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Cables then and now: Why cables of 10 or 20 years ago needed different specs

Two things have happened in the past decade or so. The first is that cable designs have evolved. Fiber optic cables that were manufactured 20 years ago – even 10 years ago – were much less generic in nature. The advent of the bend-insensitive optical fiber (both single mode and multimode) has made cables much more user-friendly in the last decade. Therefore, the fact is that manufacturers could get sloppier in the design of their cables, so the specifications began to call for different types of tests.

Second, the knowledge base of the people who install these cables has grown and evolved as well as the methods and tools. As an example, many years ago it was common to see copper cable pulling devices that had very small radii pulling fiber optic cables. At the time, those cables could not withstand that tight end radius.

The installation methodology was a problem at the time. No one really knew how to specify the cables’ bend radius (other than 10 or 20 times the cable diameter) or realized that if you wrapped it around a number of cables under tension, as you would in various pulling devices, it could cause a problem. Well, the pulling devices have also evolved significantly over the years for fiber optic cable.

Today, installation methods are much different than they were back then. So the specifications in some areas could be “loosened up,” as is seen by the fact that, for many years, we have made rugged, reinforced stranded core cables with loose tubes and central GRP strength members with outer yarns or fiberglass as well as armor and jackets to pull it through conduits. Over time, we’ve thinned this out significantly to a central tube design that’s much less expensive, bringing down the price of cable. This also means the termination is easier.

Cable designs are evolving. The cable installation methods and tools are evolving. There is a significant change in how we install cables today. It’s much simpler and much more forgiving. The training and required skills are significantly different than they were 10 or 20 years ago. In addition, access to the cables with new tools and new cable designs is easier, so termination has become a simpler matter.

BUT all those specifications still exist due to the different classes of use for cable, whether it’s a Telcordia spec for telecommunications, or it’s an indoor/outdoor cable, or the cable is installed in an oil field, which may have significant chemical-resistance requirements.



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