February 27, 2008 -- With more and more optical network automation, one task has remained manual: fiber connections. But now, as the result of MEMS-related research conducted by Verizon, that is likely to change, the company said.
In a comprehensive field trial, Verizon has demonstrated that automating fiber-optic cross connects, or AFOX, makes it possible to remotely perform such tasks as switching traffic from working fibers to spare fibers, finding alternative fiber routes, connecting test equipment to network elements, and sending test signals through fiber at unmanned sites.
The trial shows that by automating one of the last remaining network functions, improvements can be demonstrated in overall network performance and management.
Verizon's trial highlighted three different switch technologies: 3D microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS), piezoelectric beam steering and robotic fiber connections.
Each technology has its own specific advantages. The 3D MEMS are compact and support a relatively large number of connections. Piezoelectric beam steering is a relatively fast switch, while the robotic approach best mimics current manual patching.
"This trial highlights the advantages of automating fiber management -- from improving network performance to reaping the benefits of creating a comprehensive database of network connections," said Mark Wegleitner, Verizon senior vice president of corporate network and technology. "It also creates new opportunities in areas such as equipment deployment, network design, and customer service."