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January 2021

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In This Issue
Note we have changed the format to place articles in sections on one topic and all articles are dated so you know if we repeat one - whcih we often do when we think it's very important!


2021 Update
A Perfect Score
Last Gasp For Multimode Fiber
The "Father of Fiber Optics"

Newsletter Sections

Click on any link to jump to that section

TIA-568 Revisions
Statistics On US Labor In Telecom
Technical  Lasers & LEDs, Total internal reflection , Loss Budget Calculator

Worth Reading  Lots of interesting articles

Q&A    Questions from our readers

Training/FiberU   New Fiber U MiniCourses,  schools, remote OTDR for training, making training classroom safe, onine training, materials, more
Resources New FOA YouTube Videos.  Safety  


FOA Certifications: 

CFOT Total

Time To Renew Your FOA Certifications?
Special offer - 1/3 Off Renewal

See FOA Jobs Web Page and FOA on FOA on LinkedIn
The FOA Jobs Web Page has been updated and a new page added on Using your FOA Training/Certification to Find the Right Job in Fiber Optics

Where Are The Jobs In Fiber Optics? FOA talks about all the applications for fiber optics, what jobs involve and the qualifications for the workers in the field in this YouTube video.

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Trademarks: The FOA CFOT® (Certified Fiber Optic Technician) and Fiber U® (the FOA online self-study program) are registered trademarks of the FOA.
FOA Guide
Want to know more about fiber optics? Study for FOA certifications? Free Self-Study Programs are on "Fiber U®." Looking for specific information? Here's the largest technical reference on the web: The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

Free online self-study programs on many fiber optics and cabling topics are available at Fiber U, FOA's online web-based training website.

 FOA Reference Books
Available Printed or eBooks
The fiber book is available in Spanish and French

FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Premises Cablng book FOA Reference Guide to OSP Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book
FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Network Design book FOA Book on Fiber Optic Testing FOA Outside Plant Fiber Optics Construction Guide  Lennie Lightwave

Lennie and Uncle Ted's Guides are now also available as free iBooks on iTunes.
Lennie Lightwave's Guide To Fiber Optics   Uncle Ted's Guide to Premises Cablling
Click on any of the books to learn more.
Fiber Optic Safety Poster to download and print

FOA Videos on videos

FOA is a member of:

TIA Online
FTTH Council

The FOA Newsletter is edited by Jim Hayes - send your stories, leads, ideas, comments to <jim @>
Jim Hayes

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SPECIAL OFFER -  1/3 Off Your Certification Renewal Cost

In the near future, there will be a requirement for continuing education to renew your FOA certifications. FOA is testing an option for renewals where you take a short Fiber U online course. 

If you would like to help FOA test this option, you can save 1/3 the cost of your renewal.  Go here to take the Fiber U CFOT Renewal Course:

FOA Newsletter - Features

Best Wishes For A Happy And Prosperous 2021!

Last year we started out our January Newsletter saying:

"But Watch Out For This Year... We're only a few days into the New Year and all we can say is the outlook is uncertain."

Well !

Little did we know what was in store for us in 2020! We don't need to review the past year, but it did teach everyone a few lessons.

The Internet Works
We learned that the Internet is a necessity, not a luxury, as many people stayed home from school or work and depended on their Internet. We learned that the internet is robust; it withstood the daily onslaught of videoconferencing and data transfers from home with few glitches. Some areas even seemed to get upgrades in service without asking.

But it soon became apparent that many people had inadequate or no Internet - perhaps 40 million in the US alone. The primary groups affected were students. Employees working from home were generally Internet savvy people who would not live somewhere without adequate Internet service. But students are different. Many were from low income urban rural areas where traditional service providers have not built out services because it is costly and doesn't have the payback of rich urban and suburban areas. Besides the largest service providers were too engrossed in the entertainment business, promoting their online movies or funding documentaries on the joys of 5G - or was that just a science fiction B movie?

What people learned this year was if you wanted Internet or better Internet or even cheaper Internet, you better do-it-yourself. And based on the large numbers who have called FOA for advice this year, that is where the action will be for the foreseeable future.

Training Adapted
FOA schools around the world faced a big problem - how to train people in fiber optics under restrictions of numbers of people gathering, social distancing, sharing equipment and working while wearing masks. We all learned a lot this year. Schools rearranged classrooms to allow students to work alone with sufficient distance between them. Instructors spent a lot of time developing visual aids and one even was able to set up test equipment that could be shared on students smartphones or tablets. One instructor told us he spent much of his time simply cleaning and sanitizing desks and equipment.

Blended learning went mainstream this year. Schools have been using Fiber U online courses like the Basics of Fiber Optics to prepare their students to attend a regular class so they can spend more time in the lab. This year the online courses with help from instructors and videoconferencing replaced the classroom work in many classes. Students needed to come to class just for the hands-on work, shortening the time in required to be attending class in person.

FOA even started beta testing remote labs with some of our schools. Schools send their students equipment and components then use visual aids created by FOA and videoconferencing to teach hands-on skills and verify the students skills over videoconferencing links. With remote labs, students can get FOA certification training at home or in their office without attending a class at a school. This has some other advantages, as we've seen the need to train people in hard to reach places such as on ships, in remote locations like the Arctic or Antarctic, or anywhere you can get a satellite Internet connection. (International Space Station perhaps?)

For those interested in special topics, Fiber U added ten new "Minicourses" that you can take in an hour or less but completely cover an important topic for fiber techs. Topics included some very basic ones like "dB" or loss budgets, as very important ones like cable bend radius, midspan access and
fiber optic network restoration.

CFOT running total

The complexities of adapting to the pandemic took FOA and our schools some time to adapt, so, as expected, we saw a drop in the numbers of new FOA CFOTs this year, down about 1/3 from the year before.We had a big year for working techs coming to FOA for our direct "Work-to-Cert" program and contractors asking FOA about training new employees which led to FOA developing a "OJT-to-Cert" program too.

FOA continues to grow and we've seen a big increase in interest in fiber optics from those organizations who have decided they must do it themselves if they want to build fiber networks to provide Internet to their area.

OJT To Cert
As we said above, contractors needing to train new employees as fiber optic technicians often had no local schools offering classes because of restrictions on groups, so they asked us what they can do until in-person training becomes available. We always recommend that novices start with the Fiber U Basics of Fiber Optics online self-study course, covering the knowledge part of the FOA KSAs. If they are working with a contractor doing OJT, their mentor/supervisor should have a program to teach them the hands-on skills which they will use in the field - on the job.

FOA has been working with several contractors to set up a comprehensive OJT-to-Cert program, adding in the Fiber U Basic Skills Lab. The
Basic Skills Lab gives the the overview of all the installation practices the will learn, providing basic instruction and hints on how to do them correctly. Then they can be allowed to use company equipment already knowing how it's supposed to be done, speeding up the learning process.

The reason we call this program "OJT-to-Cert" is that novices can become trainees and then, when they have field experience, get CFOT certified by FOA. And since they have specific learning goals to achieve, they can become CFOTs in significantly less time that working on their own.

A Perfect Test Score And Some Feedback

Over the holidays, CFOT Steven McCauley chose to take the FOA CFOT renewal course and save 1/3 on his CFOT renewal. What's unusual was Steven got a perfect score! We almost never have anyone get a prefect score on any FOA tests or exams, so we sent him an email of congratulations. Here is his reply which he kindly gave us permission to reprint here:

"Thank you!! I thought the test was pretty good. There were a couple of tricky questions that I almost changed my answers on, but I am glad now that I didn't. I don't often get a perfect score. In addition to reading and studying the two lessons linked in the renewal email I went back and reviewed all of the end of chapter review questions from your Study Guide to FOA Certification and read up on anything that I had questions on. I would estimate that I spent about 6-8 hours total over the long Xmas weekend in preparation. I thought the two lessons linked to in the renewal email did a nice job of explaining dB/dBm and the associated +/- signs (or lack of)  was helpful, especially for those who might not work with decibels on a regular basis. I have a background in RF and antennas so it was a good refresher. Also, I think the explanation of  the 1, 2, and 3 cable tests in the linked Lesson 2 was nicely done. I think I have a much better understanding of the difference(s) and the reasons for those differences now. All in all, I don't think anyone who puts forth a little bit of effort will have much of a problem with the recertification test."

In the future, FOA will be requiring a short refresher course and test like this for renewal, so we've been offering a discount on CFOT renewal for those who will take the test now and help us develop a proper exam. Thank you Steven and again, congratulations!

The Last Gasp For Multimode Fiber?

Cost now favors singlemode, even in equipment/transceivers

The decision between multimode and singlemode fiber has been argued for years. This year, we have evidence the matter should be decided and discussion closed.

Multimode fiber has maintained some market share for years because of one simple fact - multimode transceivers and equipment were cheaper than singlemode. Everybody knows MM bandwidth is limited, even as higher bandwidth versions (OM3/4) have made it possible to get above 10Gb/s for short links in buildings. But to reach 100Gb/s, the current standard for data centers and the goal of some LANs, you need to use parallel optics with 8 or 20 fibers (12 or 24 in reality because MPO array connectors are set up for 12 fiber rows.) Sure there is a fiber for short wavlength WDM (OM5) but it has not been welcomed by most users.

Projects like the Open Compute Project for data centers had driven down the cost of singlemode transceivers so singlemode dominates there because speeds are already at 100G and above. But this year, FTTH technology and, most importantly, astronomically high volume, has flowed down to everyday transceivers and media converters.

We first became aware of this from two FOA instructors. One sent us some of the "spam" emails he was getting from suppliers in China. FTTH ONTs were being offered for less than $10 each. This is a terminal for FTTH that transmits bidirectionally over one fiber and converts GPON to Ethernet, phone and video for the home. We started reading our junk mail and found the same thing. The second instructor told us he was buying Ethernet to fiber media media converters off Amazon so cheap he was bundling them with tools (also off Amazon) and sending out to people interested in a do-it-yourself fiber optic course.

We started searching Amazon, eBay and other websites like Alibaba to see what we could find. We bought several Gigabit Ethernet media converters for less than $30 each - $60 per pair to make a link - and singlemode versions were several dollars cheaper than multimode.

media converters

We set up a demo data link with these media converters from our cable modem to a laptop to test it. We also checked the power level, about -7dBm. The link worked perfectly.

Of course so did the multimode versions of the same product we bought, but remember they cost several dollars more and the cable was also higher priced.

That was in the Spring of 2020. For a long time these were the least expensive media converters we could find. Recently, however, we bought a pair of singlemode single-fiber bidirectional 10/100M media converters (not gigabit, but fast enough for most applications) for $22. However we had to spend an additional $15 for two power supplies that were not included with the converters. But that's still amazingly low cost - $37 for the electronics to build a singlemode link.

Media converters are useful to convert Ethernet or other electronic signals to fiber, but most network electronics use some form of pluggable module like the "SFP." Searching for SFP modules, we found them for gigabit Ethernet at $124 for a pack of 10 for MM, $114 for SM, or about $11-12 each and $1 each cheaper for SM.  At 10G, MM was just slightly cheaper, ~$20-30 compared to ~$25-50 for SM.
Note, all these products had 5-star customer ratings, primarily from IT users.


The cost of practically any product depends on the cost to make something and the market for its sales. Low volume means things are harder to produce, equipment that must be amortized over the product lifetime adds more cost to each unit manufactured and sold. Things made in high volume not only amortize the cost of production equipment faster but the volume means that it is easier to determine how to make them and make them reliable. If the sales volume is high, the cost of sales per unit is lower and customers expect to get a volume discount on price.

Start with multimode and singlemode fiber. Multimode fiber sales are only a few percent of the total fiber market since it's use is primarily premises cabling. The volume for OSP cabling, not just in length but average number of fibers per cable, is enormously higher. Then there is the complexity of the core of multimode graded index fiber with hundreds or thousands of layers to create the graded index core of fiber with higher bandwidth which causes which makes it harder to manufacture and uses more expensive materials.

The limited bandwidth of multimode fiber has led to a "brute force" solution for higher speeds - parallel fibers in a link, requiring 8 or 20 fibers to make a 100G link (12 or 24 fibers if you use regular 12-fiber array connectors.) And the connectors to use in these links are not easily field terminated so one must design a system carefully and purchase a complete cable plant. Needless to say, something custom built is expensive, although it reduces the cost of installation.

Singlemode fiber has a simpler structure and higher volume, so it's cheaper. One market researcher I know says it's "cheaper than kite string and fishing line."

The big difference in MM and SM networks has been the cost of transceivers. MM started with LEDs and went to 850nm VCSELs at 1G and above. VCSELs were in the early days more expensive than LEDs but less expensive that SM lasers. For decades researchers have been trying to make 1310 nm VCSELs for SM fiber but the physics is against them. However, the simple Fabry-Perot singlemode laser has been made for four decades and the volume used in FTTH has driven the price down to be comparable with 850nm VCSELs.

Above 25G, SM can use wavelength division multiplexing to achieve 100G and above on 2 fibers. Attempts to make SM WDM work with 850-950nm VCSELs and OM5 wideband fiber have worked but the acceptance by manufacturers and users seems lacking.

Today, SM electronics are comparable or cheaper to MM electronics, cabling is cheaper. SM has the ability to be upgraded to terabit networks, MM, not so much.

And remember that passive optical LANs based on FTTH PONs are more cost effective for premises LANs - using SM fiber.

MM Won't Go Away
We don't expect to see MM fiber disappear; it has too much history and momentum, plus lots of advocates selling MM products. But the argument that MM is cheaper than SM is harder to make these days, and if you try to decipher the polarity of MPO for parallel optics (see News section below) you will certainly appreciate the simplicity of SM fiber. Upgrades? No question.

Narinder Kapany, "The Father Of Fiber Optics" 1926-2020

Narinder Kapany Photo courtesy UCSC

Narinder Singh Kapany who coined the term "fiber optics" in an article in Scientific American magazine in 1960, died in December. Kapany, as a graduate student at Imperial College in London working under Harold Hopkins, was the first person to demonstrate how to use fiber optics in bundles to transmit light. In the decade following his first successful results in 1954 he was an author or co-author of 56 scientific papers on the subject and wrote the first book published on the topic.

Dr. Kapany was more than a scientist, he was an entrepreneur, educator and evangelist for this new technology. He started two companies, Optics Technology in 1960,  Kaptron in 1973 (acquired by AMP in the late 1990s) and K2 Optronics (with his sone Raj) in 1999.

During the 1980s, it seemed that Dr. Kapany was at every conference on fiber optics, at least the ones I (JH) was attending. He was an person you could hardly fail to notice, elegant dress topped by his turban, enthusiastically promoting the technology, encouraging investment and R&D to help bring this new technology to commercialization.

He retained his academic roots, teaching at the University of California at Santa Cruz and endowing chairs at several other UC schools in optics, entrepreneurship and Sikh studies.

His research and inventions have encompassed other technologies beyond fiber-optics communications: lasers, biomedical instrumentation, solar energy, and pollution monitoring. He earned over 120 patents,

Some have said that Dr. Kapany deserved the Nobel Prize given to Dr. Charles Kao. But one could also argue that a Nobel Prize for fiber optics should be shared with others from Bell Labs, Corning and several other organizations that pioneered the technology.

Read more from UC Santa Cruz  and Santa Cruz Tech Beat.

FOA Newsletter Sections

News     Technical    Worth Reading    Q&A    Training/FiberU    Resoures    Safety   About


April Fools Day Coming Early This Year?

Or just somebody trying to top the wild claims about 5G?


The article does make one serious comment:

"In their view, the setting of hard targets for connectivity speed has brought little payoff for operators while lumbering them with multi-billion-dollar bills for the rollout of more advanced networks. By simply cranking up the bitrate or cutting latency, each successive generation looks even less like a breakthrough and more like a mere evolution of mobile technology. "

Well, isn't that what it is? Nobody has come up with a way to make more money for carriers as new uses for cellular communications put the burden on them to offer more bandwidth.

Read it in Light Reading 

TIA-568 Revision: MPO Polarity Standards Expand To 38 Pages

The TIA standard for fiber optic cabling in premises applications, TIA-568.3, is up for its 5th revision (TIA-568.3-E) and has many changes, most of which were expected. Three fibers, OS1, OM1 and OM2 are no longer included although they are mentioned as being "grandfathered," which means that these components which have been part of the standard for decades are now described as " grandfathered content recognized as compliant, but not recommended for new installations."

As usual, there are a few new definitions, some of which are puzzling. A splitter, as used in a passive OLAN, is officially designated as a "non-wavelength-selective passive optical branching component." Or "optical fiber: Any filament made of dielectric materials that guides"

Other changes include changing TIA fiber component standards to comply with ISO/IEC designations; not a problem since the TIA designations (e.g. ANSI/TIA-492AAAA, -492AAAB, -492AAAC, -492AAAD, and -492AAAE) were confusing at best. Also added were bend-insensitive fibers and OM5 wideband fiber. Another change makes sense, we suppose, as all illustrations and references to single fiber/duplex connectors are changed from "SC" to "LC." The MPO is used as the example for "array" or multi-fiber connectors.


The standard contains no less than 38 pages devoted to the MPO array connector, up from about 23 pages in earlier editions. There are also at least 34 drawings and even more tables. MPO is important, of course, but incredibly complex. The MPO is the de facto standard for array connectors used in prefabricated cabling systems and parallel optics for multimode links over 10G. The problem is that there are 3 variations of connector/fiber polarity which leads to multiple options for connecting various types of cables and breakouts to single fiber or duplex LC or SC connectors. (See the FOA page here for an explanation of MPOs.)

The complexity of the MPO explains why you might need the gadget below.


This tester verifies polarity for MPO cable assemblies and identifies types A, B and C polarity cables. Let brian Teague of SENKO explain it to you in their video at datasheet is here.

SENKO knows about the complexity of the MPO. On this page about MPO polarity, they say "The installer must have deep knowledge of the equipment and their positions to perform a correct connection."

Statistics on US Labor In Telecom

Eric Pearson sent us some links to US Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the US Workforce. Granted it was updated in May 2019, but has lots of useful and interesting information on where the work is and what workers are paid.


Read the reports here:

Telecommunications Line Installers and Repairers   (Install and repair telecommunications cable, including fiber optics.

Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers  (Install,
set up, rearrange, or remove switching, distribution, routing, and dialing equipment used in central offices or headends. Service or repair telephone, cable television, Internet, and other communications equipment on customers’ property. May install communications equipment or communications wiring in buildings.

Recycling Fiber Optic Cable - Contact:
Steve Maginnis
LD4Recycle/ CommuniCom Recycling
(Visit website)


On fiber optic technology, standards, equipment, installation, etc.

The FOA Update Page covers all the new technology and applications we covered in this newsletter recently. Now you can review all that new tech at once.

FOA Guide

Want to know more about fiber optics? Study for FOA certifications? Free Self-Study Programs are on "Fiber U®." Looking for specific information? Here's the largest technical reference on the web: The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

Fiber Optic Sources For Transmitters

FOA has added a new page to its online reference Guide on laser and LED sources for fiber optic transmitters. The types of sources used in fiber optic transmitters are determined by a number of factors including the speed of transmission and the distance needed over the link. It's also tied to the types of fiber being used, affecting coupling to the fiber and the preferred wavelengths of transmission. This page in the FOA Guide covers the types of sources and their characteristics that make them appropriate for each application.

Sources For Fiber Optic Transmitters - LEDs And Lasers  

Midspan Access - Simplifying Installation Of Drops

Technical questions we get here at FOA often remind us of things many of us take for granted that are not known by many installers and particularly network owners and users. Recently we received an email like this from a network owner working with a contractor on a 15mile (25km) cable plant with roughly 17 locations where cable drops were needed:

"Can the quantity of fiber optic fusion splices and splice enclosures please be confirmed? For 192F cable, there should be 194 splices per splice case at each site where a 4F drop cable is installed."

Neither the user nor his contractor knew about midspan access. We figured that probably meant that lots of other people don't know about it either, so we decided to cover it in this newsletter, add a page to the FOA Guide and maybe even make a Fiber U MiniCourse about it.

Here is an example:

Many installations involve dropping a small fiber count cable from a large backbone cable. Backbone cables of 144-288 fibers are common and larger ones are becoming more common too. Drop cables are often only 2-14 fibers, meaning most fibers are continuing straight through the drop point. Midspan access involves opening the cable by removing the jacket and strength members, opening the buffer tube and splicing only the fibers being dropped at that point. The untouched buffer tubes from the opened cable are carefully rolled up and stored in the same splice closure as the fibers that will be separated and spliced to a drop cable.

Midspan access

If there is a method of splicing only the 4 drop fibers instead of the 144 fibers, we will only have 4 splices instead of 144 or 146 depending on the architecture of our system. The difference is according to how the drop is configured.

midspan access
If you are building a star network where every drop links back to the origin of the network, you will splice 4 fibers in the cable to the drop cable, leaving 4 splices on 4 fibers (instead of 144 splices if the backbone cable is cut and respliced.

midspan access
If you are building a ring network, you may only be splicing two fibers going to the drop and two others that are continuing along the ring network.

All this may seem obvious but in actual practice requires some knowledge, skills and careful workmanship. To do a proper job. Fortunately, manufacturers of cables and tools have good information available online on how to do it, and FOA Master Instructor Joe Botha has provided FOA with a application note on how midspan access is done in his classes also.

The basic process is simple. We will look at a loose tube cable but processes exist for ribbon cables also. You remove the jacket of the cable for a specified length according to the cable type and splice closures used. After removing the cable jacket, you remove unnecessary strength members, leaving enough of the stiff central member on both ends to attach to the splice closure. Identify the tube with the fibers to be spliced to the drop cable and set aside while carefully coiling the other tubes for storage in the closure.

To open the buffer tube, you need a midspan access tube that shaves off a section of the tube to allow removal of the fibers without damaging them. Here two types of Miller tools that shave the tube:

midspan access tool  midspan access

After shaving the tube and removing the fibers - count carefully to ensure you remove all the fibers! - you can cut the tube off to have bare fibers only for the length you need to splice on the drop cable. All these fibers will be placed in a splice tray for safe storage but only the fibers being dropped will be cut and spliced to the drop cable. This is what the closure will look like, ready for splicing the drop cable.

midspan access

In the case of the particular user who contacted us, not every drop would use midspan access. His cable plant was 15miles (25km) long with roughly 17 locations where cable drops were needed. The cable he was using could only be made in 5km lengths, so there would have to be several locations where the cable would be spliced in the 25km run.

The design would need to carefully determine how much cable was needed along each section of the route, including lengths for service loops and midspan access or splicing, to determine which drop points would be using midspan access ans which would be used as splice points for the entire cable.

That's why fiber optic network design is important but sometimes complicated.

Search online for "midspan access" to find lots of application notes and videos on the subject. Or talk to your fiber optic cable vendors.

FOA Guide Page on Midspan Access

Try The FOA's New Online Loss Budget Calculator

FOA has written many articles about loss budgets, something everyone involved in fiber optics needs to know and needs to know how to calculate. We've created a online Loss Budget Calculator that does the work for you. Just input your cable plant data and it calculates the loss budget. It works on any device, especially smartphones and tablets for field use and even allows printing the results.

FOA Loss Budget Calculator

Bookmark this page (especially on your smartphone): FOA Loss Budget Calculator Online

Splice-On Connector Manufacturers and Tradenames   7/2020

FOA Master Instructor Eric Pearson of Pearson Technologies shared a list he has researched of prepolished splice connectors with mechanical splices and SOC - splice-on connectors for fusion splicing. This list shows how widepread the availability of these connectors has become, especially the SOCs and low cost fusion splicers.

Mechanical Splice
1.    Corning Unicam® (50, 62.5, SM)
1.    FIS Cheetah (???)
2.    Panduit OptiCam® (50, 62.5, SM)
3.    Commscope Quik II  (50, 62.5, SM)
4.    Cleerline SSF™ (50, SM)
5.    LeGrand/Ortronics Infinium® (50, 62.5, SM)
6.    3M/Corning CrimpLok (50, 62.5, SM)
7.    Leviton FastCam© (50, 62.5, SM)

Fusion Splice
2.    Inno (50, 62.5, SM)
3.    Corning FuseLite® (50, SM)
4.    FORC (50, 62.5, SM)
5.    Siemon OptiFuse ™ (SM, MM)
6.    Belden OptiMax?? FiberExpress (SM, MM)
7.    AFL FuseConnect® (SM, MM)
8.    OFS optics EZ!Fuse ™ (50, 62.5, SM)
9.    Sumitomo Lynx2 Custom Fit® (50, 62.5, SM)
10.    Commscope Quik-Fuse (50, SM)
11.    Ilsintech Pro, Swift® (50, 62.5, SM)
12.    LeGrand/Ortronics Infinium® (50, 62.5, SM)
13.    Greenlee (50, 62.5, SM)
14.    Hubbell Pro  (50, SM)
15.    Easysplicer (SM)

Note: There are additional manufacturers from the Peoples Republic of China, which advertise on Amazon and eBay.

Worth Reading

Each month we read hundreds of newsletters and online articles. These are the ones we think you will find "worth reading."

Worth Reading: 01/2021

Making Your Town Broadband Ready Even if you are not ready to build your own fiber or FTTH network, there are things you can do now to be ready when you make that decision that will also help attract private investment. This article is by Trevor Jones, Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Customer service for OTELCO, which owns independent telephone companies in seven states and partners with several community networks in Massachusetts. Contact him at It offers good advice for cities thinking about or needing fiber in their town. (Broadband Communities)

Everstream launches 5G fiber builds in seven Midwestern U.S. markets Business-only fiber network services provider Everstream says it plans to launch fiber cable deployments in seven Midwest markets to support 5G mobile network requirements. The company says the fiber networks will help to connect more than 2,000 macro cell towers in those markets and offer backhaul support. (Lightwave)

Infinera, Facebook achieve 700-Gbps per wavelength transmission on MAREA submarine cable In a “hero experiment” scenario, a production version of an ICE6 module enabled wavelength transmission of 700 Gbps over 6,640 km. (Lightwave)

Removing Roadblocks on Bridge Over Digital Divide: Explaining the Affordable, Accessible Internet for All Act - Reversing laws that prohibited government or public/private broadband, mandating "Dig Once." ILSW Community Networks

Next Century Cities Year in Review - Overview of progress made in the last - eventful - year. Link is to a Black&White version which is easier to read. The color version is here.

Telcos’ tipping point: 10G Fiber and Software-Defined Access, Dell'Oro Group/Adtran.  The need to provision and deliver new services in a matter of hours, as opposed to weeks or months, holds just as much priority as the ability to deliver up to 10Gbps of PON capacity.


Dilbert's Company Rolls Out 5G - DON"T MISS THIS!

Passive Optical LAN shines in Cost Comparison - Lightwave

US FCCs Rural Digital Opportunity Fund made awards of >$9BUS to ISPs to deliver Internet. There was jubilation and consternation. Reading these show what we mean:

Case Studies - Next Century Cities - state of broadband in some US cities.

Fiber Resource Shortages - Doug Dawson, President of CCG Consulting sees shortages of labor and components in 2021

Terminating an eposy/polish ST connector - Linden Photonics shows how to make a reliable termination (excellent visuals show how it's done)

AFL Splice Closure For High Density Cables - up to 3456 fibers (video)

Can one of the architects of AT&T’s woes turn it around?  

Uncool can beat flashy tech - NY Times. Balloon Internet project by Google's parent Alphabet hits snags, remote areas wonder why it's needed - they have Internet on old-tech mobile phones

Power Delivery over Single-Pair Ethernet - TIA Webinar recorded earlier.

Biden, top Democrats lay groundwork for multibillion-dollar push to boost U.S. broadband  

Residents Form Broadband Coop -
“Electric cooperatives worked, why can’t we do the same thing for broadband?”


Saving Lives through Education. Online, worldwide April 6-8, 2021. The Excavation Safety Conference VIRTUAL brings critical damage prevention education to help all stakeholder groups online, providing new opportunities to network with industry peers, learn safe practices, and lower costs associated with underground damages. Register now at

Worth Reading: 11/20

The pandemic makes clear it’s time to treat the internet as a utility - David Lazarus, Business, LA Times

Another company (SpaceMobile) wants to load space with low earth satellites - Light Reading

Chicago And Denver Voters Say Yes to Expanded Broadband Options - ILSR

10 Tips For Installing Fiber Optic Cable - Multilink

Why the 5G pushiness? Because $$$. Shira Ovide, NYTimes

1995-2020 - FOA's 25th Anniversary!

As part of celebrating 25 years of serving the fiber optic industry as its primary source of technical information and independent certifying body, FOA thought it appropriate to create a short history of the organization and how it has developed  to help the fiber optic industry. We also wanted to recognize the contributions many people have made to the organization over the years that made FOA what it is today.

The FOA history is now archived on the FOA website where you can read it anytime or link to it.
Updated info - dB, total internal reflection and science projects,

Worth Reading - News Summary - Past Links Worth Repeating

If you are interested in restoration - aren't we all? - you should also read this article in dpPro magazine by FOA President Jim Hayes: Damage Protection Requies Looking Overheas As Well As Underground - dpPRO Magazine - about the problems with aerial cables. His previous article for the magazine was New Techniques for Fiber Optic Installation.

How much fiber optic cable is manufactured each year? CRU Reports - unsurprisingly China is by far the largest market today

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance weekly newsletter has lots of interesting articles and links.

The Open Technology Institute at New America just published “The Cost of Connectivity 2020,”

US Ignite and Altman Solon issued “Broadband Models for Unserved and Underserved Communities

Universal access to broadband is a cornerstone to a strong economy, Achieving universal access will require community partnerships. by
Alfreda B. Norman, Sr. VP,  Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

FIBER TO THE FARM: The co-ops that electrified Depression-era farms are now building rural internet. Be sure to check out the high-tech equine installation equipment.

Next Century Cities Newsletter - News from cities around the US including Detroit and New York plus small

Infrastructure Get Some Respect, NY TImes "On Tech"   "The magic of the internet requires a lot of very boring stuff behind the scenes. "

Pentagon official: FCC decision on 5G threatens GPS, national security

Internet Statistics and Facts, 2020: Interesting, easy to get lost here!

DIRT Report On Damage To Utilities Common Ground Alliance (CGA) annual DIRT report provides a summary and analysis of the events submitted into CGA’s Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) for the year 2018. The complete report is available for download here. In addition, there is an interactive dashboard that allows users to filter the data more  by factors contributing to damages.

Structured Cabling News - a website and weekly newsletter about cabling.

The Internet Master Plan for New York City. The New York City Internet Master Plan is a comprehensive framework for the infrastructure and services that provide connectivity to New York City residents and businesses. This Master Plan will guide City actions and public-private partnerships to transform New Yorkers’ access to this essential infrastructure for generations to come.

Fiber Trivia From Corning.

Why understanding PoE now is crucial for electricians - To ring in the new decade, IDEAL Networks is urging today's electricians to master new skills and equipment to cope with the growing use of PoE in intelligent lighting applications.

Smart City Projects: Smart city initiatives are underway across the country. But they face funding and technology challenges. Many cities want to upgrade infrastructure to improve resident experience, safety and to generate revenue.

The Future Of Work Is Skills - So Stop Worrying About Degrees - The reality is the future of work is about skills, not just degrees. (FOA Newsletter Feb 2020)

Want a White-Collar Career Without College Debt? Become an Apprentice (NYTimes)
Apprenticeships probably began with the first jobs, where young people work under experienced craftspeople to learn a trade. In the last century, they became more organized under labor unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, one of the FOA's oldest and biggest approved school systems. Today, apprenticeships are expanding as young people look at viable alternatives to loading themselves with debt while attending college.

The job market is hot. So why are half of U.S. grads missing out?  

VIAVI Books On Fiber Optic Testing (2 volumes) - They're back!

books  book 2

Besides the FOA reference materials, two JDSU/VIAVI textbooks, Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Testing, Volumes 1 and 2,  were used as references for some of the FOA courses and are recommended for instructors and students. The books are available from VIAVI as eBooks and the everyone should download them and recommend them to others.Download yours now. Volume 1. Volume 2. Viavi Books

Guidebook To MPO Testing
OptoTest offers this complete guide to MTP®/MPO testing. In this guide, you will learn all there is to know about the different test methods, equipment options, troubleshooting, and best maintenance practices to ensure that you have the best testing experience. Go here to download the book.

50th Anniversary of The Development of Low Loss Fibers
A history of the development of low loss fiber, a fascinating story by Jeff Hecht on the OSA (Optical Society of America) website.

How OFS Makes Fiber

Interesting YouTube video on how fiber is made. Perhaps a little too much "show biz" but fascinating. If you have ever seen fiber manufacture, look at this video. You will be amazed at how big preforms have become!

How Nexans Makes Copper Cables - compare the process to fiber - don't most of the machines look similar?

The True Cost of Telco Damages (what backhoe fade or target practice can cost)

Rural Electric Cooperatives: Pole Attachment Policies and Issues, June 2019.

Clearfield-FOA Certification Training Clearfield is now offering their customers an FOA CERTIFICATION course. This course provides a basic understanding of fiber optic technology, as well as Clearfield product knowledge and how Clearfield’s integrated product systems work together in a fiber network.

Substandard Contractors - Fiber Optic Knowledge Doesn't Always Trickle Down  (EC Mag)

Another Source Of Articles On Fiber

FOA President and editor of this newsletter Jim Hayes has also been writing a column in Electrical Contractor Magazine for almost 20 years now. Electrical contractors do lots of fiber work and this column has covered some topics they are interested in including installation processes, network design, fiber applications and a lengthy series on dark fiber - what it is, how's its used and how it benefits the growth of communication. A recent web site redesign makes it easier to browse all these articles - just go to and you can see all of them.


Tech Questions/Comments From FOA Newsletter Readers Worth Repeating

The FOA Fiber FAQs Page (FAQs = frequently asked questions) gathers up questions readers have asked us (which first ran in this newsletter) and adds tech topics of general interest.

Good Question!

The FOA Fiber FAQs Page (FAQ s = frequently asked questions) gathers up questions readers have asked us and adds tech topics of general interest.

Questions From FOA Newsletter Readers

January 2021

Maintaining Dark Fiber
Do you have any standards that speak to how often dark fiber should be tested with OLTS and OTDR? Such as just at installation and when troubleshooting, or should they be done on a regular basis?
A: We at FOA know of no standards calling for periodic testing of fiber optic cable plants.
Fiber optic networks generally do not require maintenance and it is often detrimental to the network. It is the opinion of FOA and most people in the industry that testing should be done upon completion of the installation and data submitted to confirm proper installation of the cable plant. Data should then be stored for reference in case of problems requiring troubleshooting or when new dark fibers are turned up. Before lighting a dark fiber, it should be tested and the results compared to earlier data. Since both tests have some uncertainty, test results can vary as much as 0.5dB on short cables, higher on longer runs.
If older fiber is being upgraded to higher speeds, now cities like Santa Monica where we live are upgrading to 100G networks, fiber characterization including chromatic dispersion, polarization mode dispersion and spectral attenuation (for DWDM) are advised. Of course, every time a connection is opened, it should be inspected and cleaned. And patchcords should be tested; even new ones in sealed packages are often dirty. There is a reason people call the plastic protective caps on connectors “dust caps!”
Otherwise, with fiber, we suggest the patch panels be locket to keep unauthorized personnel from accessing them and causing problems. Even disconnecting a connector can add dirt to the connections and cause problems.


December 2020

Are FOA Videos and Web Up To Date?
Q: Are the videos on YouTube still relevant by today's standards are are they out of date?
A: Excellent question. We’ve discussed this within the FOA many times.
For example the live action videos on cable preparation, termination, mechanical and fusion splicing and testing are quite old by tech standards but the processes have not changed in two decades. Preparing loose tube, armored or tight buffer cables has not changed in over 20 years, nor has adhesive/polish connector termination. Prepolished/splice connector and SOC process are different and those processes have been updated. Testing processes are the same with the main difference being the automating of OTDR testing. Manufacturers have dumbed-down OTDRs so well that it seems few techs know how they work or how to read a trace, evidenced by the results of the FOA CFOT Certification exam where questions on OTDRs are the most often missed.
We just did a review of the copper installation for the Premises cabling (CPCT Certification) and that has not really changed in three decades - since the introduction of Cat 5 cable!
We review and update the technical pages in the FOA Guide all the time. Look at the Table of Contents (FOA Guide-  and see how many pages have the NEW symbol, indicating updates in the last couple of months.
Also FOA is adding YouTube videos ( ) and Fiber U MiniCourses ( on many topics regularly - monthly this year, covering new tech and the topics we know are lesser-known or new to most techs.
And let us know if there are topics you think we should focus on in the future.

Microscope Power For Connector Inspection
What power microscope do you recommend to inspect singlemode/multimode in 1.25/2.5 format (ST, SC, LC)?
Microscopes in the range of 100-400 power are available. Many people assume higher power is best - and it is for examining polishing results in the center of the ferrule - but lower power helps inspect more of the ferrule for dirt when used in the field before connecting or testing cables. We prefer the lower power.
So for patchcord manufacturers, 400, field techs 100. Patchcord manufacturers will undoubtedly use video microscopes, most field tech the optical ones.

November 2020

Loss For APC vs UPC Connectors
Q: I was wondering if there will be a standard connector loss for a UPC connector and a different lower value for an APC connector.. ex. upc has 0.5dB while APC is 0.3dB.
I would like to make all connectors uniform on a new network infra to avoid mismatch and causing any possible damage on the equipment when APC will be plugged into to a flat.
A: There is really no statistical difference between APC and UPC connector loss. The lower reflectance of the APC actually reduces loss since the reflectance represents a factor in connection loss, This issue of connector grades has been discussed at international standards committees for years. ISO/IEC wants to have grades of connectors, rated for connector loss in ranges from 0.1 to 1dB, but I do not think it’s standardized. I recommend using 0.3-0.5dB for loss budgets, where in OSP networks it matters little, since there are only a few connections and fiber and splice loss is a larger factor.
Keeping UPC and APC connectors straight is easy - APCs are Green, UPCs are blue. Everybody just needs to be taught that!

OTDRs - Launch Cables And Range
Q: I have a question about OTDR launch cables.  In all readings about OTDR testing, it states that the launch cable "needs to be of sufficient length ...".  What length is sufficient?  How long should a launch cable be?  What is the maximum length of cable plant that can be tested at one time?
A: OTDR launch cables need to be long enough to allow the OTDR to settle down after the test pulse leaves the instrument and reflectance at the output connector overloads the receiver. The dead zone is a function of the OTDR test pulse and the condition of the output connector. If you are testing short cables (<1km) with very short test pulses, a launch cable can be 20-50m long. If you are testing a very long cable with very wide pulses (some OTDRs have pulses ~4microseconds long, equivalent to ~1km) you would need a 2-5km launch cable. So the answer to that question is it depends on how long the fibers are you are testing.
As to how far a OTDR can reach, the answer is generally not specified in km but in dB. The best OTDRs have a reach of ~40dB at 1550nm which corresponds to ~150-200km, spending on how good the splices are. That length of fiber would have ~30 splices for say 3dB splice loss.
Here’s the FOA Guide page on OTDR testing and the FAQs page Frequently Asked Questions about OTDRs

October 2020
Last month's article about the installation of a 6912 fiber cable in small conduit prompted a number of this month's questions on social media. And there were more too.

Installation of a 6912 fiber cable

For this post, "Tight Fit: 6912 Fiber Cable Pulled in 1.25 inch Conduit”, he asks if they can see one end completely terminated?
A: It takes about 2 full racks of patch panels or one rack of splice trays. Sumitomo shows the splicing rack here Most systems using these cables will buy fully populated patch panel racks with a splice rack for the cable to splice to 6912 fibers terminated in the rack.

Q: And a second question:: How long does it take to terminate? And over how many panels?
A: A very experienced tech can splice one of these cables in ~75-100 hours using ribbon splicing.

Q: I assume that's smaller fiber like 80 micron cladding
A: All the fibers in the high fiber count cables are made with regular singlemode fiber - 9/125micron. TO make the cables smaller, the buffer coating diameter is reduced to ~200microns to make the fibers smaller.

Q: How was it prepared with the splice tray and ODF? It might require a dedicated panel and splice tray.
A: It takes about 2 full racks of patch panels or one rack of splice trays. Most systems using these cables will buy fully populated patch panel racks with a splice rack for the cable to splice to 6912 fibers terminated in the rack.

Q: Is this an actual photo or was the cable installed in a different type conduit.
A: We were told that is the actual size of the cable and conduit although not of the actual installation discussed.

Q: What is the minimum bend radius of that cable? What procedures did they use to maintain that bend radius through those 90 degree curves?
A: The minimum bend radius is 15X the cable diameter for that cable (diameter 1.14” or 29mm), about  17” or 435mm. The conduit bends had to be controlled to be larger than that radius.

Jobs In The Movie Industry
Does anyone know if there are job positions in the film industry that involve fiber optics? I started out working in film with audio work with some camera as well. I eventually transitioned into fiber optics installation and testing. I've been trying to find out if there's a way to find work that combines the two.
A: There are certainly jobs for fiber techs at the film studios. We worked with a group 20 years ago to find dark fiber in LA to connect studios to sound stages and other facilities. Every studio now has fiber connections everywhere, like this one at Paramount (below). I don’t know where to look for jobs, but I’d guess it would be through the unions - who represents the techs for the cameras, monitors, etc.?

Movie studio fiber

Preparing Cable For Splicing
Is there any standard on the preparation length of strip jacket upto the splice tray. Ideally its better to have a loop of buffer before getting into the tray if ever the closure has enough space for slack.. its also nice to put some hose to the buffer to add on protection. So far, i don't see any standard and can't support the remarks on what to follow. The practice was to take note on macrobend and have enough length of fiber to reach the machine.
A: There is a lot of variation in the size, shape and design of splice closures, so the length varies according to the closure and trays. For loose tube cable, the length of buffer tube from the entrance to the splice tray and the length of fiber needed in the tray are given in the directions for that splice tray. Similarly for ribbon cable, but the variations in ribbon cable designs often requires special handling and sleeving for the ribbons. Most manufacturers have specs available online.

Fusion Splice-On Connectors (SOCs) (From an FOA Instructor)
A question came up from one of our students regarding splice on connectors.  Is there a TIA or other standards body that addresses this issue? We are used to the 0.75 dB loss for a mated pair, however, when this mated pair has two fusion splices that terminate the connector, is there a recommendation? 
One could make the argument that it does not make any difference as the other alternative is splicing a pigtail for termination of a cable.  This pigtail splice is normally included in the link loss budget calculation.   So similarly, with a splice on connector it is the same as splicing on a pigtail.
A: There are no specific TIA or IEC specs that address these splice-on connectors or pigtails. If you used TIA numbers and included the splice and connector it would be 1.05dB - 0.75dB for the connection and 0.3dB for the splice, that’s mated to a factory adhesive/polish connector.   Or if it were two similar connectors, 1.35dB. 
Everybody, including the people in TIA standards groups, know those numbers are too high for most single ferrule connectors. They keep them at 0.75dB for prepolished/splice connectors (w/ mechanical splices) and array connectors (MPOs) which have somewhat unpredictable performance. Internationally, IEC has created grades of connectors from ~0.3 to over 1dB. The newer mechanical splice connector kits now use the Chinese copied cleavers which are super - at least the few we have tested - and the connectors are now much lower loss and consistent.
SOCs (fusion splice-on connectors) are spec’ed as the total termination and are generally just as good as the typical adhesive polish connector - 0.5dB is plenty of margin for a those mated to a factory adhesive/polish connector.
Spliced on pigtails are generally considered a termination and the splice is not broken out - like a long SOC. But I cannot guarantee everybody thinks that way. But a fusion splice is typically <0.1dB anyway.


Dig Once

The word on the "Dig Once" program is getting out - FOA is getting calls from cities asking us for information and advice. Here are some links:

The DoT page on the administration’s Executive Order:
From the Council of State governments:
From the city of San Francisco:
An article about Dakota County, MN:

And the one to download and hand out:
A “How To” Guide from The Global Connect Initiative:

Fiber Optic Cable Plant - The Finished Product 4/2020
In April, FOA received inquiries from several sources that all deal with the same subject - what is involved in the specification and acceptance of a cable plant at the end of a installation project. And what are reasonable specifications for a cable plant.

FOA has a lot of documentation on a project involving  designing and installing a cable plant in the FOA Online Guide and our Textbooks, but the acceptance process has usually been relegated to a few paragraphs. We decided to add a page on project "Deliverables" in the FOA Guide that covers this topic in more depth. This page looks at a project, goes into some depth on loss budgets and includes links to FOA tech documents to help you investigate further.

Correction: In the article, the original list of fiber specs for G.652 was wrong. It should be 0.4dB/km @ 1310nm.

Deliverables in the FOA Guide

Is There A Standard For Fiber Optic Installation?

Another question we get often is "Is there a standard for fiber optic installation." The answer is yes, but not from the usual standards groups you might expect. Over 20 years ago, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) asked FOA to help create a standard for installation. That standard, ANSI/NECA/FOA-301 has been updated three times already and is about ready for another update.

Unlike most of those groups who charge you a fortune for standards, FOA covers the cost so
ANSI/NECA/FOA-301 is available free from FOA.

NECA/FOA 301 Fiber Optic Installation Standard

Download your free copy of
ANSI/NECA/FOA-301 here (PDF)

Older questions are now available here.

/ FiberU

News and resources to help you learn more and stay updated.

Find a listing of all the FOA-Approved schools here.

Free online self-study programs on many fiber optics and cabling topics are available at Fiber U, FOA's online web-based training website.
Free online training at Fiber U

The FOA has >100 videos on videos

Two More New Free Fiber U MiniCourses

Reading OTDR Traces And Midspan Access

FOA has created two more free Fiber U MiniCourses this month.

Reading OTDR Traces
The second course this month covers one of the topics most missed on CFOT certification exams - Reading OTDR Traces. It's all about what elements are displayed in an OTDR trace and what they represent. It's a very different format from other Fiber U courses. OTDR traces are visual, so it's a visual course where you learn by "pointing and clicking" on a simulated OTDR trace, like this:
OTDR Trace
Midspan Access
As promised last month in our tech article on midspan access, we took the new material created about Midspan Access in fiber optic cable installation and made that into a minicourse. This technique is fairly widely used because it saves much time and cost in adding drops to a fiber optic cable, but we've been surprised how many techs are not familiar with it. The MiniCourse takes only a little time, about right for a coffee break.

midspan access

That makes 10 Fiber U MiniCourses, 5 Basics courses, 4 Skills courses, 1 Design course and 6 Applications courses - 26 free online self-study courses for everyone. And we have lots more planned for the near future.

All Fiber U courses are free but there is a nominal charge for the tests for a Certificate of Completion to cover the cost of the online testing site we use. Most online courses cost hundreds or thousands of $US, so we are sometimes asked how FOA can offer free courses. The answer is we have very low course development costs since we use the FOA Guide's pages (almost 1,000 of them) and Videos (over 100 on YouTube) and the courses are completely self-study - no instructor to guide you and provide feedback on your work. (And we do not track you.)

The Fiber U course method has been around for over two decades and used by tens of thousands of people  to learn more about aspects of fiber optics or prepare for their FOA certification exams. Since the reference material for Fiber U is the same as used for training for FOA certifications and for the certification exams themselves, Fiber U courses are the ideal study guide for FOA certifications.

More New Fiber U MiniCourses

Got An Hour Or Less? Learn Something New About Fiber Optics.

FOA has introduced a new type of Fiber U course, the MiniCourse, a free online course you could take in a short time, perhaps as you ate lunch at your desk or took a coffee break. The topics of these courses should explain what they are about, and these are all very important topics to fiber optic techs.

Fiber Optics In Communications  

Fiber Optic Network Restoration 

Fiber Optic Connector Identification

The Mysterious dB of Fiber Optics

Fiber Optic Cable Bend Radius

Fiber Optic Link Loss And Power Budgets

Fiber Optic Connector Inspection And Cleaning

Fiber Optic Media Conversion  

Fiber Optic Cable Midspan Access  

Reading An OTDR Trace  

The courses have two components, video lectures and readings, that are complementary. As usual there is a self-test to allow you to check your comprehension. As with other Fiber U courses if you desire, you can take a short test for a Fiber U Certificate of Completion that costs
only $10.

All these free courses and many more are available at Fiber U.

New FOA Schools

Welcome Woodstock Job Corps, Woodstock, MD, School # 385

Welcome To A New International School


University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, FOA Approved School #772

What Fiber Techs Don't Know -

What We Learn From FOA Certification Tests

As FOA moves more testing over to our digital online testing system at ClassMarker, we have access to more data about our testing, including what questions and topics on the tests are answered incorrectly most often. Having this data gives us an opportunity to evaluate the questions and how they are stated, but more importantly it allow us to help our instructors teach the subjects and us to change our curriculum and online courses to emphasize these particular topics. These are some of the topics that we have noticed are answered incorrectly more often in FOA and Fiber U tests.

Most of the questions missed are on testing.

1. OTDRs - particularly what information is in the OTDR trace.

2. The difference between dB and dBm

3. Loss budgets - both the concepts and doing the math

4. Insertion loss testing - single-ended or double ended for testing patchcords or cable plants, how to set 0dB references

5. Units of measure - fiber is measured in microns, wavelengths in nanometers, etc.

At FOA, we're working to add Fiber U MiniCourses on these topics and working with our schools to emphasize these topics in their classes.

If you are going to be taking a FOA certification course or test in the near future, these topics should be on your final exam study list.

What We Learn From Hands On Labs
We learn about students performance in hands-on labs from the feedback of our instructors and our own experiences too. One big problem is the use of hand tools. Growing up today, you learn how to use keyboards, mouses and touch screens, but decades ago, you also learned how to use basic hand tools. This is big enough of a problem that we're considering adding some video lessons on basic hand tools to prepare students for cable prep, termination and splicing that require the use of hand tools.

FOA "Work-To-Cert" Program

Experience Plus Online Study At Fiber U = FOA Certification

This year, more techs have become comfortable with online conferences, webinars and training. Many have discovered that they can become FOA Certified using their experience in fiber optics and study for the FOA certification exams online at Fiber U. Thousands of industry professionals have applied to the FOA directly for certification without the need for classroom training, based on their knowledge and skills developed working the field. Since FOA certifications are based on KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities), current techs already show the skills and abilities required through their field experience. FOA provides free online self-study courses at Fiber U for the knowledge part to prepare you for FOA certification exams which you can also take online.

If you are an experienced field tech interested in certification, and FOA is the internationally recognized certifying body for fiber optics, you can find out more about the FOA "Work to Cert" program here.

If you are already a CFOT, FOA also offers many specialist certifications you can obtain based on your experience as a field tech. See what's available at
Fiber U.

Options For Training Classes  -  Outdoors (11/2020)

outdoor class

Tom Collins, Techtricians, FOA Director, keeps exploring new ideas for training. This time, the course moved outdoors in Daytona Beach, Florida. This solution works well as long as it's warm and dry!

New Approach To Fiber Optic Labs - Sharing Test Equipment (10/2020)

Tom Collins, Techtricians, FOA Director

, a FOA approved school, has taken a new approach in how we provide lab training. Fifteen years ago, we developed a hybrid training model had the participants complete online (remote) lessons with face to face labs. Over the past 12 years trade organizations, colleges, vocational, vendor training, and trade apprenticeships have adopted this model. At the beginning of the pandemic we spent a lot of time, energy, and money developing remote labs. We have incorporated lessons learned from that process to restart safe face to face labs.

First, we provide disposable materials and PPE’s for all learning. Every student has their own work space with 8-9 feet of separation and their own set of hand tools only used by the student. All of the classroom information is accessed online or with USB drives. Our biggest challenge was how to safely share testing equipment so every student could have the practical hands on experience.

We believe we have found that solution with the help of “ezremote”.  The ezremote allows a multitude of students to have practical exposure and experience with using a video microscope, OLTS and OTDR testers. Every student can access the remote via their own iPad or their smart phone, see below picture and movie.

Remote OTDR
The VeEX OTDR set up for remote access in class

Recently, we contacted PCS, Inc. which is a premiere manufacturer’s representative firm serving the Southeastern US since 1974.  Headquartered in Roswell, GA, Marc Wright  a sales representative spent a lot of time and energy helping Techtricians to purchase the VeEX  FX150+ device.  It is a full featured Mini OTDR with high resolution sampling and intelligent link mapping for Metro, Access and FTTx networks remote application. The compact, lightweight platform incorporates built in WiFi, power meter, light source, fiber inspection probe and VFL test options which add exceptional versatility to the unit.

OTDR display on iPad OTDR remote
The remote OTDR displayed on an iPad (L) and on 4 smartphones and 2 laptops

In September we completed our first trial in a face to face lab session in Lake Mary, Florida. The OTDR unit uses a WIFI connection. The students went to the VeEX website with their iPad or their smart phone and connected the to the base unit. The lab module used one OTDR setup for the entire class for testing the cable plant.

The instructor's laptop is connected to the OTDR and projecting the display for everyone to see

The students when logged-in had control over the OTDR. Each student saw the same screen which made the various events much easier to explain. The module is very safe as the OTDR is not touched by any student. The feedback we received from the students was very positive. They provided suggestions for future training modules. Even after the pandemic is over, we will continue to use this new training method. Our best teachers are our students and our hats are off to all of our students.

For more information, contact Tom or Donna Collins at Techtricians.

FOA School BDI Datalynk is offering classroom training with Covid precautions and  remote classes over most of the US.

FOA Master Instructor Eric Pearson of Pearson Technologiesis now offering classroom training with Covid precautions - 9/2020

Contact Eric for details on his classes.

Classroom Training Is Adapting To The Pandemic 8/2020

FOA Director and instructor Tom Collins sent photos of his recent IMSA/FOA CFOT class held in Florida. It shows how Tom dresses for the job and how his students are social distancing. More FOA classes are being held now using techniques like these.

TC class

Instructor Tom Collins perpared to teach in the classroom.

TC Class

Students with appropriate distancing.

Training Is Back - Made Safer (6/2020)

FOA schools are starting to offer classes at their facilities again to provide the personal interaction with an instructor and hands-on labs, but some things have changed to provide social distancing. Serge Rodrigue at Fibre Zone in Quebec, Canada sent photos of his new lab setup that includes individual lab stations with plexiglass barriers.

safe lab at Fibre Zone

Students are following safe working protocols - masks and gloves - to make classes safe and meet local government requirements for social distancing.


Fibre Zone in Quebec, Canada for more information on their classes.

FiberNext in New Hampshire has also rearranged classrooms for safer classes and has begun training in their facilities in Concord, NH.


Contact FiberNext in Concord, NH, USA
or more information on their classes. Also ask about joining their CFOT Club for savings on products and training.

DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Labs (6/20)

Knowledge is easy to get online, but learning skills requires "hands-on" practice and that requires tools and components to practice with. Here at FOA, we've been working on an online course that could help many techs learn new skills or improve others using an online self-study course and their own equipment. Recently, we have updated the materials in the Fiber U Fiber Optics Basic Skills Labs which includes cable preparation, splicing, termination and testing. And we have created a Basic Skills Labs - Copper Premises Cabling to cover UTP (Cat 5) and coax copper cable processes. As with all Fiber U courses, these are free.
Several times in the FOA Newsletter we've discussed the Fiber U Basic Skills Lab. This online DIY lab course assumes you have your own equipment to use for the labs, but most novices, unless they work for a larger company already in fiber optics, will not have equipment. FOA instructors have found a solution: purchase inexpensive equipment online. What they have found are many low cost tools and components that are perfectly suited to training.

If you do not have tools or equipment and want to purchase them, there is a new Fiber U DIY Basic Skills Lab lesson with directions on how to purchase inexpensive tools online and use them to learn basic fiber optic skills. Those tools and components are what we describe here.

For example, you need a fiber cleaver for splices and prepolished/splice connectors. A good cleave is essential for a good splice or termination with a splice-type connection. Good cleavers are now available online at prices in the US starting at $20US. 


Besides the cleaver, another really good tool for learning or teaching is a visual fault locator. These devices used to be very expensive, but now are available online for $10-20.

Many online sellers offer sets of fiber optic tools in a kit for very low cost.

With plenty of tools available online, the next things you need are components to practice on. No problem here either. You need a patchcord, some mechanical splices and some prepolished/splice connectors. The connectors and splices are available from online sellers for ~$1 each, easy to afford plenty to practice on.

FOA has used all these available parts together into a do-it-yourself hands-on lab as part of the Fiber U Basic Skills Lab. You can do this yourself at a very low cost. We even provide directions on how to search for suppliers of these tools and components.

FOA has not exhaustively tested these tools or components enough to recommend them for field use. The work we did with them to create teaching labs shows they are certainly good enough to use for teaching the installation processes in a training lab. We suggest read the buyers reviews and do some of your own testing before using them for anything other than training and practice.

FOA Guide "Basics Of Fiber Optics" Now Available Online in Portuguese (6/2020)

FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book

FOA has now translated the Basics of Fiber Optics textbook in our Online Guide into Portuguese, joining Spanish and French translations. For those speaking Portuguese, we have the technical information and for schools we also have curriculum available.

Here is the FOA Guide in Portuguese, Spanish and French translations.

Time To Learn - Online - (Update 4/5/6/8 2020)

Schools have generally been closed during the pandemic lock-downs, so FOA has been working with some of them to create new online learning experiences that can in some cases lead to certification online. FOA certifications are still based on the KSAs - knowledge from the classroom, skills from the labs and abilities judged by instructors or proven by actual experience.

Much of what we're doing benefits from the capabilities of "Zoom." Others have created videoconferencing apps, but none work so well, especially with limited bandwidth. We've seen remote labs that have an instructor showing students how to use the tools they were sent then watching them duplicate their actions. We have worked out methods to use Zoom to proctor FOA's online certification exams.

Blended Learning
While most FOA schools have suspended in-person training during this period, some are offering a "blended learning" option. That means that students sign up for a FOA certification course, take the classroom sessions on Fiber U with the assistance of a FOA certified instructor. Now online instruction can include reviewing the labs using the
Fiber U Basic Skills Labs, then when it's possible to attend classes at the school, complete the hands-on labs and take the FOA certification exam.

Online Remote Labs
Alternatively, some schools are experimenting with "remote labs," where the students get sent tool kits and components and labs are conducted by videoconferencing. Before the labs, the students may watch demos by their instructor on videoconferencing and/or review the relevant "virtual hands-on" lessons in the Fiber U
Fiber Optics Basic Skills Labs  so they will already know the steps in the exercises.
And Fiber U has the new Fiber U DIY Basic Skills Lab lesson with directions on how to purchase inexpensive tools online and use them to learn basic fiber optic skills. Videoconferencing allows the instructor to remotely monitor their work and provide help as needed. Contact the FOA for more information.

FOA Zoom Exam Proctoring

Online Certification Testing
FOA has all its certification tests available online, both for use by our schools and by our direct "Work to Cert" applicants. All FOA certification tests require a proctor to oversee the applicant taking the exam. In this time of social distancing, getting a proctor can be difficult, so FOA now has procedures for online proctors administering the exam.
Contact the FOA for more information.
OJT - On-The-Job-Training
Many novices get a job and learn on the job. They usually have an experienced tech who helps them gain the knowledge and  learn the skills they need to perform their job. Thinking about this in relation to the 
FOA KSAs, the knowledge, skills and abilities needed by a fiber optic tech,  the tech will learn skills but not the basic knowledge that helps them understand the processes involved. FOA can offer help here, using our Fiber U online self-study programs. While the tech learns on the job, they become a Fiber U trainee, getting the knowledge they need, while working under their "mentor" at work. This is particularly good for contracting companies who need techs but do not have the usual training courses available. Interested in OJT programs? Contact FOA for more information.

Can You Learn Hands-On Skills Online?

basic skills lab

Knowledge is easy to learn online, but learning skills requires "hands-on" practice and that requires tools and components to practice with. Here at FOA, we've been working on an online course that could help many techs learn new skills or improve others using an online self-study course and their own equipment.
Recently, we have updated the materials in the Fiber U Fiber Optics Basic Skills Labs which includes cable preparation, splicing, termination and testing. And we have created a Basic Skills Labs - Copper Premises Cabling to cover UTP (Cat 5) and coax copper cable processes. As with all Fiber U courses, these are free.

FOA offers free online self-study programs at Fiber U. Many users are preparing for FOA certification programs - taking courses at our schools or using the "Work-to-Cert" program. Some of our schools are requiring Fiber U programs as prerequisites for their classroom courses so they can spend more time on hands-on activities.

New FOA Approved School: Central Electrical Training Center, FOA School #656.

Find a listing of all the FOA-Approved schools here.

FOA School Offers Toolkit With Online Training

Slayton tool kit

Slayton Solutions (FOA Approved School #156) is offering a simple fiber optic tool kit that includes a 29-piece set of fiber optic tools and a power meter along with training videos and online instruction for only $499. 29 Piece Kit includes all tools and devices a technician needs to install fiber optic connectors and test optical power.  Information on the kit is available on YouTube. You can contact them for more information at or

/ Resources

FOA Guide

More New FOA Video Lectures On YouTube

As part of developing the new Fiber U MiniCourses, we added several new YouTube videos:
Lecture 56 explains the issues of cable bend radius limitations, typical cable specifications and how to gage the proper radius or diameter when installing or storing cable. Lecture 57 covers problems with dirty connectors and how to inspect and clean them.

Videos added last month:

FOA Lecture 51 Fiber Optic Restoration Part 1 - Causes of Damage To The Network  
FOA Lecture 52 Fiber Optic Restoration Part 2 - Planning For Restoration 
FOA Lecture 53 Fiber Optic Restoration Part 3 - Troubleshooting And Repair
FOA Lecture 54 Fiber Optic Connector Identification - New and old
FOA Lecture 55 The Mysterious dB of Fiber Optics. - Understanding dB 
FOA Lecture 56 Fiber Optic Cable - Bend Radius -  Important for Installers to Understand
FOA Lecture 57 Fiber Optic Connector Inspection and Cleaning -  Most Connection Problems Are Caused By Dirty Connectors
FOA Lecture 58 Fiber Optic Media Conversion  - Copper To Fiber Made Easy

Lectures 51, 52 and 53 are about fiber optic network restoration, broken into 3 parts: what causes damage, how to plan for restoration and finally troubleshooting and repairing a network outage. Lecture 54 is a short history of the development of fiber optic connectors and a overview of the ones most used today. Lecture 55 will teach you about dB, it's origin, an explanation of the math behind it and why standards can make it confusing.  Lecture 56 explains fiber optic cable bend radius limits and reduces the confusion over radius and diameter. Lecture 57 is a quick tutorial on cleaning and inspecting connectors. Lecture 58 is about converting fiber to copper or multimode to singlemode fiber.

Like all our YouTube lectures, they are all short and easy to understand.

FOA Loss Budget Calculator On A Web Page 5/2020

FOA has written many articles about loss budgets, something everyone involved in fiber optics needs to know and needs to know how to calculate. We recently discovered how to get a spreadsheet ported to a Web page, so we created this web page that calculates loss budgets. We have an iOS loss budget app, but with this web page, you can calculate loss budgets from any device, smart phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer that has web browsing capability.

FOA Loss Budget Calculator 

Bookmark this page (especially on your smartphone): FOA Loss Budget Calculator Online

FOA Guide

We are continually updating the Online Reference Guide to keep up with changes in the industry and adding lots of new pages of technical information. When you go to the FOA Guide Table of Contents to see the latest updates - look for New.

Recent updates:

10GPON on PON Protocols in the FOA Guide.

Coherent Communications Systems in the FOA Guide.

Updated (and more illustrations): Basic Fiber Optic Jargon, OSP Fiber Optic Jargon and Fiber Optic Jargon for managers.

Fiber Optic Network Restoration
Fiber Characterization goes in to more depth, why fiber characterization is important and how to interpret results.

Fiber Optic Network Management for managers

FOA has created a section on OSP Construction and a Fiber U course based on it.

FOA Guide section on inspecting and cleaning connectors.

Go to  The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

FOA Reference Books

Available Printed or Kindle Books
The fiber book is available in Spanish and French (printed) and Portuguese (online). The design book is available in Spanish (online)

FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Premises Cablng book FOA Reference Guide to OSP Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book
FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Network Design book FOA Book on Fiber Optic Testing FOA Outside Plant Fiber Optics Construction Guide  Lennie Lightwave

FOA has reprinted "Lennie Lightwave's Guide" on its 25th anniversary in a special print edition.
Lennie and Uncle Ted's Guides are online or as free iBooks on iTunes.
Lennie Lightwave's Guide To Fiber Optics   Uncle Ted's Guide to Premises Cablling
Click on any of the books to learn more.

Fiber Optic Safety Poster to download and print

Resources For Teachers In K-12 And Technical Schools
Teachers in all grades can introduce their students to fiber optic technology with some simple demonstrations. FOA has created a page for STEM or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) teachers with materials appropriate to their classes. Fiber Optic Resources For Teachers.



On Safety

FOA considers safety an integral part of all our programs, curriculum materials and technical materials. We start all our textbooks and their online versions with a section on safety in the first chapter, like this: Before we get started - Safety First!
There are pages on the FOA Guide on Safety procedures Including Eye Safety  and.
Digging Safely 

And a YouTube lecture: FOA Lecture 2: Safety When Working With Fiber Optics
In our OSP Construction Section, these pages cover many safety issues including those related to the construction of the cable plant: Project Preparation And Guidelines, Underground Cable Construction, Underground Cable Installation and Aerial Cable Installation.
There is even a safety poster for the fiber activities: PDF Safety Rules For Fiber Optics
The FOA is concerned about safety!

There is a toll-free "call before you dig" number in the USA: Dial 811

See for more information

The Common Ground Alliance has an excellent "Best Practices Guide" online

The US Department of Transportation has a website called "National Pipeline Mapping System" that allows one to search for buried pipelines.   

Why We Warn You To Be Careful About Fiber Shards
fiber in finger
Photo courtesy  Brian Brandstetter,  Mississauga Training Consultantcy

Safety Leader Magazine

Safety Leader Magazine

Safety Leader, a new quarterly magazine, informs and educates electrical contractors on safety from various angles—electrical, workplace, PPE, regulations, leadership, line work, NFPA 70E, and more. Safety Leader is bundled with ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR in February, May, August and November. To receive Safety Leader subscribe to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine here or subscribe to the ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR newsletter here.

2021 Conference On Damage Prevention Goes Virtual

2021 Global Excavation Safety Conference VIRTUAL, taking place April 6-8, 2021
More information in an article in the dp-PRO announcing the Global Locate Masters:


The magazine, dp-Pro, sponsor of the conference, has also published it's latest issue with an article by FOA on "New Construction Techniques in Fiber Optics" and a overview of the FOA. You can read the magazine here.

Best Practices Guide For Underground Construction
Best Practices - CGA

We assume you are familiar with the "One Call" and "Call Before You Dig" (811) program, but are you also familiar "Click Before You" and with the people behind it - the Common Ground Alliance and their Best Practices website?

Officially formed in 2000, the CGA represents a continuation of the damage prevention efforts embodied by the Common Ground Study. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation and completed in 1999, this Study represents the collaborative work of 160 industry professionals who identified best practices relating to damage prevention. Any best practice or program endorsed by the CGA comes with consensus support from experts representing the following stakeholder groups: Excavators, Locators, Road Builders, Electric, Telecommunications, Oil, Gas Distribution, Gas Transmission, Railroad, One Call, Public Works, Equipment Manufacturing, State Regulators, Insurance, Emergency Services and Engineering/Design.

Read the CGA Best Practices Guide here.

Here are all the CGA resources for damage prevention.

The US Department of Transportation has a website called "National Pipeline Mapping System" that allows one to search for buried pipelines.   


About The FOA

Contact Us: or email <>

FOA on LinkedIn

FOA has a company page and four LinkedIn Groups

FOA - official company page on LinkedIn
FOA - covers FOA, technology and jobs in the fiber optic marketplace

FOA Fiber Optic Training - open to all, covers fiber optic technology and training topics

Grupo de La Asociación de Fibra Óptica FOA (Español)  

What is The FOA? 

The FOA is a, international non-profit educational association chartered to promote professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards. 

Founded in 1995 by a dozen prominent fiber optics trainers and  leaders from education, 
industry and government as a professional society for fiber optics and a source of independent certification, the FOA has grown to now being involved in numerous activities to educate the world about fiber optics and certify the workers who design, build and operate the world's fiber optic networks.

FOA is 25 years old this July - read about FOA's history in this newsletter above.

Learn More About FOA's History.

Contact Us
The Fiber Optic Association Inc. or email <>

The FOA Home Page

FOA Guide
Want to know more about fiber optics? Study for FOA certifications? Free Self-Study Programs are on "Fiber U®." Looking for specific information? Here's the largest technical reference on the web: The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

Free online self-study programs on many fiber optics and cabling topics are available at Fiber U, FOA's online web-based training website.


Contact Us
The Fiber Optic Association Inc. or email <>
Phone: 1-760-451-3655

The FOA Home Page
(C)1999-2020, The Fiber Optic Association, Inc.

 FOA Logo Merchandise

New FOA Swag! Shirts, Caps, Stickers, Cups, etc.
FOA T Shirt
The FOA has created a store on offering lots of new logo merchandise. It has lots of versions of shirts and other merchandise with "FOA," "Fiber U," "Lennie Lightwave" designs and more so you should find something just for you! See FOA on Zazzle.

Your Name, CFOT® - It pays to advertise!

The FOA encourages CFOTs to use the logo on their business cards, letterhead, truck or van, etc. and provides logo files for that purpose. But we are also asked about how to use the CFOT or CFOS certifications. Easy, you can refer to yourself as "Your Name, CFOT" or "Your Name, CFOS/T" for example.

Feel free to use the logo and designations to promote your achievements and professionalism!

Contact FOA at to get logos in file format for your use.

Privacy Policy (for the EU GDPR): The FOA does not use cookies or any other web tricks to gather information on visitors to our website, nor do we allow commercial advertising. Our website hosts may gather traffic statistics for the visitors to our website and our online testing service, ClassMarker, maintains statistics of test results. We do not release or misuse any information on any of our members except we will confirm FOA certifications and Fiber U certificates of completion when requested by appropriate persons such as employers or personnel services.
Read the complete FOA Privacy Policy here.