What is an Optical Multimeter?
An optical multimeter, also known as an optical fiber multimeter (OFM) or fiber meter, is an advanced, integrated handheld fiber optic test tool that combines the features and capabilities of many conventional fiber tools into one solution. These capabilities include fiber inspection, power measurement, fiber link certification, and visual fault location (VFL).
The optical multimeter represents an all-new category of fiber optic tools that fit neatly between basic VFL tools and optical power meters and more advanced OTDR devices that require complex setup and training.
What Does an Optical Multimeter Do?
This "swiss army knife" of fiber optic test solutions allows technicians to characterize, certify, and troubleshoot fiber links quickly, using a single, user-friendly tool. The VIAVI Optimeter requires almost no setup other than fiber connection and is operated through an intuitive touchscreen display.
- Optical power, loss, and return loss (ORL) for a link can be measured accurately with just one connection, at the push of a button. Fault-finding test features of the best optical multimeters can quickly zero in on the suspected root cause of any problems within the link.
- "On the Go" troubleshooting with an optical multimeter allows technicians to easily identify and locate faulty fiber link components, bad connectors, excessive fiber bends, or fiber breaks when OTDR field testing is not practical. The convenient display helps to identify responsibility for failures appropriately so that diagnosis and, if necessary, the repair can be completed while the technician is still on site. Incorrect fault escalations, hand-offs, and costly return or repeat truck rolls are then minimized.
- "Blind" fault finding practices, where fiber segments, connectors, or CPE devices (for example PON/FTTH ONU and ONT) are replaced based on educated guesses of the failure mode, are costly and time-consuming methods that can be prevented by using a handheld fiber optic multimeter to fully characterize the fiber link.
- Automation features and wireless connectivity simplify data storage, report submission, and work order tracking, allowing technicians to focus on the task at hand. Test results can be saved and organized into reports automatically.
- Deployment progress and other key performance indicators (KPIs) can be tracked in real time. The VIAVI StrataSync Test Process Automation (TPA) suite is an ideal cloud-based platform for fiber test data storage and performance management.
VIAVI Mobile Tech App
With the VIAVI Mobile Tech App, data is wirelessly transferred via a tablet or smart phone enabling test results can be uploaded directly to the cloud (StrataSync) from almost any location in near real time. This eliminates the need for USB sticks or email file transfers prone to accidentally lost or deleted result files. The Mobile Tech App also includes geolocation data enhancement (geotagging) to further prevent fraud or accidental reuse of previous results.
PON Networks, 5G fiber infrastructure, and FTTH
An optical fiber multimeter is ideal for rapid certification of last mile FTTx fiber installation and service turn-up preventing unnecessary drop fiber replacement and troubleshooting. Second or third truck rolls that often take weeks to schedule are also minimized.
- ONT detection and verification can be performed by connecting an optical multimeter to a drop terminal or splitter with the test direction set towards the subscriber premises. Site visits need not be abandoned or rescheduled due to unforeseen access issues when full verification of ONT connection and operation in the customer premises can be performed remotely.
OLT connection can be verified by using the optical multimeter to test back through the network. Drop fiber connection to the splitter can be confirmed, along with continuity and connection integrity through the splitter back to the central OLT location.
- Dual-band power measurement capabilities allows two downstream service wavelengths, such as G-PON and XGS-PON, to be identified and measured, either independently or simultaneously.
How to Use an Optical Multimeter
The intuitive workflows of the Optimeter optical multimeter enable new technicians to ramp up quickly. An unmatched combination of accuracy, automation, and speed improves first time install rates and reduces activation delays. Full link characterization and certification can be completed in just a few easy steps:
- Turn on the meter and select the “OptiTrak” test app and enter technician ID information.
- After assigning a job ID or work order number to associate with results data, select a test direction (“ONT towards splitter” or “Splitter towards ONT”).
- Inspect and connect the fiber and optic power levels are automatically verified, power level (in dBm) for each PON/FTTH service tested is presented onscreen with clear Pass/Fail information
- Press "Start" to begin the link certification test. Full test results will be displayed as an intuitive link map in under a minute with instant fault identification and troubleshooting information showing Pass/Fail status for each individual link element and the distances between each.
Selecting any element in the link map will display useful diagnostic information. If any issues with the element were detected, probable failure causes and next step suggestions will also be provided onscreen. Any problems which are the responsibility of the technician can then be addressed immediately while they are still on site preventing a future repeat truck roll. Onboard report generation creates an instant certification and record of link/installation quality.
What Does an Optical Multimeter Measure?
The last mile FTTx fiber certification and link mapping capabilities of an optical fiber multimeter are bolstered by an array of test, measurement, and analytical capabilities that can replace a full suite of conventional fiber optic test tools for many applications.
- Fiber End-Face Inspection is an essential process for ensuring connector mating surfaces are not contaminated or damaged.
- Optical Return Loss (ORL) can be measured accurately.
- Overall Length and Loss measurements are performed as single ended tests.
- Element Identification includes fiber, splices, connectors, splitters, ONT, and OLT devices with position and loss details included for each element within the link.
- Integrated VFL capability is provided for cases when a visual (red light) confirmation of fiber bends or breaks is desired.
- Service Type (G-PON and XGS-PON or E-PON and 10G-EPON.) is automatically detected by the Optimeter.
What is the Difference Between an Optical Fiber Multimeter and an Optical Power Meter?
An optical power meter (OPM) uses a calibrated sensor to measure the power output of fiber optic equipment. When coupled with a light source to form an optical loss test set (OLTS), the insertion loss of a fiber or cable run can be determined based on transmitted vs received optical power measurements at each end of the link.
The term “multimeter” originated in the electronics industry to describe a compact instrument capable of measuring voltage, resistance, current, continuity, and other common electrical functions. The optical fiber multimeter has taken the concept of a versatile, handheld, multi-purpose test solution into the booming optical fiber realm.
A fiber optic multimeter also addresses problems that arise with conventional broadband power meters when multiple wavelengths are in service and coexist on the same PON network which is an increasingly common option when upgrading the speed/capacity of PON deployments. The photodiode of a conventional broadband optical power meter will report an additive (and inaccurate) optical power value based on the multiple wavelengths and is therefore not suitable for use in multi-service FTTH/PON environments.
When only one wavelength is present, a broadband power meter will report optical power level correctly but will not be able to tell which type of PON service it is measuring (e.g. G-PON versus XGS-PON). A fiber optic multimeter addresses these challenges by automatically filtering to identify service wavelength and then measuring power level for that specific service type.
Why is the Optimeter an Essential Tool for Fiber Technicians?
The Optimeter provides a long list of advantages for fiber technicians making it a must-have tool for high quality last mile FTTx fiber installation and troubleshooting.
- Reduces fiber tool kit size by incorporating fiber connector inspection, power, loss, distance measurement, and VFL testing in one durable, handheld device.
- Determining the cause of low light or no light, can be evaluated without an OTDR. A power meter is a useful fiber test tool to identify low light or no light situations however, further diagnosis to determine root cause would require an OTDR. Higher equipment cost, training, and setup time make OTDR test tools less common among last mile FTTx installers. The Optimeter bridges this gap with its simple link map that assesses a fiber link to reveal the cause of low light or no light conditions without the need for a more complex and costly OTDR.
- FTTH technicians on the go regularly move between networks carrying different service types. Broadband power meters can measure light output, but with today’s mix of services being deployed technicians need to know whether they have the ‘right light’. G-PON versus XGS-PON or E-PON versus 10G-EPON service wavelengths can be automatically detected and verified by a fiber optic multimeter.
What are the Benefits of Using an Optical Multimeter?
The Optimeter network multimeter includes everything new fiber technicians need to complete their tasks quickly and accurately. This results in seamless installation, activation, and one-touch link certification in under a minute.
- Faster fiber tech ramp-up is accomplished through the highly simplified user interface, easy set-up, and automated test and reporting capabilities.
- Repeatable test procedures are reinforced by the "single tool" approach. This leads to improved first time installation success rates and reduced activation delays.
- Repair tech handoff and blind fault finding are some of the common yet inefficient fiber test and activation practices that can be eliminated by putting advanced fiber diagnostics in the hands of every last mile FTTx installer.
- Manual job tracking and reporting errors are minimized through inclusion of job number / work order in the automatic report generation and direct upload of results to the cloud for real time project deployment/KPI tracking. Job allocation and reporting are streamlined while technician intervention is minimized.
Key Features of Optical Multimeters from VIAVI
The Optimeter network multimeter boasts an industry-leading list of features that rivals the most comprehensive fiber testing tool kits in one incredibly versatile, rugged, and lightweight package.
- Touchscreen display and operation with all results presented on a single display, there is no need to navigate between menus or screens.
- Single key operation initiates full link verification and displays a visual link map with all elements identified.
- Results are autosaved with onboard generation of reports which are linked to the appropriate job work order.
- USB connectivity supports the attachment of an optional P5000i fiber inspection probe.
- Integrated Wi-Fi enables the VIAVI Mobile Tech App and StrataSync cloud connectivity.
- Up to 20 hours of continuous battery operation on a single charge.
- Storage capacity of up to 10,000 test results.
- An innovative launch cable remains connected to the Optimeter at all times. Test port and test lead conditions are systematically checked to protect the integrity of results.
- A "glove" case is provided to protect the Optimeter from damage on the go and easily organize accessories.