How to Monitor Fiber Optic Networks

Morgana Siggins
Morgana Siggins
Monitoring Specialist

Fiber is everywhere. However, many organizations are not completely adapted to properly work with it.

We've been a network monitoring solutions manufacturer for more than 30 years, and we've had many companies reaching out to us after a major outage caused by the lack of fiber fault monitoring. That's why we make sure to alert you that to avoid outages you need to have an early detection plan. With advanced notification of broken links and faults, you'll instantly get the upper hand in preventing outages.

How does fiber fault detection technology work? I'll explain it to you in this article.

You'll learn how to efficiently monitor fiber optic networks, and we'll also walk through the necessary components of a complete fiber fault monitoring system and the benefits of fiber fault management. This way you'll have the knowledge to make the right decisions for your network.

Quick Overview of Fiber Optic Networks

Fiber optic cable provides you with access to your network, which connects you to all of your customers, resources, and systems. This connection provides your customers and/or users with the services you have promised.

It is vital to know all potential problems within your fiber optic network, as your business depends on its productivity.

The data center segments of networks can be considered the "edge" of the overall access network. Almost all optical network access points fall within the range of 40km or below. There are tons of connections, splices, patch-panels, and miles of optical fiber in this area which make it particularly vulnerable to breaks and other potential problems. These potential problems are magnified by a large number of possible failure points in this segment.

Inefficiencies of Traditional OTDR Solutions

Optical Time Domain Reflectometry (OTDR) is the function that monitors your fiber optic cables in order to detect cuts, breaks, or other faults. There are solutions out there that can help monitor for these issues, but they don't have a fast, efficient, and physical layer approach that allows for instantaneous identification, localization, and reporting (via SNMP).

Centralized OTDR systems:

How to Monitor Fiber Optic Networks

To fully monitor and report the status of a fiber optic network, distributed performance monitors need to be placed everywhere. You can achieve close to 100% detection when all links incorporate performance monitoring.

Fault detection within fiber cables is based upon reflected light signals from a fault's origin. Fiber faults and intermittent connections produce optical reflections of varying intensities. The reflection intensity of a fiber break has a known statistical distribution.

Fiber fault graph

As you can see in the graph above, to achieve a 95% detection probability, the detection circuit needs to be better than 51dB. Using this graph and the known normal distribution, it is possible to predict outcomes.

Fiber fault detection graph

The ability to monitor multiple fibers within the same cable trunk can increase the probability of detecting faults as each fiber breaks differently. Optical fiber links may be monitored from one or both sides when a ring network topology is in use. When monitoring both ends, the probability of detection which may be achieved for a fiber break is much improved and is shown in the graph above.

Fundamental Components of a Fiber Fault Monitoring Solution

The logical place to put performance monitoring is in the optical transceivers for fiber cables, which by necessity MUST reside at both ends of every optical link within the access network. With performance monitoring distributed throughout the entire network, the probability of the detection, localization, and reporting (via SNMP) of fiber faults is greatly increased.

Advantages of Monitoring with Micro-OTDR/SFP Transceivers

You rely fully on your fiber optic network to deliver the products and services that your business needs to succeed. There is a way to monitor its status and fix problems more quickly and efficiently than ever. There are a few key advantages that make it imperative to do so.

Choosing the Best Fiber Fault Monitoring Solution Vendor

We all know that finding the right vendor for products can be difficult. With so many options out there, it is important to focus on specifics, value, and support. You now know exactly what type of performance monitoring solution you should be looking for. What other aspects should you take into consideration?

We can Help You With a Perfect-Fit Fiber Fault Monitoring Solution

How does this fiber fault detection technology work? Whenever the data link breaks, a pulse of light is instantly shot through the optical fibers and is reflected back. The timing on the returned pulse pinpoints the location of the fault.

Traditionally, many fault detectors had poor performance and operational problems. First, they would occupy an entire optical shelf, which is inefficient. Secondly, they were sensitive to the noise caused by the return reflections.

However, a new "reflection immune" design overcomes these previous limitations by using special firmware to make these single fiber, single wavelength (SFSW) SFP Transceivers immune to reflections. This transceiver is also capable of CWDM data transport in normal use. You won't have to dedicate an entire fiber for monitoring, nor will you sacrifice a CWDM channel, so you'll have more optical fibers for revenue generation.

The bottom line is: you're instantly notified of faults in your fiber transports. This saves you operational expense dollars and helps you quickly get back online during outages (such as disaster-recovery situations).

Detecting a fault is just the first step in the equation. Ideally, whenever the data link is broken, you should quickly be notified (via email, SMS text message, phone call, SNMP, etc.).

As an experienced network fault monitoring solutions provider, we can provide you with a perfect-fit device to monitor your fiber optic networks. Our T/Mon master station provides thorough coverage over all Micro-OTDR fault detectors. It not only has scalable capacity, but also can monitor other network elements - helping you maximize your ROI.

Without the right visibility, a fault could go unnoticed for far too long. We can provide you the means to keep you apprised of all faults and breaks in your fiber transports. Call us and start your project today.

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