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Fiber Cabling in Laboratory Environments

Elisha Gray, Newcomb & Boyd

For a new laboratory on a university campus, our communications engineers served as the third-party commissioning agent on the voice and data cabling. The university was experiencing network issues and suspected the problems were caused by bad fiber strands in the backbone. Retesting communications cabling is uncommon. Since the fiber backbone is the main artery of the campus network and networks are increasingly complex and require ever-expanding bandwidth, a breakdown in the fiber backbone could be detrimental to everyday communications needs. As such, we were tasked to test 10 percent of the copper cabling and 100 percent of the fiber.

Although fiber cabling has been around a long time, fiber strands in the horizontal runs are rare in telecommunications installation. With increasing need for bandwidth in high-technology and laboratory environments, the need for fiber cable equipment in laboratories is growing. But, contractors who have been installing copper and coax for years are treating fiber strands in the same manner. Fiber cable is much more delicate and needs special attention for installation in the horizontal runs, especially in these cases where the fiber strand is connecting to critical laboratory equipment or high- technology testing machines. Although it is possible that the cable is of good quality and installed well, there is not a way to know for certain without a valid set of test results with good reference values and loss values that make sense. This presentation will outline the testing procedure, note the challenging areas for designer and contractor, and recommend items for review in the voice and data commissioning process.


Elisha A. Gray, CTS, RCDD, earned her Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1999. Prior to joining Newcomb & Boyd, Ms. Gray was employed for six years with BellSouth Telecommunications and Graybar as a building industry consultant. Since joining Newcomb & Boyd, Ms. Gray has had communication engineering responsibilities on many college and university campuses and government projects. She is also a member of the Building Industry Consulting Service International.

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