Viavi Solutions, which has long been a mainstay in the network testing and optics space, is aiding cable and fiber providers alike in upgrading their networks.
According to Koji Okamoto, VP and GM of Viavi’s fiber and access business unit, the vendor’s network testing arsenal has helped operators reach over 10 million homes passed worldwide with fiber in the past couple of years.
That said, “we’re seeing a lot of customers around the world who still have a hard time hiring contractors who can build [fiber networks],” he told Fierce in an interview.
Viavi’s testing technology largely revolves around the use of an Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR), an instrument that can measure and create a visual representation of a fiber optic cable route. But the problem with OTDRs, Okamoto said, is that the tools are “so flexible, you could misconfigure and get different results for the same unit and the same fiber.”
So, Viavi sought to create more centralized testing systems to make it easier for technicians.
“We have OTDRs in switches – basically in the headend or hub sites – you shoot the OTDR from a central location,” he said, pointing out the on-site technician carries a mobile phone and a mirror that reflects the OTDR signal. “So you go to the field, you plug the reflector into one location, you push a button and the OTDR is shot to that location.”
Similarly, Viavi uses test process automation to send job configuration parameters directly to an engineer’s handheld device.
“So that gives much more scalability for the providers, because you can build with the central-controlled kind of process and minimize the requirements for technicians to carry the knowledge of how to operate the OTDRs,” said Okamoto. “Another benefit is as long as you do the test, all the results are safe. You don’t have to wait for the contractor to send the result back.”
Another fiber testing product Viavi developed is FiberComplete PRO, which supports bi-directional fiber testing. Okamoto noted that technology has seen “significant uptake” among Viavi’s customers. With FiberComplete PRO, Viavi can send physical test data “over the fiber you’re testing,” instantly transmitting the results to the master side of the system.
“There are a lot of splices from different vendors or different ages of fiber, and when you splice these…your core may not match exactly or even the size may be slightly different,” he explained. “So if you take a single OTDR shot from one direction, it doesn’t actually give you the whole characterization of the fiber.”
Okamoto added Viavi is also ready for the multi-gig era, with its Network & Service Companion allowing operators to test throughput up to 10 Gbps. The solution is useful because ordinary mobile devices and laptops “can’t really do those tasks.”
On the cable side, one of Viavi’s most recent releases was the Seeker X leakage detector, which Okamoto said is compatible for high-split networks with an upstream range of 204 MHz.
“This is not exactly [DOCSIS 4.0] but that’s a generation getting closer and closer to higher frequency,” he said. “The biggest difference is the aeronautical band that cable operators have to monitor for leakage is no longer in the downstream spectrum, it’s in the upstream spectrum…they have to use completely different technology to meet the regulations for 204 megahertz.”
DOCSIS 4.0 still has a ways to go before it hits the market, though operators like Comcast have already made preparations. Okamoto also noted the pandemic “really accelerated” the need for increased network capacity, with more operators upgrading their core networks to 400G, for which Viavi also offers test products.
“There are many good discussions around how the entire pipe has to get increased, because the network is going to be as good as its [weakest point],” he said. “If you have the bottleneck somewhere, then your network is only going to perform only at the bottleneck speed. So [operators] have to increase across access, home and in the core part together.”
Thin line between cable and fiber
With the influx of tools that are now available for both cable and fiber networks, there is less of a distinction between those types of services, Okamoto noted.
Even advanced DOCSIS services are "basically deep fiber and you’re going to use a little bit of coaxial fiber, so it’s very similar in a way” to fiber to the home, he commented. Viavi last year acquired Jackson Labs and CanGo Networks, and both of those companies manufacture equipment that not only works for cable networks “but any service provider.”
“Many of our technologies could apply to any customers, including cable,” Okamoto went on to say. “Because, in a way, if you just take out the last part of the coax, everybody’s network actually looks very similar, doesn’t matter if it’s telco, mobile or cable.”