Education Essays - Optical Communication Systems

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Optical Communication Systems

Prior Learning Assessment Learning Narrative OPTI 430 Optical Communication Systems

The fourth upper level college course that I will apply my learning experiences to are the expected learning outcomes form the University of Arizona, Optical Communication Systems. The optical communication systems revolution started when researchers at Corning Glass Works in Corning, NY, invented fiber optic technology in 1970.

Over the decades, the quality and design of optical fiber has improved immensely, and, in 1977, the first fiber optic network was built and tested (Sterling, 2004, p. 6). Today, the World’s economic system is dependent upon its ability to communicate and transmit voice, video, and data information.

Networks of optical fiber, coupled with millions of fiber optic connectors, span continents and circle the globe making this communciation possible. The rapid expansion in use of the Internet drives the broader optical market. Optical networks transmit voice, video, and data across the country and around the world.

My humble experience in optical communication systems has shown me that fiber optics technology is a wonder to behold. I understand and teach my students daily that when the transmitter sends a signal through a whisker-thin optical fiber, the signal is carried on a beam of light that travels in waves.

The number of waves that leave the transmitter per second is the frequency. The higher the frequency, the more information is carried. Since light waves have such a high frequency, fiber optic cable can carry thousands of times more information than current flowing through a copper wire.

I understand that a fiber optic cable the size of an ordinary electrical cord can replace a copper cable hundreds of times thicker. I learned early in my optoelectronics and fiber optics career that copper cables are susceptible to static, which interferes with communication.

Because optical fibers carry light beams, they are free of electrical noise and electromagnetic interference (EMI). Recent breakthoughs in fiber technology, such as wavelength division mulitiplexing (WDM) and optical amplifiers, have made transmission of an incredible amount of information across a single strand of fiber optic cable possible.

In 1995, Nicolas Negroponte wrote in Being Digital:

We don’t know how many bits per second we can send down a fiber. Recent research says we’re close to being able to deliver 1,000 billion bits per second. This means a fiber the size of a human hair can deliver every issue ever printed of the Wall Street Journal in less than a second (Johnson, 1998, ¶8).

A year later, a trillion bits per second were successfully transmitted, error free.

I just recently attended a webinar titled “The "40GE and 100GE: Ready for Prime Time?” presented by Telecommunications Online and Infonetics Research, and sponsored by JDSU, Mintera, and Nokia Siemens Networks. The basic driver behind the growth to 40 Gigabit Ethernet and 100 Gigabit Ethernet is the traffic keeps growing and the future traffic will be crushing. More use and new services are driving demand, video is becoming a major bandwidth driver, high capacity storage area network (SAN) requirements are exploding, and 40G router interfaces are driving OC-768 (40 Gigabit) capability.

I learned during this webinar that in order for us to effectively upgrade systems to 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/s that we first must address the transport and transmission issues. There are 40G systems already deployed and in use today. They support 80 x 40G in the C band of the electromagnetic spectrum.

They can transparently reach to lengths greater than 1500 kilometers; have a high tolerance to Chromatic Dispersion (CMD) and an increased tolerance to Polarization Mode Dispersion (PMD). Both 40G-only and mix of 10G/40G links are currently deployed in networks of major carriers in North America and Europe. Who knows what the future holds?

Most people in the fiber optics industry have their eye on the business community’s and homeowner’s demand for high-speed local area networks (LANs) consiting of fiber optic cable, connectors and related products. This end of the market is ready to explode, say many industry observers, now that fiber has made the move from being a primarily backbone cable for large networks to now linking directly to the home in Verizon’s Fiber Optic System (FiOS) technology.

The fiber to the home and desktop is driven by the requirement of PC software applications for more bandwidth on the cabling media that carry information (i.e. voice, video and data) to the home and businesses.

I started my career in fiber optics while I was still active duty in the Navy (Document 4). This was 1993, which was a new and exciting time to be studying and learning optical communication systems in the military. The Navy was just beginning to convert over their legacy copper networks and upgrading them to fiber optic communication network designs. My career in fiber optics technology actually started when I was assigned as a 3M (Materials, Management, and Maintenance) Systems Coordinator, Fiber Optic LAN Administrator onboard USS Briscoe (DD-977), Norfolk, VA (Document 5, Document 1).

While on the Briscoe, I received specialized advanced training in Unix Systems Administration, Novell Systems Administration, and Fiber Optics technology. I was very lucky to be “chosen” for this training, because at the time there were only a few schools specializing in optical communication systems. After this formal training, I assumed and eagerly took on the additional role as Briscoe's Fiber Optics Computer Network Systems Administrator (Document 2).

This is where I first was introduced to the truly exciting profession of fiber optics communication systems technology. This tour of duty was where I started to concentrate my interests in the area of optoelectronics, optical fiber, transmitters, receivers, amplifiers, and active and passive optical components.

My career plan after retiring from the Navy was to change jobs not too often, but not to stay very long at any one company. I had just spent the last 22 years with the same company and my goal was to learn new things, contribute enough, and then after three or four years, move to the next level at a new company. This all changed though while I was attending ECPI College of Technology during my last Navy active duty tour.

During the evenings for the next two years, I attended ECPI and finally reached my first education goal, achieving an Associates of Applied Science degree in Computer Electronics Engineering Technology. While attending ECPI, I took several electronics and optics courses including Electricity Fundamentals, Electronics Technology I, Electronics Technology II, Digital Technology I, Digital Technology II, and Fiber Optic Communication (Document 6).

This only proved to spark my interest even more in fiber optics technology. So early in my optics career I attended two more industry fiber optics certification courses and earned my Electronics Technicians Association, International fiber optics industry certifications as a Certified Fiber Optics Installer and Certified Fiber Optics Technician (Document 7, Document 8).

In the Certified Fiber Optics Installer course, I was introduced to fiber optics and established a thorough understanding of the fiber optics industry and its technology, common terminology, fiber optic theory, and photonic components. In addition, I learned to assemble fiber optic connectors using standard commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) connectors, test fiber optic connectors, splices, and cables in accordance with telecommunication industry standards.

Finally, I learned to build and test fiber cables and photonic components using standard mechanical splices and learn appropriate techniques for fusion splicing and testing fiber optic cables with both an Optical Loss Test Set (OLTS) and an Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR).

I understood early in my career in optical communications that I must continue to build on my solid foundation in fiber optic theory. In the Certified Fiber Optics Technician course, I learned in detail fiber optic cable technology. It examined more in-depth the electronics technology built into fiber optic transmitters, receivers, and test equipment.

In addition, I learned how to test and troubleshoot a fiber optic link to the current industry standards. These industry certifications demonstrate to my employer that I have the knowledge and hands-on skills required to install, test, and troubleshoot fiber optic links and systems.

While attending ECPI College of Technology, I met some of the lead technical faculty at the college, and they showed an interest in hiring me to teach part-time electronic and fiber optics technology courses in the evenings at the college, once I graduated from ECPI. As a result, while I was still on active duty, I started teaching both electronic and fiber optics technology courses for ECPI College of Technology.

Once I completed my active duty tour and retired from the Navy, ECPI College hired me on as a full time Technical Faculty member. So as a result, I began a very exciting and promising career as an educator and fiber optics training specialist for ECPI College of Technology and our subsidiary corporate and military training company Infotec (Document 27).

I had been working at ECPI College of Technology for two years and was very happy, when out of the blue my bosses called to speak with me about a promotion. Turns out that ECPI was looking to expand their fiber optics programs (Document 26) and they asked me to become the Lead Technical Faculty and Coordinator of Fiber Optics programs for all of ECPI Colleges.

No one had ever been given this position before at the college, but I felt that I could handle this position with my past expertise and knowledge in the optical communication systems. So I spent a couple of days thinking, doing a little bit of brainstorming, then met with my Department Head and told him I was confident that I not only could expand ECPI’s fiber optics communications programs, but that I could expand it to our other campuses and start a nationally recognized Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) training program in fiber optics installation and technician (Document 25).

I knew that if I was going to pull this off that I would need more in depth fiber optics experience, so I requested to attend several optical industry courses of instruction to strengthen my optical communication systems knowledge.

One of the first courses that I attended was called “Fiber Optic Design Course for Multimode and Single-mode Networks” (Document 15). This optical design course targets optical engineers who desire an in-depth knowledge of optical local area networks. The intensive course was written and taught by experience Corning system engineers who work with consultants and end-users daily and meet their optical network requirements.

This course covered all aspects of successful fiber optic system design from the network protocols, network configurations, optical cabling, industry communication standards, determination of fiber count, hardware selection including optical sources whether laser or LED, advanced splicing/termination methods, and cable system testing and documentation. All that I learned was put into practice through multiple and intensive case studies (Corning Cable Systems, 2005).

While I was at this optical engineering course I was generously given permission from our college President to open a constructive dialogue with the engineers and training department at Corning. What I wanted to do is form a training partnership with Corning, so that I could take all that I learned back with me to ECPI and develop a fiber optic design college course of instruction.

Corning granted ECPI permission to use their course materials (of course for a price), so that I could modify and use in the educational course that I would develop for ECPI. I went back to the college and applying what I learned, I developed our Certified Fiber Optics Designer course (Document 22).

I then took this particular course development to the next level and asked the Electronics Technicians Association, International if I could develop an industry fiber optics certification for fiber optic designers. I spent the next year developing the knowledge and practical skills learning objectives, and authoring the very first ETA Certified Fiber Optics Designer examination (Document 28).

I piloted the very first nationally and fiber optics industry certification course with Verizon Telecommunications Technicians as my first students, in my fiber optics laboratory in Virginia Beach. I was the very first ETA Certified Fiber Optics Designer (Document 9) in the country.

I learned a great deal from the “Fiber Optic Design Course for Multimode and Single-mode Networks” course. As part of this course, I had to learn how to design an optical communication system from the ground up. I learned how important the fiber selection is in the design and how wave propagation, chromatic dispersion, polarization mode dispersion, and both linear and non-linear fiber losses effect your final decision in the design.

As a designer of optical communcation systems I understand the important role the optical transmitters, optical receivers, and optical amplifiers play in the design. Furthermore, as part of the course we had to calculate a power budget (Corning Cable Systems, 2005). A power budget as defined in IEEE Standard 802.3 is the minimum optical power available to overcome the sum of attenuation plus power penalties of the optical path between transmitter and receiver.

I quickly learned bit-error rate calculations in order to effectively calculate a power budget for both a multimode fiber optic link and a single-mode fiber optic link design. Finally, I learned about the different optical network topology designs including Ethernet, Fiber Distribution Data Interface (FDDI), Synchrounous Optical Network (SONET), Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and Fibre Channel, and the specific design guidelines involved with these optical communication systems (Document 33).

Previously, optical fiber networks were designed to satisfy specific application(s) requirements, either data, voice, or video. Today, the true benefits of optical fiber are being realized and used to design optical communication systems independent of specific applications. One of the most important topics I learned in this course is the importance of learning and understanding the Telecommunication Industry Association (TIA)/Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and Telecordia standards.

These telecommunication cabling systems standards were developed to define standards for both copper and optical communication systems. I have since read, studied, and learned several substantial TIA/EIA, IEEE, and Telecordia industry standards and incorporated this knowledge into my fiber optic communication courses (Document 29).

The successful deployment of information technology is critical to the success of most optical communication systems. The need to access and share information is fueling a new level of demand for applications like the internet and intranet and client/server implementations. In turn, I learned that this is driving the need for greater bandwidth, or network speed, to new levels in the backbone and ever closer to the work area and now into our homes with Verizon Fiber Optics System (FiOS).

As the data rates of networking continue to escalate, the use of optical communication systems is becoming even more widespread. I am very busy these days training many contractors, military, and end-users that are now only beginning to deploy fiber for the first time. Others that I have trained are upgrading their legacy copper systems with optical fiber to enhance system bandwidth capability, system performance and/or extending the reach of existing installations.

One of the most challenging series of decisions a telecommunications manager makes is the proper desing of an optical communication system. Optical fiber cable, which has extremely high bandwidth, is a powerful telecommunications media that supports voice, data, video and other applications. However, the effectiveness of the media is greatly diminished if proper connectivity, which allows for flexibility, manageability, and versatility of the cable plant, is not designed into the system.

As the Lead Technical Faculty and Coordinator of Fiber Optics Programs for ECPI College of Technology and Infotec (Document 1), I understand that new technologies, new applications and the need for in-depth product knowledge challenge us to continually enhance our training capabilities. Along those lines I felt it necessary to further strengthen my experiential learning knowledge on the latest optical communication systems.

In 2002, I attended the Sumitomo Electric Lightwave FutureFLEXÒ System Network Standards certification course at Research Triangle Park, NC covering the design, engineering, installation, and administration of the FutureFLEX Air-Blown FiberÒ Optic Cabling System (Document 13). FutureFLEXÒ Air-Blown Fiber (ABF) is a cabling system that transports fiber optic bundles through pre-installed tubes using air or dry nitrogen.

This ground breaking technology was developed by British Telecom in 1982. In 1987, a license was granted to Sumitomo by British Telecom, and in 1990 FutureFLEX was introduced in the United States (“FutureFLEX”, n.d.).

I have included the theory and knowledge of this cabling system into my Military Fiber Optics Installation Professional course (Document 23) that I developed in order to meet the Department of Defense Military Standards Practice for fiber optics installation guidelines. Air Blown Fiber technology delivers the mission critical reliability, security, and rapid distaster recovery necessary for all military applications.

I teach my students about how this cabling system can be utilized in a variety of applications including data communications, LAN and WAN networks, CCTV, Voice communications and more. This technology has a long and distinguished record of serving all branches of the military including its wide adoption as the premier fiber optic LAN backbone solution for naval shipboard applications.

I am a very passionate person about fiber optics communication technology, which is a major plus for attracting new fiber business opportunities for both the college and Infotec. Teaching at both ECPI and Infotec has been a wonderful opportunity for me personally and professionally. Both companies are not afraid to allow their employees to continue to attend, study, and learn about the latest and greatest technology, so that we can incorporate this learned knowledge and skills into our curriculum development.

I enjoy interacting with people; as the Lead Technical Faculty and Coordinator of Fiber Optics programs it has given me the opportunity to meet many different optics industry personnel from all over the world. I am very pleased about the fiber optics courses that I have personally developed, co-authored and teach, including Certifed Fiber Optics Installer, Certified Fiber Optics Technician, Certified Fiber Optics Designer, Military Fiber Optics Installation Professional, and Data Cabling Installer Certification (Document 16, Document 17, Document 18, Document 10).

I continue to expand both mine and my students knowledge in the optics arena by co-authoring the development our newest fiber optics program called Aerospace Fiber Optics Fabricator (Document 30). This training course focuses on proven training practices to meet the aerospace industries Society of Automobile Engineers International (SAE) and Aeronautical Radio Incorporated (ARINC) highest standards of training applicable to aerospace professionals engaged in aerospace fiber optic design, manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and repair for the air transport industry.

Furthermore, to show that I have continued to learn and expand my fiber optics knowledge, I became a member of the Electronics Technician Association in 1999 (Document 2) and volunteered to serve on the ETA's fiber optics examination committee. As a member and through my work on this committee, I assisted in the initial development and revision of knowledge and hands-on training competencies for the ETA’s Certified Fiber Optics Installer (FOI), Certified Fiber Optics Technician (FOT), Certified Fiber Optics Designer (FOD), and Data Cabling Installer Certification (DCIC) programs. In addition, I have authored several ETA certification examination questions.

These questions are based on the certification programs knowledge competencies and approved by an international committee of subject matter experts, which I am a member of (Document 28). Besides being an ETA Fiber Optics Examination Committee member, this past year I became a member of SPIE – The International Society of Optical Engineering (Document 3).

I tell my students everyday that if you are considering going into academia, teaching optical communications may be one of the most rewarding activities you will encounter. I have learned to enjoy it, to value the interaction with those I teach, to continue to keep learning from both industry professionals and from my students, and to be thankful about this great opportunity to be of service to my commununity.

I truly believe that I have proven that my current experiential learning background is that of a typical senior-level or graduate level optical communication systems student. Based on the experiences and knowledge, I've gained through my last 30 years in electronics and optics, I am respectfully requesting three semester hours of OPTI 430 Optical Communication Systems term credit from The University of Arizona.

References

Corning Cable Systems. (2005). Fiber Optic Design for Local Area Networks Training Course Manual. (Rev. 4). Hickory, NC: Author.

Corning Cable Systems. (2005). Fiber Optic Design for Local Area Networks Case Study Workbook. (Rev.4.). Hickory, NC: Author.

Corning Cable Systems. (2005). Fiber Optic Design Guide. (Rev. 6). Hickory, NC: Author.

FutureFLEXÒ The world’s most advanced infrastructure for the enterprise network. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2008, from http://www.futureflex.com/productInformation/fflex_advantage.htm

IEEE Std 802.3 Local Area Networks: Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) Access Method and Physical Layer Specification. (2002). New York, NY: IEEE Std 802.3.

Johnson, G. (1998). Fiber: It’s Good for You. [Electronic version]. Electrical Wholesaling, ¶8. Retrieved January 26, 2008, from http://eeweb.com/mag/electric_fiber_good/

Negroponte, Nicholas. (1995). Being Digital. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.

Sterling, D. J., Jr. (2004). Technicians Guide to Fiber Optics (4th ed.) (p. 6). Clifton Park, NY: Cengage Delmar.

Documents

Document 1. ECPI College of Technology and Infotec Business Cards.

Document 2. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Membership Certificate.

Document 3. Society of Optical Engineers (SPIE) Membership Certificate.

Document 4. Sailor/Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript (SMART).

Document 5. USS Briscoe (DD-977) Performance Evaluation (1995).

Document 6. Excelsior Status Report.

Document 7. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certified Fiber Optics Installer Certification.

Document 8. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certified Fiber Optics Technician Certification.

Document 9. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certified Fiber Optics Designer Certification.

Document 10. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Data Cabling Installer Certification.

Document 13. Sumitomo Electric Lightwave Corporation, Design of FutureFLEXÒ Air Blown Fiber Systems Training Certificate.

Document 15. Corning Cable Systems Fiber Optic Design Course for Multimode and Single-mode Networks Completion Certificate.

Document 16. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certification Administrator for Certified Fiber Optics Installer.

Document 17. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certification Administrator for Certified Fiber Optics Technician.

Document 18. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certification Administrator for Certified Fiber Optics Designer.

Document 22. ECPI College of Technology/Infotec Certified Fiber Optics Designer (FOD) Lecture Syllabus.

Document 23. ECPI College of Technology/Infotec Military Fiber Optics Installation Professional (MFOI) Lecture Syllabus.

Document 25. Letter of Verification from Teresa Maher, President of Electronics Technicians Association, International.

Document 26. Letter of Verification from Mr. John Jeffcoat, Vice President, ECPI College of Technology.

Document 27. Letter of Verification from Ann Perry, Executive Director of Infotec.

Document 28. Letter of Verification from Mr. William R. Woodward, Chairman of Electronics Technicians Association.

Document 29. Substantial Reading Bibliography including both textbooks and telecommunications industry standards.

Document 30. ECPI College of Technology/Infotec Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certified Aerospace Fiber Optics Fabricator course description.

Document 33. Corning Cable Systems Fiber Optic Design Course Syllabus

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