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AV Professionals Must Get Over “Fear of Fiber” to Build Business

Apr 11, 2007 8:00 AM


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“People need to get over their fear of fiber,” says John Lopinto, CEO of Communications Specialties, urging AV professionals to broaden their horizons as a means of broadening their business opportunities.

AV specialists interested in learning more about how to install and use fiber have a wide variety of options available to them, particular now that the spring tradeshow and conference season is well underway. InfoComm International, for example, will provide a couple of opportunities to focus on fiber, and a number of vendors have created tutorial and similar programs.

”The aversion to fiber,” Lopinto says, “is only the result of ignorance and ‘war stories’ of years gone by. The technology has made great advances in recent years, and it has reflected itself in high-performance products and easier-to-use mechanical system elements.”

Communications Specialties sponsors a website, Fiber-Ed.com, that presents a wide range of documents, demonstrations, images, and answers to common questions. Similarly, Timbercon’s website includes a section devoted to education, where visitors will find a glossary, history of fiber optics, quizzes, and a number of other features.

The Light Brigade has announced its newest menu-based DVD, entitled Fiber Optic Connectors. The new DVD is eighth in a series. The company says, “[It focuses on] the many disciplines that are associated with termination, testing, inspection, and cleaning of fiber.”

Lopinto himself will take the podium at Infocomm for a two-hour session entitled “Fiber Optic Applications and Products for AV.” The Infocomm training program also includes a session, “AV at the Speed of Light: Fiber Optics,” taught by Karl Rosenberg, Mid-Atlantic Regional Application Specialist for Extron. “This session will help [AV professionals] incorporate fiber as another tool to aid you in providing high-quality and economical solutions for your customer,” Rosenberg says.

Much of this education, Lopinto says, is geared to helping AV people catch up with the striking progress that has been made recently in making fiber products easier to use. “Terminating fibers, for instance, has been easy for about four years now,” he says. “Today, it can take about two to three minutes to terminate a fiber cable in the field and get as good a termination, in terms of optical properties, as what was achievable using the old system of mechanical polishing.” Lopinto says new tools and techniques have made terminating fiber as easy as putting a BNC on coax.

Polishing fiber knowledge and skills can equip an AV pro to help clients avoid problems that crop up all too often in the field, Lopinto adds. “Very few people have experience with using, designing, and installing fiber systems for AV applications. The installation is typically farmed out to contractors whose fiber experience is most likely with IT-LAN systems. We see multimode fiber installed when [higher-capacity] single-mode fiber was needed, because ‘that’s what I always install for the IT guys.’ IT people don’t understand the AV bandwidth requirements and the system topologies that are unique to AV.”

”When it comes to the nuts and bolts of field work,” he adds, “AV technicians should not feel fiber presents unusual challenges. Instead, [you] need the same installation, diagnostic, troubleshooting, and maintenance skills that you would need for copper-based systems.”



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