This Industry Viewpoint was contributed By Jabulani Dhliwayo, founder of FiberGuide
The demand for high bandwidth continues to grow, driven by video streaming, cloud services, Internet of Things (IoT), upcoming 5G mobile networks, and other bandwidth hungry applications. This in turn is driving the need for very high transmission speed in long haul and metropolitan optical networks and triggers the development of better optical fiber, complex transmission systems and components. While 10G DWDM systems are still widely being used, in many cases they now co-exist with 100G systems. Meanwhile some carriers are already deploying 400G systems in some sections of their networks. 400GE was ratified by the IEEE 400Gbps Study Group in December, 2017.
All these developments require well trained engineers and technicians to plan/design, install and operate these networks. Even the most experienced of engineers need ongoing training to keep abreast of the ever evolving technologies. In this article, inspired by questions on fiber optic training options, two of the most popular and vendor neutral training courses and their providers are reviewed. They include OTT’s CONA and FOA’s CFOT.
Based in the United Kingdom and established in 1989, OTT (Optical Technology Training) develops high quality training courses in fiber optics and optical networking.
OTT develops courses specific to different roles and these include CONA (Certified Optical Network Associate), CFCE (Certified Fiber Characterization Engineer) and COFI (Certified Optical Fiber Installer). OTT courses are delivered by licensed trainees around the world.
The OTT Technical Director responsible for course development, Richard Ednay, has over 30 years of experience in the fiber optic industry. He is a well-known expert throughout the fiber optic industry both in the UK and internationally, regularly attending the world's leading fiber optic conferences, ECOC and OFC. Richard was directly involved in developing International Standards in fiber optics for many years and continues to track and support their development through continued membership of the relevant groups.
CONA is an intermediate level course in which attendees learn the fundamentals of optical networking including both fiber optics and optical networking. Trainees learn how to design and plan efficient and cost effective high speed optical point to point links and networks that meet today’s and future requirements.
CONA focuses on single or multiple channel systems using course wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM) or dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) technologies. Systems capable of transmitting 10Gbps to 25Gbps per channel and up to 88 channels per fiber are studied.
Common applications such as core networks, mobile backhaul or fiber to the antenna (FTTA), dark fiber and data center interconnects (DCI) are reviewed as case studies. Attendees who complete the course receive IEEE Continuing Education Units (CEU) certificate and those who pass a project assignment and an examination are OTT certified. CONA associates have an option to take a more advanced course, Certified Optical Network Engineer (CONE) which focuses on higher speed networks and concepts such as coherent detection, advanced modulation formats, and flexi-grid.
FOA is a very well-known organization to most people involved with fiber optic installation and maintenance. It serves as an association professionals (primarily technicians) in the fiber optic industry and has supported the industry for many years. To be a member of FOA, one has to be certified or demonstrate knowledge of fiber optics through experience.
FOA certifications are offered by licensed centers around the world. While CFOT is the main training course offered by FOA to many technicians around the world, they also have a certification program in Fiber to the Home installation, CFxT.
CFOT (Certified Fiber Optic Technician) is a certification for technicians who have demonstrated general knowledge in fiber optics. CFOT is a general fiber optic course that prepares technicians to take up different roles. According to FOA, CFOT certification has been structured as a general technology certification, not aligned to any specific job function. It is used by all installers, both outside plant and premises installers, two very different applications, plus component manufacturing technicians, network managers, and network designers.
So what are the main differences?
While CFOT is a general introductory course for technicians interested in all aspects of fiber optics, CONA is a more advanced course targeting to those interested in network designing and planning and project management. While CFOT focuses on fiber optic infrastructure, CONA is an optical networking course which does not only address fiber infrastructure but also transmission systems such as DWDM, amplifiers and components. CFOT is a very good foundational training for those who want to take CONA or other specialized OTT courses like COFI and CFCE. The best approach to compare the courses is to do a side by side comparison of the course content brochures.
For any questions, connect with Jabulani on Linkedin.