard 2196, Standard for Tests of Fire Resistive Cables.

Comtran explains, "Industry demand is increasing for fire alarm circuit integrity (CI) cabling that will support life and fire safety. Critical systems such as Emergency Voice-Alarm Communication (EVAC), smoke/fire alarm systems, emergency lighting, fireman's telephone and area-of-refuge communication systems must offer ‘survivability' for two hours in order for safe evacuation of building occupants. These applications require cabling that can withstand harsh environments while being fully operational."

Cables in the VITALink product line are UL Listed Type FPLR-CI, two-hour fire-rated alarm cables when installed in free air (CI), or in steel conduit (CIC) per FHIT System 35 (Electrical Circuit Protective Systems). The cable meets the requirements for fire alarm circuit integrity cables when installed in accordance with standard code practices as defined in Article 760 of the National Electrical Code, Comtran says.

The cable is made with solid copper, 12 through 18 AWG, that Comtran says is specifically engineered to minimize embrittlement due to fire exposure. It includes a proprietary low-smoke, zero-halogen thermoset layer called Fire-Roc. The cable also includes color-coded twisted conductors and a red low-smoke, zero-halogen polyolefin outer jacket. The cable is available in shielded and unshielded constructions.

Comtran also lists the following characteristics of VITALink cables.

  • Riser rated per UL 1666
  • Insulation rating of 300 volts per NEC and 72 volts phase/ground or 12 volts phase/ground under fire
  • UL Listed as Type FPLR-CI per UL 1424 including the following optional markings: sunlight resistant, wet location, FT - 4/IEEE 1202, LS (per UL 1685) cable rated for 90 degrees C, UL Listed as Type CL2R/CL3R per UL 13

IEEE honors Corning for low-loss fiber invention

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has granted a Milestone Award in Electrical Engineering and Computing to Corning Inc. for the company's invention of low-loss optical fiber, "which played a pivotal role in changing the way the world communicates," Corning said when announcing its honor. The IEEE Milestone Award recognizes significant technical achievement and innovation that occurred at least 25 years ago, Corning explained.

Three Corning scientists, Dr. Robert Maurer, Dr. Peter Schultz and Dr. Donald Keck, invented low-loss optical fiber, Corning said, "after representatives of the British Post Office came to Corning in the mid-1960s seeking assistance in creating pure glass fiber optics. The scientists produced an optical fiber having a total attenuation of about 17 decibels per kilometer, far superior to the best bulk optical glasses of the day, which had attenuations of approximately 1,000 dB/km." The three scientists have been inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame and were awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2000.

IEEE's president and chief executive officer Gordon Day commented, "The demonstration of low-loss transmission through optical fiber showed us immediately that optical communications could be practical. But few recognized, or could have recognized, that in a few decades it would change the lives of almost everyone in the world. The first low-loss fiber was a truly defining moment in the history of technology in the 20th century."

Corning Optical Fiber's senior vice president and general manager Marty Curran stated, "Corning is honored to receive this highly prestigious award from IEEE. Corning's 1970 invention of low-loss optical fiber, and the manufacturing process used to produce it, together revolutionized the telecommunications industry and changed the world forever. The explosion of the Internet and other information technologies would not have been possible without optical fiber." Corning also noted that today there are more than 1.6 billion kilometers of optical fiber installed worldwide.

Modular data center provider shuns geographic restrictions

Compass Datacenters has unveiled its data center product offering, which it claims "re-invents modular data center design." The company was recently founded by Chris Crosby, a co-founder and former senior executive of Digital Realty Trust, to address "the data center industry's narrow geographic focus and limited solution set," which Crosby contends only meets the needs of a select set of companies in a handful of major markets.

"The bulk of the current product offerings available today primarily serve the needs of the provider, not the customer," asserts Crosby. "They are geographically restricted to the top six markets, they require large building footprints, and they are inefficient in their design, operation and expandability. Our Truly Modular solutions put the customer first by providing them with their own Tier III certified, LEED Gold data center wherever they need it to be."::

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