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ISE Columnist Vernon May, OSP & ISP Operations Expert

Sharing Tricks of the Trade

Jan. 15, 2019
Field Tips on Understanding Light Levels —  I have worked with technicians in the field on 6 continents. You would be amazed at how alike we all are. As you […]
ISE Columnist Vernon May, OSP & ISP Operations Expert
ISE Columnist Vernon May, OSP & ISP Operations Expert

Field Tips on Understanding Light Levels — 

I have worked with technicians in the field on 6 continents. You would be amazed at how alike we all are. As you also might expect, most of the problems we encounter and solutions we employ can be shared to help others.

That said, the exceptions can be exceptional in their value. More simply put: there a lot of ways to skin a cat.

That’s why I asked Michael Hawkes, Customer Care Field Operations Manager, of Wightman of Clifford, Ontario, Canada, to share a local best practice this month.

Michael hired me to train his people on xDSL problem-solving. The first thing that you notice when you pull into the Wightman facility is the Mercedes Benz vans. They have the nicest fleet I have ever seen. They take even better care of their OSP than they do their vehicles.

I asked Michael "What is the most important thing that you can do to assure good service with FTTH?" He agreed to allow us to publish his answer.

Whether it’s Ethernet (AE) or GPON, ADTRAN or Calix, focusing on light levels will keep you from coming back. Light level issues cause many different symptoms, including:
• ONT up time is low
• ONT not responsive
• phone cutting in and out
• Internet slow or not working
• TV cutting in and out
• TV pixelating

In order to make evaluating light levels as simple as possible for our techs, we print pages with Figure 1 and Figure 2. We expect the forms to be used for every install.

Figure 1. Example equipment range.

Figure 2. Blank and example forms.

Before connecting your drop fiber into the ONT, use your light meter to validate the light level coming from your OLT to ensure that it’s within spec. If it is not in spec, place an attenuator. It is always best to have 3dB, 5dB, and 7dB attenuators to get you to the "sweet spot" to ensure the best possible stable service.

For the second part of this test, you will need the Rx value at the OLT side (light coming from the ONT). Remote access to the OLT is the easiest way to measure the RX level received by the OLT from the ONT. If this is not possible, travel to the OLT and measure the light manually.

Food for Thought from Our 2022 ICT Visionaries

With your manufacturer or local engineering specs for the circuit in hand, see what values you need to have a reliable circuit.

In the third example above, the light was slightly too "hot". A 2 dB pad on both paths would have met the spec, but a 7 dB pad on both moves the circuit closer to the middle of the range.

Focusing on light level at every installation has cut down on trouble tickets, but it has also cut down on our escalations. Thus, reducing truck rolls, repeated reports and customer churn.

Equipping your technicians with this capability is a matter of printing off a few pages of paper and performing a short 30-minute training session. Even our newest technicians are generating low repeated report rates with this simple tactic.

Column Update
No matter what other projects are going on, I make sure to spend time training people. The exchange of ideas is the engine behind my technology. Though I am convinced there is no substitute for onsite training in person, the reality is that many organizations cannot afford the cost of bringing somebody in. Others can afford the cost, but they can’t afford to take groups of people out of the live load. In response, I have written an online course that is self-paced. It is "Introduction to Telecom Operations" and was produced NCTI. Please go to for more information.

Our next column will be in May. If you want to share a local practice, send a brief description of the practice to my email address: [email protected]. You might be shocked at how much you can help others in the industry with a simple trick of the trade.

About the Author

Vernon May

Vernon May is the Chief Technologist and Founder of Vernon May Solutions. He is an expert in OSP and ISP Operations, and focuses on new technology introduction, from marketing and sales to design enhancement to training to product approval. Along with writing a column for ISE magazine, he also hosts seminars available throughout the country.

For more information, call Vernon at 1.319.238.0285, email: [email protected], visit, and follow him on Twitter @Vernonmay13.