Why Clean Fiber Optics?

The reason to clean fiber optics is simple: contamination causes signal loss and network breakdown. Modern fiber optic networks have unbelievable capacity and capabilities. But these fast networks are fragile, so cleaning is critical to the reliability and performance of any network. For companies that generate revenue from their data, such as Netflix or Amazon, downtime can be amazingly costly. Evolven computes that for certain companies the cost of a single event can top $1 million (more than $11,000 per minute). A USA Today survey of 200 data center managers found that over 80% of these managers reported that their downtime costs exceeded $50,000 per hour and for a rarified 25% of large I-T companies, downtime cost exceeded $500,000 per hour. For most general-purpose I.T. environments, Cisco has estimated that 70% of network failures are a result of connector end-face contamination. A study by NTT-AT reported that 80% of network owners knew that end-face contamination was the root cause of their network failures. Additionally, a 2013 survey of 67 data centers by the Ponemon Institute across a variety of industries found that average cost per minute of network downtime was $7,900. So it makes economic sense to clean the end-faces and avoid downtime and expensive repair visits. The location of any debris on the end-face is crucial, especially if it is near the center of the fiber core — the “contact zone.” A 1μm particle can be the difference between having an end-face that meets or fails EIC 61300-3-35 specifications. Even the most experienced operator cannot visually determine if a particle or a smudge of oil will degrade the network. The use of modern cleaning supplies and a digital ferrule scope with automated analysis software eliminates the contamination that will degrade network performance. But the problem gets bigger. For example, today’s lasers have more power than older lasers. Specialty applications such as WDM and all of its variations and reflectivity are also critical concerns when discussing cleaning. The high power of today’s lasers and reflectivity are greatly impacted by remaining moisture left behind by cleaning processes. So if you're still asking "Why Clean Fiber Optics?" - the short answer is that dirty end-faces will produce higher insertion losses and more back-reflection than clean connectors, and degrade the performance of the network. It’s cheaper to clean than to repair. View the attached PDF with photos of common end-face contaminants and an illustration of the resulting problems when end-faces are not cleaned prior to start up.