A new project being funded under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) aims to develop a new field-installable fibre-optic connector with performance comparable to factory pre-connectorized cables. The aim is to speed up the roll out of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks across Europe.
Going under the moniker “Versatile Easy installable Connector implementing new Technologies for accelerated fibre-optic network Roll-outs in Europe”, or VECTOR, the program involves seven industry partners. TE Connectivity is coordinating the three-year program through its Belgian subsidiary, Tyco Electronics Raychem BVBA.
“Current connection technology requires extensive pre-engineering and highly specialized manpower for field deployment. This makes the installation slow, unreliable, and ultimately raises the cost per connection to hardly manageable levels,” explained Stéphane Berghmans, project coordinator at TE Connectivity. “With VECTOR we intend to make fibre-optic connections as easy as electrical wire connections and to bring affordable ultrafast internet connections to all European households.”
The system under development will include both a fibre-optic connector and an installation tool. The VECTOR Connector will be designed to support insertion and return losses in accordance with the IEC61300-3-4 and IEC61300-3-6 standards – better performance than connectors based on ferrules and aligned in a split-sleeve adapter. The VECTOR Installation Tool will be a handheld device that will perform fibre termination and connectorization.
The installation tool will make installation simpler by automating such functions as fibre stripping, cleaning, cleaving, and alignment. After preparation, the optical fibre position will be fixed by heat-shrinking, and the fibres inside the plug will be aligned with the adaptor via what the VECTOR team describes as “novel alignment structures.” The connector will also have a unique self-cleaning feature to improve reliability.
The VECTOR system will be compatible with the majority of fibre-optic cables, pigtails, and drop cables, according to the project. A ferrule-based converter will also enable backwards compatibility with legacy connectors.
Other VECTOR team members include Demcon Advanced Mechatronics BV (The Netherlands), Celoplás – Plásticos para a Indústria SA (Portugal), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), Universiteit Gent (Belgium), Telecom Italia SpA (Italy) and Telekom Deutschland GmbH (Germany).
By Pauline Rigby
Optics.org: VECTOR project will develop new optical fiber connectors
Project page on Cordis: Versatile Easy installable Connector incorporating new Technologies for accelerated fiber Optic network Roll outs in Europe