Selection Criteria for Optical Splitter Materials

Some network configurations demand installation of optical splitters outside plant while some allows them to be inside the buildings. In both cases, optical splitters need to comply with certain temperature and humidity requirements. Compliance to the environmental requirements mainly depend on the selection of materials used for manufacturing of optical splitters. Apart from weather resistance, temperature and humidity, an optical splitter module installed in the outside plant has to be resistant to many stresses.

One prime concern is the plastic material itself. The plastic material used for splitter housing makes a big difference when it comes to the price. You might have seen an optical splitter priced as low as 25 dollars a piece for a 1×4 split and as high as 160 dollars for the same split. Have you ever wondered why there is such a huge difference in pricing? The quality makes the difference, especially the quality of plastic used to make the housing for splitter. Splitter manufacturers can use recycled plastic or lower grade plastic to make splitter modules. Such splitters will be priced low, of course. You can cheat your company and yourself by buying such cheaper splitters, if you don’t keep any ethics in your profession.

Plastic materials used to make splitter module must have a zero fungus rating. Otherwise you can see your splitter modules covered with fungus after certain months of installation. I am putting a warning sign to those deploying splitters in tropical countries. You might have encountered fungus problem to your telecom infrastructures already. So why you should take risk by choosing a splitter module that is made of plastic that does not have Zero-fungus rating? Fungus rating of plastic materials are tested as per ASTM G-21. If you select plastic materials having ASTM G-21 rating, I will say you are doing your job correctly. Plastic materials complying with ASTM G-21 will make sure to prevent fungus from growing within the splitter modules. You know, these fungus things could cause long-term reliability issues.

Another issue you need to check before selecting material for splitters is their ability to resist chemicals. Optical splitter modules may come in contact with common chemicals in the environment or the chemical used by people. When I say people, I do not mean the common public. Telecom equipment installers use chemicals as part of their work. You can buy Telcordia GR-2898 and GR-487 to know more about such chemicals. I always recommend to buy these standards. Fiber cable deployment staff may use chemicals such as Hydrosol, Iso-propanol, Sodium hydroxide, Sulfuric acid, Kerosene, Ammonia, WD-40, Wasp spray etc. Another chemical that have high chances for contact with splitter module is the water blocking gel used in the loose tube cables.

Typically, optical fiber splitters are secured in the Fiber Distribution Hubs, FDH. These are cabinets installed in a variety of environmental conditions. All types of cabinets may not be completely protected from environment. Especially cabinets installed near seashores have high chances of getting into corrosion kind of things. I have seen this in UAE. Sometimes the distribution cabinets are installed near marine locations where salt can cause corrosion to metallic components. Corrosion can also occur from sulfuric acid, which may come from the nearby industrial site. In this case acid corrosion is an issue.

Materials used to make optical splitters should be tested for Salt-spray resistance and Industrial atmosphere resistance. These tests simulate some of the worst scenarios where our splitters have to live their minimum guaranteed life. Salt spray test is conducted as per ASTM B117 and Industrial atmosphere resistance test is conducted as per ASTM B809.

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