Photo by Denny Muller on Unsplash
Written by: Aiya Rodjel
Doing some cutting and stripping or splicing a fiber cut is easier said than done. That is why in this article, we will be discussing such solutions to a fiber cut. Indeed, having a fiber internet connection at home is a total game-changer. But what do you do when you accidentally cut your fiber optic cable? While you can call your internet provider and have fiber optic technicians handle the situation for you, you can employ the abovementioned steps to fix the problem yourself.
But first, you must understand fiber optic cables themselves.
The fragility of fiber optic cables
The material of a fiber optic cable is usually glass or plastic core that carries light surrounded by glass cladding. This reflects “escaping” light back into the core, which results in the light being guided along with the fiber. The glass core protects against the movement, thermal expansion/shrinking, and for installation.
The outside part of the fiber has a protection, by the cladding. The cladding also contains a reflective layer that is critical to laser propagation. This protective layer is usually enhanced by additional layers of treated paper, PVC, or metal. These extra layers protect the fiber from mechanical deformation and the possible ingress of water.
The glass component of fiber cables is more durable than the glass in windows. It is also more flexible. Fiber optic cables are designed to withstand crushing forces. However, they are not entirely invincible. In fact, it is more prone to breakage than traditional copper cables.
While fiber optic cable is stronger than your average glass, it is still, after all, made of glass. It is slightly thicker than a human hair strand, and also more robust. Manufacturers have come up with ways to make them elastic and resilient to bending. When the core is overstretched or bent, it can physically splice into two parts.
On the other hand, it is also possible that the cable is damaged, not broken. In some cases, this means a reduction of signal propagation and cause of reflections. More severe cases can cause badly distorted signals, which result in network failure or internet disconnection.
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Causes of broken fiber optic cable
But before you address the problem, you need to understand the cause. While Fiber is perceived as a ‘perfect’ media, it is quite fragile. Numerous factors can contribute to broken fiber optic cables.
- Vandalism. Unfortunately, there are instances wherein mischievous individuals cut fiber cables on purpose. Whatever their motive for doing so is, their actions can cause a number of households to experience internet and landline interruption.
- Accident. Not all fiber optic cable cuts are intentional. There are cases wherein people who were digging in a field accidentally cut optic fiber cables. This is one of the most common causes of broken fiber optic cables. Nevertheless, the damage can dampen the productivity of homes and offices for a while.
- Force of nature. There are some things that are out of one’s control. Earthquakes, fire breakouts, and other natural disasters have the potential to cut or even entirely destroy fiber optic cables. Sometimes, animals that don’t know any better can nibble on fiber cables, causing internet interruption for a lot of users.
The effects of fiber optic cable breakage
The breakage of fiber optic cables doesn’t necessarily mean that your internet connection is entirely cut. In fact, the fallout can be relatively minor.
A cut that occurs in the middle of the night on a redundant line can be easy enough to deal with. In cases like this, service providers can sometimes reroute traffic in the interim.
However, this can cause users bigger problems. Internet connection has become the backbone of society. A lot of businesses rely on their internet connection for productivity and connectivity.
Most companies use business solutions that require being connected to the web. A lot of students rely on the internet to continue their studies, especially amid the pandemic.
Therefore, network outages can really damage their productivity levels. It can typically affect their performance in school or work and possibly affect their relationships with colleagues and clients. That’s why disconnection from fiber internet is a matter that is treated with utmost importance.
The effects don’t just end with consumers. Emergency services such as hospitals and police departments need an internet connection to attend to take calls and continue their services. In the end, failure to network outages can affect the reputation of the service provider. This domino effect leads to a lot of major issues.
Fixing a broken fiber optic cable
The first method requires a mechanical splice where you align the two pieces of the joint and use an optical gel to assist in the light transfer. The second method involves fusing the two pieces together using heat.
The basic equipment you need is a fiber optic stripper, fiber optic cutter (or high-precision fiber cleaver), and a fiber optic crimper. In addition to these, you would also need a metal terminal for each cut end and an inline connector.
On the flip side, you don’t always have to resort to professional help in order to fix your cut fiber optic cable. You just need to have the right tools. There are two methods to fixing broken fiber optic cables.
You can find these pieces of equipment involved in the process in hardware stores and even online. With that said, special tools are an absolute must in fixing a fibre optic cable. You might end up damaging the cable even further by using the wrong tools.
Aside from these special tools, you need to have lint-free wipes and alcohol. You can find these in pharmacies, grocery stores, and even pharmacies.
It should be noted though that following the mechanical connection of splicing the cables allows more room for error. On the other hand, the cost of doing things is more economical.
Part 1: Cutting and stripping the cable
First, you need to inspect the cable for damages. This is regardless of fiber length. Peel off the protective layers using scissors or a hobby knife. Check out each cut end of the cable and see if there are tears in the outer coating or exposed and frayed optical fibers. By doing this, you determine where you need to cut the ends of the cable before you splice them back together.
If you don’t have very good eyesight, it might be best to use a magnifying glass. This is so you can properly check out each strand of cable. You wouldn’t want to end up attending to the wrong part of the cable.
Next, you trim off any damage from the cut ends of the cable with a fiber optic cutter. In order to do this, you have to place one end of the cable in the jaws of a fiber optic cutter. This is so the cutter will cut the cable just below any damage.
You can also opt to use a high-precision fiber cleaver. Squeeze the handles of the tool until it cuts all the way through the cable and the damaged end falls off. Then, you repeat this step for the other end of the fiber optic cable.
Then, you strip the cut ends to expose enough wire to fit into a metal terminal. Basically, you have to hold one end of the cable up next to a metal terminal to find out how much of the cable coating you need to strip off. Afterward, you have to place the cut end of the cable into the strip head of a fiber optic stripper. Then, you squeeze the handles of the stripper and pull the cable out to remove the outer coating. Like the previous step, you have to repeat this for the other end of the cable.
Make sure you get to clean the stripped fiber with alcohol and lint-free wipes. This is crucial because it helps ensure that your terminal will get a clean wire strip. Plus, you have to make sure that the fiber doesn’t touch anything.
Part 2: Splicing the fiber optic cable back together
First, you have to insert the stripped ends into metal terminals. Basically, you have to slide one cut, stripped end of the fiber optic cable all the way into a metal terminal until it you reach the end of the equipment. Plus, you have to see the end of the cable on the other side of the terminal. Repeat this step for the other cut, stripped end of the cable.
After that, you have to scrimp the metal terminals onto the ends of the cable. You just have to insert one of the metal terminals all the way into a fiber optic crimper. Squeeze the handles of the fiber optic crimper to crimp the terminal onto the cable. Afterward, you have to do this again for the other metal terminal on the other cut end of the cable.
Next, you need to slide the crimped metal terminals into an inline connector. In order to do this, you have to push one of the crimped metal terminals all the way into the hole on one side of an inline connector. Once you hear it click into place, repeat this process for the other end of the cable.
Lastly, you have to snap the inline connector’s cover into place to secure the cable ends together. All you need to do is press the rectangular cover onto the inline connector. Push this all the way until you hear it snap into place. Tug both ends to make sure they will stay in place if they are pulled on.
Fixing fiber optic cable with heat
If you’re planning to follow the second method, you basically have to perform the next steps. The difference is how you splice or fuse the cables together.
First, you have to install the new heat-shrink tubing before cleaving. This step helps the prevention of contamination. You simply have to slide it off to one side until the fiber joins. Next, open the fusing device and align the fibers. Take note, though, that there are different channels for different sizes of wire.
Then, close the tool and activate the electric arc in order to fuse the ends together, creating one fiber optic cable. There are heating tools in the market that checks the new joint for losses and performs a tensile strength test as the unit is being opened. Then, slide the heat-shrinking tubing over the new joint, and shrink it to fit.
Getting professional help
If you’re not confident in your skills in fixing a broken fiber optic cable, the good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own. Unless you’re in charge of taking care of multiple fiber optic cables, it would be impractical to invest in materials such as a fiber optic stripper, a fiber optic cutter, and high precision fiber cleaver.
Before contacting your network provider, it might be a good idea to contact fiber optic technicians. You can easily search on the internet for experts that have the tools and experience in fixing a fiber optic cable. If you anticipate that network outage won’t happen to you a lot, investing in the equipment involved might not be so economical.
Safety of your optical fiber cable with Streamtech
At the end of the day, it really boils down to the quality of the network service provider you choose. You need an internet service provider that has excellent customer service. You need a partner that makes sure broken fiber optic cable problems are remedied in a timely manner.
We at Streamtech offer dedicated internet access, leased line, and WiFi services to subscribers in franchise areas powered by our own fiber-optic backbone link. This fortifies the infrastructure of our fiber internet connection.
Plus, we offer unlimited internet as affordable plans to help power your home network according to your needs. Through Streamtech, you can access all the resources you need at any time of the day. We even offer Extendifi WiFi extender so your home network can enjoy the same quality of unlimited fiber internet throughout your household. For additional information on our products and services, visit our official Facebook page today.