Group promotes VF-45 interconnect

A group of companies has formed the VF-45 Action Group to promote the use of the VF-45 fiber-optic interconnect and its adoption by standards bodies. Members of the alliance include Siemens Microelectronics, Sumitomo Electric Lightwave Corp., Corning Inc., Racore Technology, act Research, Canary Communications, and 3M Telecom Systems Div. (Austin, TX), which manufactures the interconnect. The VF-45 is one of the small-form-factor fiber-optic connectors vying for market dominance after the Teleco

Catherine Varmazis

A group of companies has formed the VF-45 Action Group to promote the use of the VF-45 fiber-optic interconnect and its adoption by standards bodies. Members of the alliance include Siemens Microelectronics, Sumitomo Electric Lightwave Corp., Corning Inc., Racore Technology, act Research, Canary Communications, and 3M Telecom Systems Div. (Austin, TX), which manufactures the interconnect. The VF-45 is one of the small-form-factor fiber-optic connectors vying for market dominance after the Telecommunications Industry Association (Arlington, VA) failed to adopt any of the contenders as the industry standard last February .

The action group will develop end-to-end solutions based on the VF-45 interconnect and educate end-users about the advantages of fiber in premises networks. Many users are already familiar with these benefits, says David Bean, project manager for fiber-to-the-desk at Corning Inc. (Corning, NY). "End-users see the value of fiber," he says. "They use it in their backbones and risers, and it has worked well for them."

Low cost is one of the benefits of the VF-45, according to Jeff Conley, marketing operations manager for the Volition cabling system at 3M. "When you terminate cable at an outlet, the VF-45 socket is a very simple design that`s cost-effective. To the end-user, the cost is just over $2. It`s a duplex connector, and both fibers are terminated at the same time in a way that the installer almost doesn`t know he`s working with fiber," asserts Conley. "It goes together in about 2 minutes."

Instead of ferrule technology, the VF-45 uses a V-groove design for fiber alignment. Because installers are more familiar with ferrule-based connectors, they may need to be persuaded that the ferrule-less VF-45 is robust and easy-to-use. On that point, George Sellard, president of fiber-optic design and installation firm Sellard Communications (Horseheads, NY), is already convinced. His company first used the VF-45 in a recent installation, and his impression of the connector is that it is "very user-friendly because you can see everything you`re doing. When you put it together, if the alignment is not perfect you can go back into the connector and fix it," he states. "Because of its design and construction, you have fewer bad connections." The toolkit that comes with the connector also impressed him: "It`s super--they`ve thoroughly thought it through, and everything you need is right there."

On the support side, however, Sellard cites one shortcoming: "You can`t field-install a male connector," he says, which means the installer must be sure to have enough factory-terminated patch cables on hand to complete a job. According to Conley, 3M is addressing this issue, and VF-45 male connectors that can be installed in the field will be available sometime next year.

"The VF-45 is the lowest-cost solution for fiber-to-the-desk," says Mike Nishiguchi, director of strategic business development for electro-optic products at Sumitomo Electric Lightwave (Research Triangle Park, NC), which will manufacture transceivers for use with the VF-45. Nishiguchi believes that as a result of the action group`s collaboration, "eventually, the VF-45 will be accepted in the [local area network] market not only by end-users, but also by original equipment manufacturers," which would be an important factor in driving down the cost of fiber-to-the-desk.

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