Five Factors that Influence How Long Your Fiber Optic Cables Will Last
When comparing fiber optic cables to twisted-pair copper cables, there are numerous advantages to the use of fiber optics in terms of the amount of data that can be transmitted, how far data can be transmitted, and how quickly a fiber optic cable network allows data traffic to travel. One argument against fiber optic cable networks is that the fused silica-based cables are less durable than copper-based wiring. Proponents of this theory point to copper-based networks in the UK that have lasted more than 140 years. However, accounting for these five factors in the installation of fiber optic cables, network architects can ensure the integrity of a fiber optic cable network.
There’s no arguing that fiber optic cables aren’t more fragile than copper wiring. The tensile strength of the glass used in the creation of the cabling’s internal optical fibers is about half that of copper wiring. Fragility doesn’t preclude the fibers from being highly durable in their own right as long as the manufacturer uses quality materials that provide a high initial strength with a low rate of degradation and resistant to flaws and other reagents that affect the glass fibers over time.
Proof Testing to Account for Surface Flaws
Commercially produced silica fibers naturally have surface flaws throughout the material that affect long-term durability. These small flaws grow slowly over time until reaching a point where rapid failure occurs. Manufacturers of high quality fiber optics combat this with proof testing, which pre-stretches fiber to deliberately break and eliminate larger flaws at the onset, leaving behind the most durable fibers for use in building the final fiber optic cable.
Once the optical fibers have been preconditioned by proof testing, manufacturers are left with small flaws throughout that they can then safeguard against future degradation by coating the fibers in an initial protective coating of a durable material. Higher quality fiber optic cables utilize extremely durable primary coatings, resulting in a long-lasting final product.
Push, Don’t Pull
Even the highest quality materials and protective coatings combined with the best proof testing methods won’t protect a fiber optic cable that is installed incorrectly. Unlike copper cabling that can be spun out during the installation process by pulling the cable along it’s installation path, fiber optic cables should never be pulled towards its end-point of installation. Pulling can stretch the cable and exacerbate the initial flaws in the optical fibers, adding unnecessary strain and damaging the cables before they’ve even transmitted a single byte of data. Installers should instead push the cabling along its intended path, and ensure any redirection of cable doesn’t exceed the manufacturer’s specified minimum bend radius. Following these installation techniques puts less stress on the cabling and eliminates damage prior to the network going live.
Fiber optic cable installations can span across large distances, and it’s important to ensure the path of the cable avoids sources of extreme heat and moisture over the entirety of the installation. Extreme heat can speed up the growth of natural flaws in the glass fibers, while water can cause stress corrosion over time. Both of these effects will degrade fiber optic cables significantly over time and should be avoided.
Protectors of Fiber Optic Networks Everywhere
You have questions about fiber optic cable installations, and SANDirect has the answers you seek. Work with our client specialists to assess your network needs and we’ll provide you with access to the top-quality switches, connectors, and fiber optic cables you need to bring your network installation to the next level.