Guide To Network Cable Testers

Discover more about network cable testers and network cable testing equipment

What is a network cable tester?

A network cable tester is a piece of equipment used to test and check network cables for their signal strength and connectivity, helping to identify any problems that may affect the performance of the network.

There are a few considerations to make when looking for a network cable tester these include: the type of cable requiring testing, the type of connector the cable uses and the level of information you require. Basic network cable testers will simply test cable pin-outs while more advanced testers can test both copper and fibre cables and provide full performance data for individual cables.

What network testing tools are required to test a patch cable?

The network testing tools needed to test a patch cable vary depending on the type of patch cable being tested. For testing both copper or fibre patch cables a network cable tester is required, how advanced this tester is will depend on the level of information needed from the test.

Network testing equipment, simple or advanced, consists of two units – A transmitter and a receiver. The two parts are connected by the cable to be tested and the test performed. Simple copper cable testers are usually only able to check the connectivity of cable and ensure the pin-outs correspond, whilst advanced models can test copper and also test fibre cables to. Furthermore, some can provide detailed information that can be used to certify that particular cable’s performance. Other network testing tools that can be include Visual Fault Locators and OTDRs used for testing fibre optic networks.

Network Cable Testers

What is an OTDR?

OTDR stands for Optical Time Domain Reflectometer and is used when testing the integrity of fibre optic cables. They are advanced fibre optic cable testers and used to gather a lot of data on individual fibre cables.

OTDRs can be used to measure cable length, find faults and verify loses where the fibre contains splices. They are often used when creating documentation to provide a reference guide on individual fibres. Previous tests can be compared and analysed to ensure the cable is still performing as intended or used to determine where problems might be occurring. An OTDR works differently to a standard fibre cable tester. In a standard source and power meter the loss of the fibre cable is measured directly, where as an OTDR works indirectly. With an OTDR the source and meter duplicate the transmitter and receiver transmission links to measure a more accurate system loss of the fibre cable. They also measure the backscatter light, produced by connectors and splices, to indirectly measure loss resulting in a more accurate fibre cable test.

OTDR testing with the AFL FlexScan FS300 fibre cable tester

OTDR testing is simplified when using the FlexScan FS300, an advanced OTDR fibre cable tester. Specifically designed with fibre network installers and operators of enterprise networks in mind. It is a pocket-sized, performance-packed, user-friendly and fast OTDR, that can test Single Mode and Multi-Mode fibre networks, including FTTH PONs and POLANs up to 1:64 split ratio while still detecting and measuring events at less than 2m apart. Its user-friendly display, a large, bright 5” 800 x 480 touchscreen display that has large touch controls so no need for a stylus2, enables expert and novice technicians to quickly, reliably and accurately detect, locate, identify and measure optical network components and faults. In SmartAuto mode the FlexScan F300 OTDR automatically analyses and tests the network using a variety of network-optimised settings to precisely locate, characterise and identify network events. Loss and reflectance are measured for connectors, splices, splitters and macro-bends. For even greater ease-of-use, FlexScan checks for live fibre and verifies OTDR launch quality before initiating a test. Results can be printed to PDF or stored internally or externally.

What is a Visual Fault Locator? How does it help perform a network test?

A Visual Fault Locator or VFL is used to detect breaks or micro-bends in Single Mode or Multi Mode fibre optic cables. Such bends or breaks can seriously affect the network’s performance.  EDP Europe supply the AFL VFI4, a lightweight and compact tester that can identify faults in Single Mode or Multi Mode fibre cables. It delivers a high-intensity visible red laser beam precision coupled into an optical fibre. Breaks or micro-bends within the fibre cable can be identified by a red glow on the fibre jacket. The cable can then either be replaced or repaired by using a fusion fibre splicer.

More on Network Cable Testers used for Testing in Data Centres and IT Comms Rooms

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