Lighting up dark fibre? Learn how, with these unique certification programs…

Some days make you think about capacity and performance more than others. The case for lighting up dark fibre with your own communications equipment can be very compelling:

  • virtually unlimited capacity
  • flexibility
  • greater control
  • better integration with your communications systems
  • much lower opex than leasing capacity

There are also many interesting developments going on in the world of optical networking with increasing use of ‘white box’ solutions that you can integrate into your communications systems using open management and control systems such as SDN. One of the trendy phrases to describe this is OOLS: Open Optical Line Systems. However, to capitalise on these developments you need to know what you are doing:

  • which ‘white boxes’ or optical components do you need?
  • what do the specifications mean?
  • how do you make sure that the dark fibre you’re leasing is good quality and up to the job?

So, this is where OTT’s unique, vendor-neutral, certifications in optical networking technology can help.

cona-logo-rgbThe Certified Optical Network Associate (CONA) is the entry level certification that makes sure you have a good understanding of the physical fibre infrastructure and all the network elements needed to build cost-effective links that could readily transport up to 800 Gb/s or more of traffic per fibre pair over hundreds of kilometres. This course is also an excellent foundation for the advanced Certified Optical Network Engineer program, scheduled for re-launch in 2017.

cfce-logo-rgbThe Certified Fibre Characterisation Engineer (CFCE) program provides you with the knowledge and skills needed to perform Fibre Characterisation in accordance with ITU-T G.650.3 tier 2 testing to ensure the quality of the dark fibre link and assess its suitability to support the communications systems that you want to deploy initially and also for any upgrades that are likely during the lifetime of the dark fibre agreement.

So, get prepared and book yourself onto one of these courses, in the UK or USA, today so that you can light ‘em up in 2017.

Seattle, WA Feb 27-Mar 3, 2017: delivered by Fiber Insight
Bradford, UK 13th – 17th March 2017: delivered by CrossConnect Training
Lowell, MA August 21-25, 2017: delivered by Fiber Insight
Seattle, WA October 16-20, 2017: delivered by Fiber Insight

Bradford, UK 6th – 10th March 2017: delivered by CrossConnect Training
Lowell, MA April 3-7, 2017: delivered by Fiber Insight
Seattle, WA June 19-23, 2017: delivered by Fiber Insight
Lowell, MA December 4-8, 2017: delivered by Fiber Insight

Other dates and locations may also be announced, so why not subscribe to our newsletter or follow OTT on Twitter for updates.

Or if you’d like these courses delivered on your own premises then please get in touch.

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7 essential ingredients that make a course “awesome”…

certified-by-ott-logo-rgbLast week I was working through the verification process for one of our certification courses, delivered under license, by our partners in the USA, and I was delighted by this feedback on a course review form:

“I would just like to say, this is the best course and learning experience that I have had the pleasure of taking while here at “my company”. I would be highly interested in taking more training offered by your organization.”

Although it’s not actually unusual for trainees to heap praise on OTT courses, it was certainly good to see that our new business model, using delivery partners around the world, is really working well. And it also got me round to thinking, well what is it exactly that makes a live training course worthy of such praise?

When you analyse it, there are actually quite a lot of things that all need to come together to provide a learning experience that people enthuse about. At OTT, we’ve been doing training in fibre optics since 1989 and so have learned a lot over the years, so I thought I’d share with you some of the things that we work so hard at to make sure your learning experience is the best it can be.

Technical expertise
It’s important for the course designer to understand the technology thoroughly to identify the critical factors for success: what you need to know, what you need to be able to do. A decades old mantra at OTT is to focus on providing the knowledge and skills to do the job.
Experience in the industry also helps to identify key job roles, who does what and how does their piece of the jigsaw fit in with others. Of course, knowing the whole picture is a particular strength of OTT with detailed in-depth knowledge of all aspects of fibre optic infrastructure and a comprehensive understanding of the systems that operate over that infrastructure. Often it is just as important to be able to filter out information that is not relevant as it is to know what to include in a course to make it coherent and effective. Again this is where expertise helps in identifying what is important and what is not.

Structured course content
Focusing on particular job roles also helps when it comes to sorting and organising information into a coherent structure for each course. What is your job role?
Building the knowledge, understanding and skills in a step-by-step fashion is important. Many of the subjects that we cover are pretty complex and so it is necessary to start with a firm foundation of knowledge on which to build. Then individual subjects and tasks are covered one at a time to allow a detailed focus on each topic. We aim to answer the sort of questions you will have in a straightforward way. Then everything can be put together often in the form of an assignment or project that is carefully designed to replicate a real-world scenario.

Training materials
A good learning experience is facilitated through good training materials. Presentations that are visual, dynamic and engaging are important to focus on key points whilst being supported by in-depth course manuals that are comprehensive, authoritative and easy to find your way around. sample-of-cfce-contentsOTT manuals are modular, indexed, hyperlinked when used electronically, and they provide a valuable reference resource that is frequently used for years after the course is over! Many of our delegates also receive extra electronic resources that include interactive review questions to help study for the exams, as well as additional reference information. We encourage feedback so we can keep on improving our support materials. cona-course-using-whizziekit-photo-small
We make extensive use of case studies with characters and scenarios that you can relate to, helping to put the training into context and providing an appreciation of different perspectives on the subjects being covered. For our optical networking courses, we’ve even designed our own ‘virtual’ optical networking system and this is supported with handle-able mock ups and full technical specifications.

For live courses, then the role of the trainer is key. They will know their subjects thoroughly, so that they can answer your questions, support from OTT means that even the most complex issues can be addressed authoritatively. The trainer will also have real world experience of actually working in the industry. This means that they can pass on tips and tricks to help you to put things into practice back at work. Of course, the trainer also needs to be able to communicate clearly and effectively to be able to explain things as well as keeping you entertained and engaged for the duration of the course.

Resources & equipment
fc-kit-hands-on-1On an OTT practical course, when we say hands-on we mean your hands-on. So when you’re on a testing course, such as the CFCE, then not only will you have plenty of test equipment to use but you’ll have interesting and realistic systems to test. Our specially designed and constructed test systems help to replicate situations that you’ll find in the field so you’ll be ready and able to face real world challenges back in the workplace. We know that providing enough equipment is critical to the success of the course, so we recommend our partners limit course numbers, usually eight delegates, to make sure you get the most out of the learning experience.

Assessment & assignment Exam-paper
As a basis for the certifications that we award, all certification courses require you to pass a formal exam as well as completing a practical assignment.We find that having a formal exam helps to focus your attention throughout the course and motivates you to study for the exam. The practical assignment helps to consolidate the skills that you have acquired during the week and puts everything together in a realistic scenario. All assessments are sent through to OTT for verification.


viavi-vzw-cfce-sept2016-croppedOf course a vital ingredient is YOU! Learners that are motivated and enthusiastic and work well together as a team during the course can really make a course zing. We want you to come on the course expecting to work hard and to learn a lot, our courses are pretty intensive. If you’re on one of our advanced level courses, then it helps a lot if you’ve done the basic level courses first or have the right background knowledge and experience to make the most of the learning opportunity. So you can see that OTT and our training delivery partners take great care to make sure that the learning experience you get exceeds your expectations. Most delegates report that they have learned way more than they expected to on their course.

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Should we bank on WBMMF for the next phase of our datacentre?

In this blog I’ll adopt a slightly different approach and introduce you to some of the characters that we use in the case studies on our training courses such as the Certified Optical Network Associate (CONA) programme. So we’ll listen in on a meeting between:

  • Sean Power, UK Sales Manager for WhizzieKat (a manufacturer of structured cabling systems and a sister company of WhizzieKit the vendor of Optical Networking systems)
  • Allen B. Clark who is the Network Manager at ABC Bank
  • Sally Forth, Operations Director of Solutions Ltd, the Bank’s preferred implementation and systems integration company

ABC-meeting-LondonThe meeting has been called to discuss the new Wide Band Multimode Fibre (WBMMF) and whether it makes sense to deploy this fibre in the Bank’s next phase of datacentre expansion. The meeting is fairly informal as the characters all know each other well and have worked together on a number of projects before. They’re settled in to Allen’s office with cups of coffee and Allen kicks off…

Allen: So Sean, tell us about this new wideband multimode fibre. What’s the point of it, other than increasing your sales commission?

Sean: Well, it might not actually do that, because you won’t need to deploy as many fibres for your 100G circuits as if you carry on using OM4. You see, each fibre can carry four separate channels of data using four different wavelengths of light, so for example you can transmit 100G as 4x 25Gb/s SWDM channels using just a pair of fibres. Compared with the parallel fibre solutions for 100G on multimode you need far fewer fibres.

Sally: So that’s a bit like the WhizzieKit DWDM systems that we are using for the data centre interconnect project, but with just four channels. So do we need some of those extra gadgets for combining the channels together and separating them out at the other end?

WK-QSFP-and-port-roundedSean: SWDM on multimode fibre is a bit like DWDM or CWDM on singlemode fibre, but all the optical muxing and demuxing happens inside the transceiver modules, so you only have to deal with a pair of fibres end to end. The WhizzieKit 100Gb/s SWDM4 transceivers are in the QSFP28 format with a normal duplex LC on the front.

Allen: So each transceiver has four separate lasers and four separate receivers as well as the gadgets for combining the transmit channels and separating out the receive channels? All of that fits inside the QSFP28?

inside-qsfp-roundedSean: Yes, neat isn’t it? And the QSFP28 only needs 1.5Watts of electrical power to drive it. That’s an enormous saving compared with the first generation 100G CFP transceivers, some of our competitors CFPs used all of the 35W CFP power allowance. Even some second generation CFP2s would get too hot to handle …a new meaning to ‘hot swappable’!

Sally: So what wavelengths are being used? I thought that you could only get those vixel thingies at 850nm.

Sean: Of course, up until now all multimode fibre has been optimised for 850nm so that’s the wavelength at which most VCSELs (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers) operate. But it’s possible to make them at other wavelengths too, in fact some of the longer wavelength VCSELs work even better than the ones at 850nm. So the four wavelengths for SWDM4 are at 850nm, obviously we keep that one because it’s cheap, plus 880nm, 910nm and 940nm. That keeps the channels far enough apart to be able to separate them out easily enough, but close enough together so that the WBMMF can provide good enough performance.

Sally: At the moment when we test the multimode fibres for the Bank, we test at them at 850nm and 1300nm. Does this mean that we have to test this new fibre at these other wavelengths too?

Sean: Well, I’m not the testing expert, but I overheard some of the guys discussing this the other day when they were talking about what tests we’d require for warranty of the cabling system. They were saying that there’s no guidance in the standards yet, there was even some discussion about whether 1300nm testing was worthwhile. But they seemed to think that testing at 850nm would be good enough as that would give you the worst case figures. I don’t think you’ll need to buy any new test equipment, but I’ll check on the warranty requirements and get back to you.

Sally: OK, thanks.

Allen: So what distance will your WBMMF operate over at 100Gb/s? It seems that every time the data rate goes up the distance supported goes down. I was quite happy at 10Gb/s with the OM3 at 300m and the new OM4 at 400m. That could get me everywhere I needed to go, even in our bigger data centre. But when things dropped to 100m for 100G, I got a bit worried.

Sean: So with this phase of the datacentre development, what are the maximum distances that you’ll need to support?

Allen: Well with this phase, we’re aiming to keep the vast majority of the links to less than 100m, but some may go up to 150m.

Sean: With those distances you should be alright using WBMMF. I understand that the standards are likely to support 100G Ethernet and even 128G FibreChannel using SWDM4 over 100m of WBMMF. But if you use WhizzieKit transceivers over WhizzieKat cabling, then we’ll guarantee support over 150m, so that should do all of your links. In fact I was talking to our technical guru, I think you’ve met Bas, the one we call WK2,The WhizzieKit WhizzKid, he was just back from the IEEE meeting in Macau!!, anyway, he reckons that all future Ethernet applications including 50G, 100G, 200G, 400G and beyond will have to be made to work over at least 100m of multimode fibre, and that probably means we’ll still be able to guarantee them over 150m using WhizzieKit/Kat products.

Allen: Oh that’s good, I had been wondering whether we should be going to singlemode fibre to guarantee support of the longer links.

Sean: Don’t forget Allen, that the singlemode transceivers are much more expensive than the multimode ones. With WhizzieKit, usually singlemode transceivers are about twice the price of multimode. There I go talking myself out of more of my sales commission. But you know that we always like to provide the Bank with the most cost-effective solutions in the long run!

Allen: So you keep on telling us! But surely 4 multimode lasers are more expensive than the one singlemode one?

Sean: But Allen, even on singlemode fibre at those data rates we need to use 4 lasers. That’s what’s inside our 100GBase-LR4 and ER4 modules. Unless that is you want to go for our 100G coherent module, I wouldn’t mind, but I think that might ‘break the bank’ ha ha! They’re really only for the long haul, perhaps we’ll talk more about those when we discuss your next Data Centre Interconnect project.

Allen: OK, OK, given the number of fibre circuits we’ve got to light up, the cost of the transceivers is critical. But actually, we still have a lot of 10G circuits, not everything runs at 100G you know. What benefit is there to using WBMMF at 10G, compared with OM4?

Sean: Well, actually at 850nm only, there is no difference in the specifications. WBMMF is fully backwards compatible with OM4, so it’s just as good as OM4, it will support all the applications that OM4 will, and all WBMMF is bend tolerant (or should I say bend loss insensitive) but WBMMF isn’t necessarily any better at 850nm than OM4 is.

Allen: Oh, so no extra margin or anything with WBMMF at 850nm?

Sean: Nope. Sorry.

Sally: You say it’s fully backwards compatible with OM4, does that also include compatibility with splicing it? Do we need to upgrade our splicers to be able to splice this new fibre? What if we have to splice WBMMF to OM4, would that work?

Sean: Sally, you’re more of an expert on splicing than I am. But the briefing notes from our cabling guys say that they’ve spliced it without any problems, so long as you use a multimode programme on the splicer. But probably best for you to have a go. I’ll get some sample fibre through to you so you can try it on your splicer.

Sally: Thanks, that would be good to get a sample to try out splicing it offline, before we thrown into a project with tight deadlines and all that. It may be that with a software upgrade on the splicer there will be a new programme for WBMMF, like there was for the bend tolerant OM4. But what about splicing to OM4?

Sean: But why would you want to splice it to OM4? When WhizzieKat provides the cabling, either it’s already pre-terminated, or we provide compatible WBMMF pigtails. Really we’d recommend that you stick with the same fibre end-to-end for optimum performance.

Allen: I think I know where you’re coming from Sally, when we did phase 2 of the data centre, we ran some cables in to connect up to phase 3, but left them unterminated at the phase 2 boundary. So should we run new WBMMF cables back into phase 2 or extend the OM4 cables into phase 3 or splice at the boundary? In fact that raises a bigger question, will these new SWDM systems operate over the older OM4 cabling in phase 2? If so, over what sort of distance?

Sean: That’s a good question, and I was expecting you to ask that, so I asked Bas about that when I saw him. In fact he went a bit deep for me talking about modal dispersion peaks and bandwidths and spectral responses, and he sketched out some funky graphs and things, but anyway the upshot of all that was that not all OM4 fibres are the same, different fibre designs from different vendors may actually be quite different in their performance at 850nm and also across the wavelength range where SWDM operates. The good news for you is that WhizzieKat have been aware of the potential for this technology for some time, although we didn’t know the detail of exactly what values would end up in the standards. So at the same time as we switched over to bend tolerant OM4 from the standard OM4, we also biased the fibre design towards longer wavelengths. So actually if you use WhizzieKit SWDM transceivers over WhizzieKat bend tolerant OM4, then we’ll guarantee 100G Ethernet SWDM over at least 70m distance. Bas also said something about ‘engineered links’ that might be able to go even further, and he showed me a very complicated looking spreadsheet, but I think we’ll need to get the engineering team involved if that’s important to you. Of course, I’d much rather you just replaced all of your old cabling with new, but that’s my salesman’s perspective, rather than the techie’s solution.

Allen: OK that’s good to know we can call on you if we need to, but for the moment it looks like we’ll be leaving most of phase 2 alone, operating at 10Gb/s. Any new 100G stuff is all likely to be in phase 3 zone with the new cabling.

Allen: I think that’s just about all my questions answered. What about you Sally?

Sally: Nothing else from me, I think I’m happy that we can install and test it if you decide to go ahead.

Sean: So what do you think Allen, should we go ahead with the quotation for the phase 3 cabling based on WBMMF, rather than OM4?

Allen: Yes, I think so, but before you do, I think I’d like to re-visit the amount of cabling and the number of fibres required, based on what you’ve said. We’ll get back to you on that.

Sean: OK that’s good, when can I expect to hear from you?

Allen: Should be in about a week or so.

Sean: Fine, I look forward to hearing from you. By the way I know that if you’re interested in finding out more about this WBMMF and SWDM then it might be worthwhile attending the FIA Summer Seminar this year. I hear that Richard Ednay of Optical Technology Training will be doing a presentation there. He really knows his stuff and should be able to answer any of your technical questions!

Sally: That sounds good, we’re an FIA member, and I’d been thinking about that, it’s on the 20th-21st June isn’t it. Hey Allen, you could come along too, you don’t have to be an FIA member to attend you know.

Allen: I’ll think about it. Sean, thanks for coming in and talking us through that it’s been really useful…

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OMG! What’s happening to multimode fibre?


If you’re in a hurry watch the video. If you’d like the full story, then read on…

OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4, OM5? WB-MMF…

Most of us are familiar with the OMn labels that we use to talk about the different performance grades of multimode fibre. But things are changing! It’s time to finally say goodbye to some old faithfuls and time to introduce the new kid on the block, as it looks as though he might be staying around a while… So let’s review where we’ve come from with multimode fibre and where we’re heading.

Multimode fibre for telecoms…
Some of the earliest telecoms systems operated on multimode fibre and the ITU that makes the Recommendations for telecoms systems even produced a Recommendation for it that they called G.651. However, in telecoms the requirement to go over much longer distances meant that singlemode fibre rapidly took over, and the ITU went on to produce a whole series of Recommendations for different types of singlemode fibre (G.652… G.657) but that’s another story…

Multimode fibre for datacoms
In Europe and Japan the 50/125 fibre described in G.651 became the standard multimode fibre type that was used for datacoms links in premises networks, whilst in America they went their own way and developed 62.5/125 fibre.

LEDs for 10 & 100Mb/s
These early fibres were OK for the systems of the day that operated at low data rates such as 10Mb/s and 100Mb/s. They could support links up to 2km or more, plenty far enough for most office and even campus networks. That 62.5/125 fibre even had a benefit that the larger core could catch more of the light that came out of the LED light source.

The Gigabit era
However, as the data rates climbed into the Gigabit range, then LEDs ran out of steam and were replaced by high speed lasers, these could send much higher date rates and concentrated the light energy into a much smaller spot than LEDs could. So 62.5/125 no longer had a benefit, and it also has a number of downsides. Also the performance of the 50/125 fibre could be optimised for laser transmission. At this stage the maximum distance that you could go down the fibre changed from being limited by the power level in the fibre, to being limited by the distortion of the signal as it travelled along the multimode fibre. This distortion was primarily due to something called modal dispersion. So a new generation of 50/125 fibre was developed that had much better modal dispersion to support high data rate laser transmission over longer distances.

OM categories
Now that we had two multimode fibres of the same size with different performance standards we needed a naming scheme and so the OMn categorisation came about in the premises cabling standards. So OM1 became associated with the old style 62.5/125 fibre and OM2 with the old style 50/125 fibre. The new ‘laser optimised’ multimode fibre with much better modal dispersion gave us the OM3 performance grade, capable of supporting low cost 10G Ethernet over distances of 300m.

As time went by, the manufacturers of multimode fibre got better and better at optimising their fibres for high performance laser transmission at 850nm and after a while of OM3+, OM3super, OM3-ER (extended range) etc. they got together and standardised on the performance required for OM4.

Grandad-comic-with-OM1-and-2-smallGoodbye to OM1 & OM2
A major revision of the premises cabling standards that defined the OMn categories is underway. This is quite an epic task and so is taking some time to sort out, but one thing is for sure, it’s time to say goodbye to OM1 and OM2. These will have no part in the standard for new cabling infrastructure. OM3 becomes ‘entry level’ multimode fibre. OM1 & OM2 will only have grandfather rights.

Beyond 10G
However, at data rates beyond 10G it gets tricky and so the first generation 40 & 100G Ethernet solutions for multimode are using parallel fibres each operating at 10G. The second generation 100G on multimode uses four parallel fibres for transmit and another four for receive, each operating at 25G, but it would be really nice if we could do 100G on just a pair of multimode fibres…

wbmmf-with-lambda-slide-smallSo this is where Wide Band Multimode Fibre comes in: ‘the new kid on the block’. Whereas OM3 and OM4 are optimised for 850nm, WBMMF gives good performance across the wavelength range from 850nm up to 950nm. Performance that is good enough to support 4 SWDM channels each carrying 25G of data. That can deliver 100G Ethernet, or even 128G FibreChannel using just a pair of multimode fibres. This is really attractive for the data centre environment and so we think this fella is going to stay around a while. He might even join the OMn family and take on the name OM5; after all, he can do everything that OM4 can do and more besides. But he is a bit different and so maybe something like OM4W might suit him better. WBMMF even matches the bend tolerant characteristics of the bend-loss insensitive versions of OM4.

But isn’t singlemode fibre taking over everywhere?
“I thought that all multimode fibre was going to be obsolete…” I hear you say…
Whilst it’s true that singlemode fibre is best for longer distances, the cheapest singlemode optical interfaces at 1310nm are 2-3 times the cost of multimode for the same data rate, and some singlemode interfaces can get very expensive, long distance ones at 1550nm may be 10x the price of multimode interfaces.
So for the short distances that are in datacentres where most links are less than 100m and the number of links is multiplying like crazy, the cost of the transceivers at each end of the fibre is really important.

So multimode has some life left in it yet, and with the new kid on the block the future of the multimode family looks secure for another generation! I’ll be talking more about him in my next blog.

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Is 25G really more than 10G?

10G-data-truckWhen we developed the Certified Optical Network Associate (CONA) programme we decided to focus it on the technologies that are used for Optical Networks at data rates of up to 10Gb/s per channel. This makes a lot of sense from a number of perspectives. 10G channels are a very cost effective way of deploying systems that provide enough capacity for many applications such as dark fibre connections, data centre interconnect, FTTA (Fibre to the Antenna). The technology for 10G systems is mature and readily available with pluggable small form-factor transceivers providing a wide range of choices including CWDM, DWDM and even tuneable lasers.

However, 10G systems are not without their challenges, the low cost optics means that you have to take care of dispersion, with an appropriate chromatic dispersion management strategy and taking care to understand the potential impacts of PMD. There are also some pitfalls for the unwary (or untrained) with using amplifiers and mixing and matching components from different vendors.

So we’ve been very pleased with the way that customers have reacted to the CONA programme; by covering infrastructure related topics and systems related issues, the feedback from delegates shows how beneficial it is to gain a good understanding of the interactions between these two areas. Often delegates have a background in one or the other and seeing the big picture and how it all works together helps everyone to appreciate what it takes to make a good optical network based on 10G channels.

Finisar 100G 4x28G Metro Tunable DWDM 30km (500km+ Amplified) CFP Optical TransceiverHowever, in keeping up with the new developments to keep the courses up to date, along comes a new technology that throws a spanner in the works. In this case the new technology that upsets our CONA for 10G mindset is the new style of 100G CFP pluggable optics module, with a number of vendors announcing new products at ECOC last September.

25G-data-truckThis technology builds on the 2nd Generation 100G Ethernet standard that was published in 2015 and uses four pairs of singlemode fibres each transmitting 25Gb/s of data using tuneable lasers in the C-band. This is an interesting halfway house between 10G wavelengths and the very expensive coherent 100G solutions using DP-QPSK. So the question is where does this technology sit in our portfolio of courses?

Yes the CONA course now covers 25G
Because the module has no electronic dispersion compensation then it is necessary to do the dispersion compensation optically. For this reason we decided that it really belongs on the CONA course, but it also has some implications for our CFCE course as well. So on the CONA course we’ve introduced this module to the Transceivers part of the course and added a new set of requirements to the Chromatic Dispersion Management section of the course, reflecting the tighter dispersion limits that are needed to support transmission using these modules.

and we look at the implications on the CFCE course now too
On the Certified Fibre Characterisation Engineer (CFCE) course this technology means that you need to have more accurate dispersion figures for the installed links than was necessary for 10Gb/s. This reinforces the need for actual chromatic dispersion measurements on installed links so that the correct amount of dispersion compensation can be applied.

Need to know more?
If you feel that you or your team would benefit from a deeper understanding of all the issues in order to keep pace with developments, then get in contact and we’ll put you in touch with one of our partners who deliver the CONA and CFCE courses.

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At last it is time to take the get well cards down! …

Get well cardsThe last eighteen months have certainly been long and challenging, but my recent hospital trips “100 days” after my stem cell transplant have now had positive outcomes. At St. James I learned that the stem cell treatment has been successful. The test results from my bone marrow show only “minimal residual levels” of Myeloma, which is as good as can be expected, so I can be considered to be “in remission”. At Bradford Royal Infirmary, my pathway through the next phase of the clinical trial was determined and I am going to get Revlamid as a maintenance treatment. The other pathway was the current NHS standard maintenance treatment for Myeloma which is nothing. So this is good news and we hope that this maintenance treatment should give me the best chance of staying in remission for a long time.
Of course, it would have been nice to have been told “yes you’re cured”, but currently there is no cure for Myeloma, and so that was not going to happen. So we hope that I will be in remission for many years before the Myeloma returns, and maybe, by the time it does, then there may be the hope of a cure. Progress towards a cure will be helped by the research carried out by Myeloma UK that you have been helping to fund through my JustGiving appeal. Thank you all for your generous donations.

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Summer updates

Health update
The main event in the treatment of my Myeloma is now completed, with high dose chemotherapy followed by my stem cell transplant carried out at St. James Hospital in Leeds at the beginning of April. Although this process was fairly gruelling, things went to plan, and I was able to return home after about three weeks and have slowly but steadily been regaining my energy. My immune system is now approaching normal levels and blood counts continue to improve. More tests are done 100 days after the transplant and so we should know by early August how successful the treatment has been.

OTT partners

OTT website updated
We’ve now updated the OTT website to reflect our increased focus on our network of training delivery partners that are now licensed to deliver our world class certifications around the globe. We are very pleased that these partners are now coming on stream, making it easier for our customers to access the very best training in fibre optics and optical networking. Our partners are carefully selected, based on their proven expertise and their capability to deliver the top quality training that is expected of all OTT courses. You can find out more about them here.

Courses updated
We’ve been working on making various improvements to our COFI, CFCE and CONA courses and training support materials to enhance the learning experience for delegates and to provide our partners with additional support.

Laser safety signGiven more widespread deployment of Raman amplifiers, we’ve also restructured and extended our Laser Safety course to  address the issues that arise with Raman amplified, and other higher powered communications systems.

All this has meant that progress has been slow in turning our CONE course into an online course, but work on this continues.

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Stem cell transplant March/April 2015

New look, after high dose chemo

It is now been more than a year since my diagnosis with myeloma.

I have completed two long phases of chemotherapy. I then received further high dose chemotherapy a few weeks ago called ‘priming’ in preparation for the stem cell harvesting, and that has now finally resulted in the loss of my hair!




Stem cell harvesting

Stem cell harvesting

My stem cell harvesting is complete and went well as they collected enough cells for at least two transplants. My plumbing installation (Hickman/Central line) is now installed and I am now finally ready to progress to the main event in my treatment.

Once I return back home, it will be several months before I am back to health and can hopefully be classified as being in ‘remission’. We hope that this remission period will last for many years!

I am scheduled to be admitted to Saint James’s Hospital in Leeds on Tuesday 24th March. There I shall undergo high dose chemotherapy with a drug called Melphalan. This will completely kill off all of the myeloma cells in my bone marrow and blood stream. So as well as making me very sick for a while, unfortunately this will also destroy much of my good bone marrow, as well as my immune system. So, then I will receive a stem cell transplant. The stem cells are my own stem cells that were harvested a couple of weeks ago. It will take some time for these stem cells to grow and develop into healthy bone marrow, and for my immune system to recover. Therefore I will be staying in a special isolation ward at Saint James’s hospital for 3 to 4 weeks.

We’d like to thank our customers for the kind thoughts and words that have supported us through this process so far, and ask for your understanding if there are delays in responses over the coming weeks and months.

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Harvest Festival postponed…

Latest-drugs-packIf you’ve been following this blog, then you might be expecting an update on how the stem cell treatment is going. Unfortunately, the test results from the last cycle of induction chemo and the bone marrow biopsy showed an increase in the hostile Myeloma cells. This means that I have not been able to progress to the stem cell treatment at this stage.
After a break from chemo and also a further operation on my spine to fix another dodgy vertebra, today Tuesday 28th October is the start of my new ‘consolidation’ phase of chemotherapy. This brings a new and more sophisticated drug into the battle: Velcade® or bortezomib to give its generic name. This is given by injection at hospital four times in each three week chemo cycle, in combination with cyclophosphamide and dexamethasone in tablet form and a selection of other tablets to combat side effects etc. Normal treatment is 4-6 three-week cycles. If my response to this VCD chemotherapy is good, then I can progress to the stem cell treatment as previously described. The fight against cancer is a long one, but I have not suffered too badly so far with side effects from the chemotherapy…
I’d like to say a big thank you to all friends, colleagues and customers from around the world for their support and kind words through this difficult period, as well as for the numerous generous donations to my charity appeal for Myeloma UK at This is now over 75% of the way to meeting my target of raising £10,000 for this excellent charity.
We are also very pleased with, and proud of, the care I have had from our National Health Service in the UK and their wonderful staff. This means that all of my healthcare has been delivered at no personal cost.

OTT Update
I have been working from home and we are getting on with converting CONE from a live course to an on-line certification programme. There is a lot of work involved in doing this and getting it right, to the very high standards that our customers around the world expect from OTT. We anticipate it will be running by the middle of 2015.
It is also good to see our other certification programmes (CFCE, CONA etc.) being run under licence by our partners in the UK, USA and Australia; and possibilities for other territories too.
I have also completed a couple of consultancy projects and have some ongoing consultancy work.
I am following the developments with the various standards bodies remotely and I wish everyone at the upcoming IEC General Meeting in Tokyo a productive and enjoyable meeting. Thanks also to Mike Gilmore of the FIA for stepping in to fill the Chairman’s role of the BSI committees GEL86 and GEL86/3.

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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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