The recent state of Optical Fiber Connectors (2018)

We have already covered the fundamentals of the optics connectors in a previous post. We explained the differences in polishing, RL and IL and choosing the right one. Nonetheless, technology keeps moving forward, and we need to be aware of the latest advancements so we can properly take advantage of the resources at our disposal.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the most recent developments in the field of connectors. So feel free to join the ride, and explore what the next generation of connectors is all about!

fiber optics connectors

Nowadays, physical space has become an important issue. With the advent of more connection needs, size has gotten increasingly valuable when it comes to adopting new connections for the future. This is where splice-on connectors come in handy since they have expanded the catalog of resources for companies that need to establish new connections in their plants.

New connectors, ranging from fiber-to-the-x (FTTx) to no-epoxy/no-polish (NENP), for example, are now being used to augment speed and diminishes expenses. These new modules allow to decrease the size required for a “splice tray” and diminish the cost of space needed. This shall be the trend followed by the new developments in optic fiber connectors.

diminish the cost of space needed

The increasing demand for access networks and the increased value of rack space has originated the inclusion of small form connectors or multi-fiber connectors with high-bandwidth features. This need is represented by repair, need to improve fiber routing, fiber system upgrades and installation of space to temporary connections.

The current needs of the optic fiber scene have aimed towards a technology and equipment-cost perspective. The demand and the technology and have made a notorious impact on the cost and performance of the next generation of connectors.

The other area that has been dramatically changed in field termination, is represented by the need for an angled polished connector (APC) end face as the interface. APC interface has become the industry standard for FTTx and other outside plant equipment. That being said, the cost of material per termination has been reduced considerably as the new generation of connectors has become commonly utilized.

Anaerobic (epoxy/polish):

  • These connectors have been made by taking the existing field fiber and adhering it inside the ferrule. These anaerobic terminations are low-cost connectors that offer a robust performance over time and throughout changes in temperature. Anaerobic connectors have now been justifiably accepted in the optic fiber industry. Perhaps the only limitation of these terminations it that their efficiency is highly determined by the expertise of the technicians who install them and handle them.

Anaerobic (epoxy/polish)

No-epoxy no-polish (NENP):
  • These connectors posses a physical way of retaining the field fiber by compression and meet the fiber retention qualities while offering/providing a factory-polished end face for mating in the adapter. The only conditions for a proper performance of this type of terminations are represented by location and stability. The retention technology that these terminations offer is established by its manufacturers. The only foreseeable limitation is the impact of temperature in these terminations, which can cause unwanted margins of loss.
  • NENP angled polished connectors: The introduction of consistent APC terminations has filled the necessity of field-installed APC connectors in FTTx-type projects. However, the incorporation and alignment of these connectors are both time-consuming and extremely craft-sensitive. The consequence is a considerable need for a higher maintenance, which may add cost to the termination.
  • The variables of field deployment range from temperature change, performance variation due to factory fiber characteristics, quality of field fiber with regards to quality of fiber, tools and termination process. Taking into consideration all of these variables when defining a mechanical connector, the manufacturers have been able to consistently meet the insertion of loss requirements. The individual optical performance requirements have to be addressed with the specific mechanical connector manufacturer to guarantee a flawless optical plant is being put together.

Fusion splice-on connectors:

  • These connectors remove some variables and add strength. The vast majority of splice-on connectors are now available for use in the field and they are able to retain a consistent splice loss and return loss over temperature and time. These connectors can keep the performance of a splice-on pigtail without having to store a splice sleeve and they stand for being the most robust and consistent option for field-installable fiber connectors.

These connectors can keep the performance of a splice-on pigtail

MPO/MTP® connector:

  • These terminations provide offers strength in numbers. Holding the strength from the fusion splice type connector and expanding its flexibility for field deployment generates a field-installable multi-fiber connector known as the MPO (multi-fiber push on). This connector offers the same benefits as a single fiber fusion splice-on connector but terminates up to 12 fibers per connection. This type of connector helps with restoration, repair and upgrade projects of existing MPO networks. The factory end face and fusion spliced optical path produce a solid alternative for field termination. The MPO termination has been growing and will continue to grow with fiber consolidation and high-speed bandwidth connections.

mpo cables benefits

Self-contained patch and splice modules:

  • This is a variation of field-installable termination that goes into a self-contained field-installable patch and splice module. Field-installable modules employ a traditional pigtail splice to an adapter; fortunately, the need for factory pre-termination is removed. This is very convenient to those cases where space is limited or when you need a small footprint fiber termination. Because this module is self-contained, patch and splice, this option constitutes a cost-effective solution when adding a circuit to an existing fiber rack system or colocation type deployment. 

Taking a decision towards which one of these options are the best for your needs is certainly not easy, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to make a proper decision. You just need to gather a good amount of solid information based on what your system really needs.

It is mandatory then to have a good sense of the space available for potential adjustments. That being said, you then need to take a close look at the available options offered by trustworthy manufacturers. If you do a thorough research, rest assured that you will find the resources that will accommodate your needs.

So don’t despair if you suspect that you’re not able to find a perfect solution to your problem because more often than not, that seems to be the case. Just make sure to focus on having a solid understanding on the demands, study proficiently the resources at your disposal and then get prepared to make the ultimate decision that will help you satisfy what you most urgently need for.

We really hope you can find all of this information very useful for your projects. 

March 09, 2018 by
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