In the modern world, we need our broadband to work fast and reliably - download speeds and picture and voice quality are what we as consumers care about most. This creates an explosion of demand for network capacity in broadband, satellite, telco and security networks.
Today’s coaxial connectors have to be high-performance and provide nearly flawless signal transmission to accommodate the very large amounts of traffic going back and forth from provider to end user.
Increased demand and better performance requirements means that service providers need to use the latest techniques to bring new and enhanced products to market. This means that connections throughout the network and the home must perform perfectly and must contribute as little as possible to the cost of maintaining a communications network.
Unfortunately, loose connections – or connections that are only finger-tight or less than finger-tight – are present in every network. With the millions of connectors installed, there are a variety of ways they can become loose or even begin their installed life loose, and in any given home it only takes one loose connector to cause performance issues. Surveys show a majority of technicians report finding more than 25% of indoor connectors loose and more than 6% of outdoor connector are found to be loose.*
Some ways in which loose connectors can occur:
- Customer Self Installations: With the growing number of Self Install Kits (SIKs) being deployed, the number of loose connections is growing as well. Consumers are not trained on proper connector installation and are likely to only thread connectors on until they successfully receive video and audio. While the SIK offers flexibility and autonomy to the subscriber, if can lead to problems, and expensive service calls.
- Customer Equipment Relocation: If a set top box was originally installed properly by a technician, that doesn’t mean it will remain properly installed. It is not uncommon for homeowners to decide to rearrange the interiors of their home. When this happens they may disconnect the F-fittings to relocate the box to another location in the room, and it is highly likely that during this re-connection the connectors will be left loose.
- Customer Adding Additional Equipment: A homeowner may disconnect connectors and cables when attempting to add additional equipment like an Audio/Video Receiver. When they reattach the connectors it is likely they will be installed less than tight.
- Torque Cannot be Applied to Customer Premise Equipment (CPE): Technicians are not allowed to use wrenches to fully tighten connectors to CPE which means they may only install them finger-tight at best. These not fully tightened connections can loosen up over time, especially if the subscriber moves the box, pressing the coax against the wall or working against the wire bias in any way.
- Things Come up on the Job: There are a lot of tasks a technician has to perform on an install. Couple this with the ever-mounting pressure on technicians to increase their number of installations, and it is conceivable that performing a final torque inspection before leaving is not a priority.
Reliability of Connectors
In addition to the possibility of loose connections, connectors must maintain their reliability under all kinds of conditions. Here are our recommendations for some of the pre-installation testing all connectors should undergo:
- Environmental Aging - Coastal environments are simulated with the use of salt fog. Accelerated UV exposure chambers are also used for testing with and without the salt fog testing.
- Powering Issues - Current carrying capability is tested at two times the industry standard power supply output.
- Temperature Cycling - Product performance is verified with repeated cycles from -40°F to +185°F/85°C with 1 hour transition time between extremes.
- Red Dye Testing - Real life weather survival of outdoor products is gauged by immersion in a red dye solution with temperature cycles, followed by dissection and microscopic examination.
- Return and Insertion-Loss - Products are qualified using the latest in Network Analysers.
- RF Shielding - All products are tested with the active use of a 13’ G_TEM cell, one of a handful used in the industry today.
- Power Surge Testing - As cable plants are subject to network powering demands, PPC has the ability to simulate these conditions.
- Continuous SGround Connector - F Connectors are tested in a loose state and must show a maximum resistance parameter measured in ohms from the nut to post through full range of motion. Testing in a loose (with only one thread of engagement) and a tight state measuring ingress differences is conducted.
Have your connectors been tested this thoroughly, to save possible expense with future replacement or repair? With high-quality connectors and qualified technicians to fit them, tasks which may cost slightly more at the time of fitting may prove to be a clear and strong future investment in your network connection.
* Data from anonymous survey results of over 26,000 broadband technicians collected during 5 years of training sessions.