My personal harvest festival Autumn 2014

The story so far…

It’s now been nearly since six months since one of my vertebrae collapsed and the subsequent diagnosis of Myeloma as the cause of my weakened bone structure. The initial surgery to reconstruct the L5 vertebra was successful, although there is also a wedge fracture of T11 vertebra that continues to give me some discomfort.

Since the end of March I have been undergoing treatment for the Myeloma. I enrolled on the Myeloma XI clinical trial programme, although my allocated pathway through the trial was, in fact, the current ‘standard’ treatment. This starts with an ‘induction phase’ of chemotherapy with three primary drugs: Cyclophosphamide, Thalidomide and Dexamethasone (CTD) as tablets that can be taken at home. I have not had any particularly severe side effects, apart from a blood clot forming in my left leg at the beginning of May.

I have now started on my 8th three-week cycle of CTD. This is my final cycle, ending on 8th September as my numbers have now reached the level where I can progress to the next stage in my treatment…

What’s next?

The next stage in my treatment gets a bit more intensive. This is the stem cell treatment. After a series of tests to check that I am fit for it, the stem cell harvesting process will be initiated on September 22nd at Bradford Royal Infirmary. Additional high dose chemotherapy (Cyclosphosphamide) stimulates extra production of stem cells in the bone marrow and a series of injections over 10 days (mostly done at home) encourages these stem cells to enter the blood stream. On 1st October I go into St. James hospital in Leeds where the stem cells are harvested from my blood stream by connecting me up to something like a dialysis machine. Blood is taken out of one arm, into a special machine that extracts the stem cells and then the rest of the blood is put back in the other arm.

stemcelltransplant-graphicOnce the harvesting is successfully completed, then I get referred to the next stage, which is more high dose chemotherapy (Melphalan) followed by transplant back of my stem cells. Probably sometime in November. This high dose chemotherapy will destroy my immune system and so this involves a lengthy stay in St. James hospital (3-4 weeks), until my re-transplanted stem cells develop into healthy bone marrow producing healthy blood cells. Well that’s the theory! I’ll then need a couple of month’s recuperation at home and there’s lots of side effects to contend with.

If you really want to read all about it there’s an infoguide available for download from the Myeloma UK website:Myeloma_UK_High_Dose_Therapy_Infoguide_Dec_11

And to give me a bit more encouragement through this more difficult phase I’d really like to help Myeloma UK with my fundraising campaign at

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A life changing experience

 On Thursday 27th Feb, whilst running a training course in Ipswich, what I thought had been a niggling, muscular-type back pain took a dramatic turn for the worse. My back pain was so bad that at lunch time I had to lie down flat on my back and could not stand up. An ambulance was called to take me from the classroom to Ipswich hospital. X-rays revealed that one of my lumbar vertebrae had ‘crumbled’ badly. MRI and CT scans confirmed the damage and indicated Myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer as the most likely cause of the problem.

Spinal surgery was successfully conducted on Monday 3rd March to reconstruct the vertebra and take a bone sample for analysis. Ipswich hospital is a regional centre of excellence for spinal surgery and I received excellent care there.

Fragile handle with care, very appropriate now.

On Wednesday 12th March, I was transferred by ambulance the 220 miles back to Airedale hospital in Yorkshire, and moved into the specialist Haematology ward 19 once a bed was available.

Further tests were carried out at Airedale on Monday 17th, including a full skeletal survey by X-ray that revealed that the cancer has caused extensive bone damage including the spine, pelvis, jaw and other areas – that’s why it used to be called ‘Multiple Myeloma’. The test results back from the vertebra biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of Myeloma. Blood tests showed I have the variant known as ‘Light chain’ Myeloma.

Due to my young age (52 is a bit young for this sort of thing) and expected ability to withstand an intensive treatment regime, I was offered the opportunity to participate in the Myeloma XI clinical trial for my treatment. Participation in this trial involved a move to the Bradford Royal Infirmary. The transfer was made on Thursday 20th and steroid treatment commenced on Friday 21st. On Monday 24th, my inital ‘pathway’ through the trial has been determined. Today, Tuesday 24th March sees the start of a 4-6 month period of CTD chemotherapy, to be followed by stem cell collection and transplant treatment.

Implications for OTT and our customers

Firstly we’d like to thank our customer in Ipswich for the direct practical support in coping with the immediate aftermath of my collapsed backbone during their course. Very much appreciated.

We’d also like apologise to our customers who have already been directly affected by the cancellation of courses that I was due to be running in the USA now. Thank you for your kind words and understanding.

As you can appreciate there is still a lot of uncertainty about the coming months, and how I will respond to the treatment regime. At the moment I am feeling fine although with reduced mobility from the spinal surgery, but I can stand, walk and manage stairs slowly.

So we would appreciate your patience through this period, I’ll be home soon and working from there, responding to emails and working on some consultancy assignments.

We will be accelerating our plans for the “Next Gen OTT” with delivery of learning materials for our advanced certification programmes via alternative formats to live training. We are also working on putting into place a strategic partnership for delivery of OTT’s high quality practical skills training programmes including the Certified Optical Fibre Installer and customised practical skills courses. We still have the capacity for delivering these at the moment, so please get in touch with the office if you have any requirements of this nature. We’ll be up and running with the CFCE and CONA certifications again soon. Register your interest and we’ll let you know when they’re available.

Further Information on Myeloma

General information about Myeloma is available on the Myeloma UK website at

Details of the clinical trial I will be participating in are at:

Sponsorship Opportunity

I would like to consider my participation in this trial as a form of sponsored endurance event and use this as an opportunity to raise funds for the specialist charity for Myeloma in the UK. This endurance event starts on Tuesday 25th March and will run for 4-6 months.

I have set up an event at to make it easy for everyone to sponsor me directly. Professional and corporate sponsors from the worldwide fibre optics community are particularly welcome to contribute along with friends, family from closer to home. Please use Social Media and all your contacts to spread the word.

You’ll be able to follow my progress through the trial via Social Media, with updates on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and it’s a good opportunity for me to get to grips with Twitter!

You might also like to consider participating in other charity events in aid of Myeloma UK. Interesting to find out the colour of the charity is ORANGE

….those of you who know Sarah and I well will appreciate the significance of this colour for us:

On our orange tandem in Japan

On our orange tandem in India






Orange cyclists in The Dales

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Is optical networking a commodity item?

Plain label canThis is a question that struck me as I dashed around the exhibition hall at ECOC in London, between meetings and technical presentations. I paused at one of the many Chinese exhibitors offering “good quality, best price!” and certainly the products on offer looked good and the prices being bandied around were staggeringly low, compared with what might be expected of the ‘usual suspects’.

So what constitutes a commodity item? Well to my mind it is where an acceptable quality of product is available from a number of vendors, with the only real differentiator being price. Of course you need to be clear about what is meant by acceptable quality. As someone who is deeply involved with the development of International Standards then I find that compliance with the relevant standards and test methods is usually a pretty good indicator of acceptable quality. Also, of course, it helps a lot in assessing a potential supplier if you know what you’re talking about. If you know enough about the required functions of a particular device then you can specify clearly its required performance. If you understand how the device interacts with other components and subsystems, then you can build it into a system. Then you are in a very strong position to benefit from the commoditisation of optical networking components and subsystems and can build remarkably cost effective optical networking systems. Given the intense pressures on most services providers today to deliver ever greater capacity at ever lower cost per bit then this becomes essential to business survival.

So, are we there yet? Is optical networking a commodity item yet? Like many complicated issues I think the answer to this is probably “it depends…”

It depends to a large extent on the data rates and distances that are involved with your system. At data rates of up to 10Gb/s over modest distances in metro type networks, then there is a fairly strong case for the arrival of commoditisation. In these scenarios you are likely to be able to achieve the lowest cost per Gigabit of transport. These types of applications are exactly the scenarios that are covered by OTT’s entry level certification in optical networking, the Certified Optical Network Associate (CONA). Attending this course will provide you with the knowledge and skills that you need to be able to confidently specify, select, deploy and operate the types of networks that are commonly being used for mobile backhaul, FTTA, dark fibre links etc.

As we go to data rates beyond 10Gb/s, or to bigger and more complex networks, then I think that the answer changes and today we are not in a commodity marketplace… yet. However, the challenges facing major operators mean that they have to get the prices down in the longer term. This is why there is such a buzz in the industry today around SDN and NFV. These will help the forward-looking to benefit from commoditisation of more complex networks in the near future. Again to benefit from this then you need to understand what is required of your future networks for  100Gb/s and beyond, how all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together and what you need to do to plan for the next, next generation of optical networking. All this, of course, is covered in detail on our advanced next generation Certified Optical Network Engineer (CONE).

See you on an OTT certification programme soon. Your potential future savings will certainly repay the cost of the training!


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See you next week in London at ECOC

Back in 1975 the very first European Conference on Optical Communications was held in London at the IEE in Savoy Place. This year sees ECOC in London again, a bit bigger now, being held at the Excel Convention Centre in the Docklands.

There have also been quite a lot of changes in the technology too! It’s interesting to review the conference proceedings from 1975 to see what the hot topics were then. Some of the challenges included:

  • making low loss fibre with less than 5dB/km loss
  • coating and cabling the fibres without affecting their performance too badly
  • joining and terminating fibres, especially the new single-mode fibres
  • fibre requirements to achieve 100Mb/s over 10km

These are of course very much taken for granted today, and it is amazing the advances that are being pushed forward at ECOC every year.  Losses are now routinely below 0.20dB/km and may be as low as 0.15dB/km will be reported at ECOC this year. The challenge of joining and terminating fibres has now moved on to dealing with multicore fibres with 7 or more cores within the same fibre.  Of course transmission experiments are now routinely multi-terabits over transoceanic distances.

ECOC 2013 logoNow, I wasn’t actually at the first ECOC; I’ve only been in the fibre optics industry for 30 years. However, I have attended every ECOC this Millennium, and this long term view helps a lot in filtering out the passing fads and research curiosities from those developments that will have a big impact on the way our communications networks will operate. Much of this long term expertise has been distilled into our world-leading Optical Networking Certification Programmes: Certified Optical Network Associate (CONA) and Certified Optical Network Engineer (CONE).

If you have been certified by OTT and are visiting ECOC then log on to the secure area of the OTT website where you’ll find the date and location of the informal get-together of CFCEs, CONAs, and CONEs, or just drop me an email or text to request the information.

Enjoy the show!

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What is the next “Next Gen”?

What is the next next gen?The thing about “next generation” is that there’s always scope to have another “next generation” after it; and another after that….

When it comes to the technology of optical networks, we are constantly seeing changes, some of these changes are evolutionary and some are revolutionary. So when does a technology development constitute a new generation and when is it just an extension of an existing generation? This is something I pondered as I developed one of our own ‘next generation’ of optical networking certifications, the Certified Optical Network Engineer (CONE version 2) that will be running for the first time as a public course in September 2013.

As long ago as 2008 the ITU had defined five generations of optical networking, and I was wondering how many we have had since then and what’s next. What do you think have been the most significant developments that might constitute a ‘next generation’, and what do you think will be the defining characteristics of the next next-generation?

To give you a feel for ‘the generation game’ the first five generations as defined in ITU G.Supp42 can be summarised as follows:

1st generation: multimode fibre systems using G.651 (50/125) fibre
2nd generation: the change to G.652 singlemode fibre with single channel systems operating at 1310nm, allowed transmission distances up to 40km.
3rd generation: the move to operating at 1550nm and the development of G.653 dispersion shifted fibre, allowing transmission distances of 80km.
4th generation: the advent of DWDM technology to multiply the fibre capacity, initially by 16 and then 32 and 40 channel systems. The development of G.655, non-zero dispersion shifted fibre, optimised for DWDM transmission, and the complementary technology of the EDFA to multiply the number of fibre spans before regeneration was needed. A move to 10Gb/s data rates and the use of dispersion compensating modules to manage chromatic dispersion.
5th generation: Further increases in capacity with up to 80 DWDM channels and 40Gb/s line speeds, coupled with FEC for error-free transmission. The emergence of Raman amplifiers and G.656 (broadband non-zero dispersion shifted fibre), to extend the useful operational wavelength range of DWDM to include the S-band. The development of OADMs and ROADMs to route wavelength channels independently.

How many generations have we had since then?
So how many generations have we had since then and what are their key characteristics? What is the “next big thing”? Let us know what you think by emailing or by posting on the OTT Facebook page.
If you’re stuck for ideas than the syllabus of the ‘next generation’ Certified Optical Network Engineer v2 might give you some food for thought, you’ll find this in the new OTT catalogue that is available from our website. We look forward to hearing your ideas… alternatively you can sign up for the next generation CONE course in September to hear all about my ideas.

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Controlling information overload and avoiding obesity…

UnderstandingThe human brain is an amazing thing, but when it comes to digesting information there is a complex equation at work balancing the quantity and quality of the information received, its complexity and the time needed to take it on board. Get the equation right and you maximise understanding, get it wrong and the overload results in some serious attenuation!

When OTT launched the Certified Optical Network Engineer (CONE) course back in April 2008 it was already a fairly busy one week course. But ever since, fed by my involvement in International standards committees, attendance at technical conferences such as OFC & ECOC and from my communications with people and companies leading the industry, we have been continuously updating the course to cover all of the developments that are shaping the future of telecoms networks. And, as readers of this blog will already know, there is a vast range of very complex technologies that are now being deployed and developed to meet the challenges of delivering ever more data at ever lower costs. And so the CONE course grew and it grew and it grew. More delegates began to tell me “this should be a two week course” or “maybe a month”…..and also it became apparent that the delegates attending the course had an increasingly different range of training needs. A rethink was definitely in order….

….and so two new courses have been born…

Reorganised and restructured and with new material, we will now be offering two separate one week courses, the new Certified Optical Network Associate (CONA) foundation course and a revised edition of the Certified Optical Network Engineer (CONE) course which will now concentrate on the advanced technologies.

So what’s in CONA?

CONA logoFrom our detailed analysis of the technology and the systems being deployed, and taking into account the typical entry levels of candidates, there is a fairly natural break point at 10Gb/s where the most cost effective systems are. So the scope of the introductory level CONA course is set to include all the technologies and the issues involved with the systems that operate at up to 10Gb/s per channel, and may have up to 16 CWDM channels per fibre in metro networks and up to 40 or even 80 DWDM channels per fibre in core networks.

These are the types of systems that are being deployed extensively in metro and regional networks and that are often used for dark fibre connections and for putting fibre to mobile phone base stations (FTTA: Fibre to the Antenna).

Optical Network Planners, Project managers, Operations and Network Managers for these types of networks, need to address issues such as loss and power budgets, chromatic dispersion management and polarisation mode dispersion. They also need to understand the interactions between the way in which the system operates and the infrastructure that it operates over and appreciate what infrastructure test methods and fibre characterisation are needed in order to check the quality of existing infrastructure. The CONA course is designed to cover all of these things.

And what’s in the new CONE?

CONE logoSo the new edition of CONE becomes a more advanced course for those that need to be fully up to speed with all the latest developments in the industry. As data rates go up to 40Gb/s, 100Gb/s and beyond, then things become a lot more complex. Optical Network Architects, Core Network Designers, and Photonic Specialists need to deal with complex systems including those with modulation formats such as DP-QPSK, where two orthogonal polarisation states carry separate channels of information, each of which has the data coded into the phase state of the light wave, rather than just turning the light on and off! These systems need coherent detection at the receive end and extensive digital signal processing to recover the data. Above 100Gb/s then options include n-QAM and OFDM where superchannel transmission and the requirements of increased spectral efficiency are likely to mean a break away from the traditional ITU-T DWDM grid. More issues arise with increased channel count and power levels, with non-linear effects to consider too. And not forgetting that latency issues are important for some applications as well. Networking flexibility and lower operational costs can be achieved using multi-degree ROADM technology to create meshed networks, and the next generation of CDC (&G?) ROADMs are already on the drawing board. The new CONE course is designed to help guide delegates through all of these issues and explain how they relate to and affect each other.

Which one is for me?

If you’d like a quick comparison highlighting the key differences between the CONA and CONE courses you’ll find one here.

More information is available from or call me or drop me an email if you have any questions on the content of these courses. Dates and venues for public courses are on the website. If you’d like me to run a closed course for your company then call me to discuss it.

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ECOC 2011 in Geneva

ECOC 2011

ECOC 2011 in Geneva

This year the European Conference on Optical Communications was in Geneva, a city in a stunning setting on the shores of Lake Geneva, with hills around and snow-capped mountains visible in the distance. The water jet in the lake was the inspiration for this year’s ECOC logo.  

The Palexpo centre is visually uninspiring, but the internal arrangement worked well with the conference downstairs and exhibition hall directly above. There were more than 1200 conference delegates. The exhibition was bigger and with more exhibitors than last year, a good sign that things are on the up, despite the expense of doing business in Geneva. Here’s an overview of a few of the presentations in the technical conference that caught my attention.  

FTTH in Switzerland

It was interesting to hear from SwissCom in the opening plenary about the Swiss way of doing Fibre to the Home. Four fibres are being installed to each home to allow SwissCom and another service provider to compete. All the installation has to go underground and so is very expensive. To help share the costs SwissCom is usually installing in partnership with the regional electricity distribution companies of which there are about 800 (!) in Switzerland. The comms links will also facilitate more SmartGrid apllications to run.  

However, this model was considered by the Swiss regulatory authorities as being likely to extend SwissCom’s dominant market position and to be anti-competitive. With rather embarrassing timing for ECOC the entire programme was put on hold, a few days before ECOC started. This is another example of how political FTTH can be, and you’ll be hearing more on this from OTT in the near future…  

635km on OM3 multimode fibre

In the development of standards for 100Gb/s Ethernet and premises cabling we are stuck with a maximum transmission distance of just 100m for 40 & 100Gb/s on OM3 multimode fibre and 150m on OM4 fibre with low loss connectivity. So when I saw the title of this paper from Corning I thought that there was a misprint… but no! In fact the paper reported on the successful transmission of 1.6Tb/s over 635km of Corning ClearCurve OM3 fibre! All of this using technology that is explained on OTT’s Certified Optical Network Engineer (CONE) course.  

Non-intrusive DGD & PMD measurements on live traffic

Vincent Lecoeuche of JDSU

Vincent Lecoeuche of JDSU gave a very good presentation on their new technique for measuring DGD, just by tapping off some of the transmission signal and feeding it into their special coherent detection system with tuneable laser. This has been implemented on their MTS-8000 field test platform and was on display on their exhibition stand. If several wavelength channels are available then PMD can be determined. The system also acts as a very high resolution OSA, which can yield  further information on the signal type and quality. Field trials have already been very successful and will be reported in a paper at OFC2012. Contact if you are interested in receiving further information on this system.  

Developments with the “Three ‘M’ technologies”

As described in a previous blog entry, the challenges of providing ever increasing capacity are being addressed using:  

  • Multi-level coding schemes
  • Multi-core fibre and
  • Multi-mode transmission

So, as expected, advances were reported in many papers related to these topics.  

One of the ‘themes’ that I detected at ECOC this year was the expectation that transmission systems based on 16-QAM would become commercially available in the near future.  

One of the post-deadline papers reported on a transmission experiment with a record spectral efficiency per fibre of 60b/s/Hz. This used 32-QAM-OFDM superchannels with 8.6b/s/Hz spectral efficiency, on each of the 7 cores in a multicore fibre that was 76.8km long.  

There was a whole session in the conference dedicated to transmission over few mode and multi-mode fibres.  

Exhibition highlights

The exhibition is a great place to catch up with friends and acquaintances from the world of fibre optics and to try out new products. I also use it as an opportunity to discuss developments in the International Standards that I am involved with producing. This year I conducted a survey of power meter manufacturers, in order to support the revision of ISO/IEC 14763-3. It was also interesting to see a new Optical Modulation Analyser from Southern Photonics being launched at the show. (They also get the prize for the best freebie bag at the show.) In the IEC we are working on a new Technical Report on analysis of complex modulation formats.  

Conec wearable clip on cleaning probe

US Conec have an extended range of cleaning probes for all sorts of connector styles as well as a compact, wearable, cleaning probe with belt clip with retractable cord. 


Social highlights

Alpine Horn welcome

CFCE & CONEs dinner at ECOC 2011

Of course there are also opportunities to socialise. We had a Swiss welcome reception, and also a dinner on board a boat on the lake. And of course a get together for CFCEs, CONEs and supporters.  


Where next?

  • ECOC 2012 is in Amsterdam
  • ECOC 2013 is in London

See you there!

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OFC 2011

OFC 2011 venueOptical Fibre Communications (OFC) is the world’s largest technical conference and trade show in fibre optics. A number of years ago it merged with what had previously been the National Fibre Optics Engineers Conference (NFOEC) and so it is still officially referred to as OFC/NFOEC. downtown LAThis year the show was held in downtown Los Angeles at the Convention Centre. A large area next to the convention centre has been re-developed to provide a large complex of restaurants and bars (and a basketball stadium). This was where we had a get together for CFCEs and CONEs.
The trade show this year was about 20% bigger than last year and the conference was well attended by an international audience. It seemed that there were more technical presentations than ever before, often with 10 parallel streams! Some recurrent themes in the technical sessions included:

  • what comes after 100G?
  • will DWDM systems break out of the rigid ITU grid?
  • will we need Gridless ROADM architectures?
  • measurement of complex signal modulation formats

Followers of this blog may recall the three ’M’ technologies to achieve higher throughput per fibre:

  • multi-level modulation formats
  • multi-core fibre
  • multimode fibres using mode division multiplexing

It was interesting to hear about the progress that had been made with these in the Post Deadline Papers where the very latest developments are showcased.
Alcatel Lucent reported 64-QAM transmission over 4x100km spans of fibre.
Two companies presented transmission experiments based on 7-core fibre. In one of these a total of 109Tb/s were sent over 16.8km of fibre. Each of the seven cores carried 97 DWDM channels in each of two polarisation states, each channel carried 86Gb/s using QPSK modulation. Each core had a refractive index ‘trench’ around it – just like bend-tolerant singlemode fibre, this drastically reduced the cross-talk between cores. The fibre loss was as low as 0.18dB/km. There were also a few transmission mode division multiplexing experiments on 2 or few mode fibres. So it seems that the industry is taking steps to help cope with the so-called capacity crunch that is looming as internet data rates continue to grow exponentially.

Polatis very low loss high port count optical switchIt’s good to see some British companies exhibiting at the show including Polatis with their very low loss high port count optical switches, Arden Photonics with their world-leading products for encircled flux measurement and control, PE Fiberoptics with their factory and field test equipment for characterising fibres.

I think that, for me, the highlight of the show was the new in-band measurement system from JDSU that made its first public appearance. It can monitor live traffic on the network using a polarisation diverse coherent detection system and polarisation controller. This effectively provides an ultra high resolution polarisation diverse OSA, that can be used to measure in-band OSNR, in-band DGD (and PMD if enough wavelengths are measured). The resolution of the OSA is so good that characteristic features of particular modulation formats and data rates can be identified.

Please get in touch if you would like further information.

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Report from the IEC meeting in San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo

“Where is that???” is the most common response when I’ve told anyone that I’ll be attending the IEC working group meetings in San Luis Obispo. Well, it’s a nice little town in California about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The town has a population of about 40,000.

California Polytechnic State University

California Polytechnic State University

It also seems like there’s another 40,000 people at CalPoly, or to give it it’s full title “California Polytechnic State University”.
Fiber Optic Test and Measurement

Fiber Optic Test and Measurement, Editor: Dennis Derickson

One of those people at CalPoly is Dennis Derickson the editor of the well known book on “Fiber Optic Test and Measurement”.

CalPoly is also where Jack Dupre, the Secretary of SC86C, did his studies many years ago, and so an invitation was arranged for CalPoly to host the IEC SC86C Working Group meetings in the run up to OFC held in the Los Angeles Convention Centre this year (more on that in my next blog). The emblem of CalPoly is the Mustang, & they get everywhere…

But anyway, on with the business…

In SC86C Working Group 1 (fibre optic systems) we discussed comments on the next edition of 61280-4-2, the standard for testing insertion loss and optical return loss of singlemode fibre optic cabling. I am the project leader for this document. It contains some important new recommendations including the requirement for launch and tail leads when OTDR testing (learn all about it on the CFCE course!). We also discussed PMD measurements on installed cabling; I’m also the project leader for this.
Other interesting items on the agenda included fibre optic sensors and new methods of assessing the signal quality of complex modulation formats such as DP-QPSK using the Error Vector Magnitude (you can learn about this on the CONE course).

Working Group 3 deals with optical amplifiers and there were significant discussions on reliability standards, as well as a joint discussion with WG4 (Active Devices) on Semiconductor Optical Amplifers. In WG4 a new standard for 1310nm VCSELS was proposed and it seems that the long running “wiggle” issue is reaching a conclusion.



Also, of course, we did manage to find time for a beer or two. See photo of Andrzej in a characteristic pose at – well worth a visit if you’re in the area!

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Seattle – week 2!

Looking back on downtown Seattle, from the boat that took us to the social event at Tillicum Village

As promised (apart from being a little late) here’s an update on what’s going on in the International Standards body for “customer premises cabling”. This group goes under the snappy little title of ISO/IEC JTC1 SC25 WG3, which rolls of the tongue quite readily once you’ve practiced it a few hundred times!

So, what’s it all about this time?
“Customer Premises Cabling” is the cabling that allows computers, and increasingly other ‘connected devices’ to communicate in offices, factories, data centres and homes. Much of this cabling is of course copper, with most desktop connections being made with Cat5E, Cat6 etc. twisted pair. However, for larger premises, the building backbone and campus backbone cabling will all be fibre optic. Fibre optic cabling also has a big part to play in data centres, where enormous amounts of information are moved around. Industrial networks also use fibre extensively to support longer distance communications and to provide immunity to electromagnetic interference.

…and what’s my role?
As mentioned in my last blog, I am the liaison officer from the IEC standards committee that deals with fibre optic systems (SC86C) and this group. This means that I can apply my knowledge of fibre optic systems to help make sure that they will work over the cabling systems that are being standardised upon by this group. In fact, historically there has been a bit of conflict between these two groups, with some overlapping of standards, particularly with respect to testing of installed cabling (regarded as a ‘system’ by IEC). So part of my role is to try and harmonise these different testing standards.
I am also appointed as a UK expert, and so I support the UK’s position, particularly with respect to the fibre optics issues that arise. The UK and its team of experts has been very pro-active in driving through many of the major developments in premises cabling standards.

So, what happened?
It was the first time that this group had met in conjunction with the IEC General Meeting and this meant that several additional fibre optics experts were able to attend, staying on from the previous week’s TC86 meeting, including the chairman of TC86, Umberto Rossi. This gave the group a better balance as it is usually dominated by ‘copperheads’ and so fibre optics issues are often sidelined and given little airtime. But at this meeting some good progress was made on fibre optics issues and interesting decisions made about the future directions of standards…

Key developments in the optical fibre ad-hoc meeting.
At last, a full revision of the standard (14763-3) for testing fibre optic cabling in premises networks is underway – the UK have been pushing for this for several years.
The work done by the UK FIA on Reference Grade Terminations was reviewed.
It was agreed that there was no requirement for the total Optical Return Loss to be specified or tested for optical fibre links and channels in premises cabling (although connector reflectance is specified).
The UK proposal to remove the Optical Fibre channel classification scheme was adopted, although implementation of this decision will take some time.
OM1 grade of multimode fibre performance (usually associated with 62.5/125 multimode fibre) will be removed from the main part of the standards and relegated to history (as an informative annex).

Other issues
There was a poignant moment at the start of the meeting as a minute’s silence was observed in memory of Stuart Reeves of ADC Krone, who was taken by cancer and sadly passed away on August 1st. Stuart had played a very active role in this working group, faithfully recording the minutes and documenting everything, including at times some very heated exchanges. His diplomacy, attention to detail and mastery of the English language were much appreciated by the group. The challenge of recording the minutes of this, often lively, group has been picked up by another Brit – best of luck to James Withey of Nexans!

Any questions?
As ever, if you have any questions or comments on the wonderful world of standards, please leave your comments here or get in touch with me

Some of the UK delegates at the ‘top table’ of the meeting – from the left, Mike Gilmore, Alan Flatman and James Withey, next to Water von Pattay the working group convenor.

A view of the full meeting.

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