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Expert Roundtable: The State of Fiber

Mar 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles

Four industry experts shed some light on the future of fiber.

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If fiber has an Achilles’ heel, it's dirt. Fiber connections must be carefully cleaned with alcohol pads to protect connections from contamination. A dirty connector is the main cause of problems during installation and over time.

If fiber has an Achilles’ heel, it's dirt. Fiber connections must be carefully cleaned with alcohol pads to protect connections from contamination. A dirty connector is the main cause of problems during installation and over time.

Lopinto: I think the perception is worse than the reality. There are some very good and easy-to-use products available. But the end users and resellers, for the most part, still have a toxic combination of paranoia and ignorance about the practical side of working with fiber cable and the gear itself.

In fairness, the products of 10 years ago weren't very user-friendly nor of the caliber of performance required of the AV industry. But all that has changed. However, the AV industry continues to promote copper as the preferred media of choice, so it is very difficult to get the message through when most everyone dismisses it outright.

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How do you see the status of fiber training in the United States and elsewhere? Where do you think the United States stands on fiber training compared to other industrialized nations?

Commare: Training is available through numerous outlets to anyone who wants it … from free online tutorials to organizations like the Light Brigade [a leading fiber-optic training company]. Here at Telecast, we have always had an open door to anyone who wants to make the trip to Worcester, [Mass]. We offer training on our gear at no cost.

Spennacchio: It's still far from where it needs to be, but organizations such as InfoComm, NSCA, and others are stepping up with training, so it won't be long before terminating, pulling, and dealing with fiber optics in general are as commonplace as soldering an XLR connector. In my opinion, the U.S. is neither leading nor lagging behind in this respect.

Hayes: As the Fiber Optic Association (FOA) — the professional society of fiber optics — we cover the world and have approved schools in almost 20 countries. Our experience is nobody has the variety and quality of fiber training comparable to the U.S. The FOA has over 200 FOA-approved schools that have certified over 25,000 techs. About 90 percent of our CFOTs [Certified Fiber Optic Technicians] are in the U.S. or Canada. Most FOA schools are independent, although several major companies now use our programs because of the recognition our certifications have with users.

Outside the U.S. — perhaps with the exception of the U.K. — much of the training is vendor-specific and done by the vendor themselves, which limits its applicability in an open marketplace. In order to reach more people around the world wanting to learn about fiber, the FOA has created a new, comprehensive reference website for fiber optics ( that will allow anyone, anywhere to learn about fiber from a reliable source — and it's free.

Lopinto: The training for fiber technology for AV and broadcast applications is pathetically lacking in the U.S. We give fiber-optic technology training in company- and industry-sponsored seminars all over the world, and it constantly amazes us how poorly the U.S. seminars are attended and how overwhelming the response is in Asia and Europe. We teach the same seminars, same applications, same industries, and the same technology. I think U.S.-based end users and system integrators are complacent with the status quo and are only looking to new technologies like fiber when pushed to do it for competitive reasons, even though there may be valid economic and technical reasons to at least learn about it now.

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