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45 essential fiber optic products for fiber optic service providers

Here we’ll list the essential fiber optic equipment for ISP. However, besides the necessary fiber optic equipment, you also need to do many preparations, such as the geographic layout (premises, campus, outside plant (OSP), the transmission equipment required, and the fiber network over which it will operate. Designing a fiber optic network usually requires interfacing with other networks, which may be connected over copper cabling and wireless. Next to consider are requirements for permits, easements, permissions, and inspections. Plus, you need to consider actual component selection, placement, installation practices, testing, troubleshooting, and network equipment installation and startup. Finally, you have to consider documentation, maintenance, and restoration planning in case of a future outage.

Series of SFP+ transceivers for 10 Gb WDM communications
Series of SFP+ transceivers for 10 Gb WDM communications

Simply put, when you want to start a fiber optic network, you need to do a market survey on your target location. It would help if you analyze the needs, and facts, know your competitors better and do the SWOT analysis about them. Then you design your network structure, estimate the investment cost, and form a Pvt. Ltd firm, apply for a license or a franchise license from any existing ISP. Now you need to recruit operating staff, technicians, and sales force. Come up with your marketing strategy and finally launch it.

Specifically, an ISP will need routers, bandwidth, operations staff, a repair crew to go out and fix things, a sales force to sell service, a customer support desk, a billing department, and a collections department.

This article will only focus on the fiber optic products necessary for ISP.

OLT: An optical line termination, also called an optical line terminal, is a device that serves as the service provider endpoint of a passive optical network.

ONT: An optical network terminal (ONT) is used to terminate the fiber optic line, demultiplex the signal into its component parts (voice telephone, television, and Internet access), and provide power to customer telephones. As the ONT must derive its power from the customer premises’ electrical supply, many ONTs have the option for a battery backup in order to maintain service in the event of a power outage.

ONU: ONT and ONU both refer to the consumer end equipment in an optical fiber to the home (FTTH) communication link. ONT is an ITU-T term, whereas ONU is an IEEE term. ITU-T and IEEE are two different telecommunication standards.

Optic Fiber Cables: Outside plant cabling installations may require buried cables, aerial cables, or underwater cables. The cable may be in conduit, innerduct, or direct buried, and aerial cables may be self-supporting or lashed to a messenger.

SFP+/QSFP: Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) is a compact, hot-pluggable network interface module format used for both telecommunication and data communications applications. A slightly larger sibling is the four-lane Quad Small Form-factor Pluggable (QSFP). The additional lanes allow for speeds 4 times their corresponding SFP.

Fiber optic splitters: The fiber optic splitter is one of the most important passive devices in the optical fiber link. It is an optical fiber device with many input and output terminals, especially applicable to a passive optical network (EPON, GPON, BPON, FTTX, FTTH, etc.) to connect the main distribution frame and the terminal equipment and to branch the optical signal.

ODF: optical fiber distribution frame

Patch panel: A patch panel is a device or unit featuring a number of jacks, usually of the same or similar type, for the use of connecting and routing circuits for monitoring, interconnecting, and testing circuits in a convenient, flexible manner.

Patch cable: also called jumper, patch cord, used widely.

Fiber optic pigtail: A short length of fiber attached to a fiber optic component such as a laser or coupler.

Optical terminal boxes/distribution boxes

Racks: 19-inch racks for data equipment and servers, 23-inch racks for telecommunications equipment

Attenuator: A device that reduces signal power in a fiber optic link by inducing loss.

WDM, DWDM, CWDM, or OTN equipment:

  • WDM: Wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) is a technology which multiplexes a number of optical carrier signals onto a single optical fiber by using different wavelengths (i.e., colors) of laser light. This technique enables bidirectional communications over a single strand of fiber, also called wavelength-division duplexing, as well as multiplication of capacity.
  • Dense WDM (DWDM) uses the C-Band (1530 nm-1565 nm) transmission window but with denser channel spacing. Channel plans vary, but a typical DWDM system would use 40 channels at 100 GHz spacing or 80 channels with 50 GHz spacing.
  • CWDM: Coarse wavelength division multiplexing using lasers spaced widely over the range of 1260 to 1670 nm.

Light sources: Four types of sources are commonly used, LEDs, fabry-perot (FP) lasers, distributed feedback (DFB) lasers, and vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs). LEDs and VCSELs are fabricated on semiconductor wafers such that they emit light from the surface of the chip, while F-P and DFB lasers emit from the side of the chip from a laser cavity created in the middle of the chip.

typical fiber optic light source specifications
typical fiber optic light source specifications

VCSEL: vertical cavity surface emitting laser, a type of laser that emits light vertically out of the chip, not out the edge, widely used in fast multimode networks.

Light-emitting diode, LED: A semiconductor device that emits light when stimulated by an electrical current. Used in transmitters for multimode fiber links.

Injection laser diode, ILD: A semiconductor device that emits high-powered, coherent light when stimulated by an electrical current. Used in transmitters for singlemode fiber links.

Transceivers: Most systems use a “transceiver” which includes both transmitter and receiver in a single module. The transmitter takes an electrical input and converts it to an optical output from a laser diode or LED. The light from the transmitter is coupled to the fiber with a connector and is transmitted through the fiber optic cable plant. The light from the end of the fiber is coupled to a receiver where a detector converts the light into an electrical signal which is then conditioned properly for use by the receiving equipment.

Fiber optic adapters: also called couplers are used to join the connector with fiber optic cable.

Fiber optic connectors: Two connectors have become the most popular worldwide, the SC and LC. The SC is a proven design and many systems have been built around it already. In premises cabling, there are still many STs in service but new systems tend to use SCs. LCs are popular with the transceiver manufacturers since they allow these devices to be made much smaller and thus systems electronics to have much higher port density. Internationally there are systems using MU, E-2000, and others but their popularity is lower than the SC and LC.

Microduct: Some applications may require installing fiber optic cables inside the conduit. In this case, the microduct is an excellent choice. It requires care to minimize bends, provide intermediate pulls to limit pulling force, or use fiber optic cable lubricants.

Innerduct: Premises cables need to be run separately from copper cables to prevent crushing. Sometimes they are hung carefully below copper cable trays or pulled in innerduct. Using an innerduct can save installation time since the duct can be installed quickly without fear of damage, then the fiber optic cable is pulled rapidly and efficiently.

Handholes and other below-ground splice vaults

Mechanical splice: Mechanical splicing is mostly used for temporary restoration and for multimode splicing.

Fusion splicer: Fusion splices are made by “welding” the two fibers together usually by an electric arc. For safety, fusion splicing should not be done in an enclosed space like a manhole or any potentially explosive atmosphere. The equipment for fusion splicing is usually too bulky for most aerial applications also, so fusion splicing is usually done in a truck or trailer equipped just for that purpose.

Jacket slitter or stripper: A cutter for removing the heavy outside jacket of cables.

Cleaver: A tool that precisely “breaks” the fiber to produce a flat end for polishing or splicing.

Polishing Film: Fine grit film used to polish the end of the connector ferrule.

Fiber Stripper: A precise stripper used to remove the buffer coating of the fiber itself for termination. There at three types in common use, called by their trade names (from left): “Miller Stripper’, “No-Nik” and “Micro Strip.”

Polishing Puck: for connectors that require polishing, the puck holds the connector in proper alignment to the polishing film.

Scribe: A hard, sharp tool that scratches the fiber to allow cleaving.

Crimper: A tool that crimps the connector to the aramid fibers in the cable to add mechanical strength.

Optical Power Meter: Measuring power requires a power meter with an adapter that matches the fiber optic connector on the cable being tested. Remember, when you measure power, the meter must be set to the proper wavelength and range (usually dBm, sometimes microwatts, but never “dB” – that’s a relative power range used only for testing loss.) Refer to the instructions that come with the test equipment for setup and measurement instructions.

Reference test cables: Loss testing requires one to three reference cables, depending on the test performed, the test method, and the appropriate mating adapters for the connectors. Reference cables are typically 1-2 meters long, with fiber and connectors matching the cables to be tested.

Fiber tracer: Continuity Specialized Testers: Long-distance networks may need testing for chromatic dispersion (CD) and polarization mode dispersion (PMD). Systems using wavelength-division multiplexing may need testing for spectral attenuation. Each performance factor has a specialized tester for that specification. Checking with a visual fiber tracer can trace a path of a fiber from one end to another through many connections, verifying continuity, correct connections, and duplex connector polarity.

Visual fault locator: A device that couples visible light into the fiber to allow visual tracing and testing of continuity. The red laser light is powerful enough for continuity checking or to trace fibers for several kilometers, identify splices in splice trays and show breaks in fibers or high loss connectors.

Inspection Microscope: Fiber optic inspection microscopes are used to inspect connectors to confirm proper polishing and find faults like scratches, polishing defects, and dirt. They can be used both to check the quality of the termination procedure and diagnose problems.

Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR): OTDRs are more complicated fiber optic instruments that can take a snapshot of a fiber, showing the location of splices, connectors, faults, etc. OTDRs are powerful test instruments for fiber optic cable plants.

Specialized Testers: Long-distance networks may need testing for chromatic dispersion (CD) and polarization mode dispersion (PMD). Systems using wavelength-division multiplexing may need testing for spectral attenuation. Each performance factor has a specialized tester for that specification.

Fiber Amplifiers: A device that amplifies light without converting it to an electrical signal. EDFAs (erbium-doped fiber amplifiers), an all-optical amplifier for 1490-1650 nm SM transmission systems.

Cable tie: When used, cable ties should be hand tightened to be snug but loose enough to be moved along the cable by hand. Then the excess length of the tie should be cut off to prevent future tightening. Hook-and-loop fastener ties are preferred for fiber optic cables, as they cannot apply crush loads sufficient to harm the cable.

Cable tray: Fiber optic cable is often installed in cable trays in premises applications. Cable trays should not be shared with copper communications cables as their weight may harm the fiber cables. Likewise, large quantities of fiber cables in a tray may put too much pressure on the cables on the bottom. In applications where cable trays are used for copper communications cables, it may be possible to suspend lightweight fiber cables below the cable trays.

Fiber optic duct rodder: used in blown cable installation. Blown cable refers to a method of installing small cables in microducts using compressed air and a duct rodder that pushes the cable into the duct. The cables are not really blown into the duct, but the blowing air floats the cable in the duct and reduces friction so the machine can push the cable into the duct.

Optical loss test set(OLTS): A measurement instrument that includes both a meter and source used for measuring the insertion loss of installed cable plants or individual cables. Also called light source and power meter (LSPM.)


Hayes, Jim, FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics_ Study Guide to FOA Certification (2019)

Wikepedia, Wavelength-division multiplexing

Quora, What equipment is needed for an Internet Service Provider (ISP)?

Quora, What are all of the equipment needed to build a fibre optics ISP?

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