BLOG: Eliminate Added Costs by Switching to Splice-On Connectors

To optimize your fiber optic network, splice-on connectors (SOCs) are a great place to begin.

Working from home has pushed network bandwidth to its limits and you’re likely considering how to future-proof your network. 

Since its popularization almost 25 years ago, connecting fiber has become an industry priority. Over the years, solutions have evolved from hand-polished field-installed connectors to factory-polished mechanical splice connectors to factory-polished pigtail cable assemblies. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, but SOCs lead the industry as a reliable and cost-effective solution.   

Sumitomo Electric Lightwave’s Lynx Splice-On Connectors leads the industry by offering simple and efficient installation processes and competitively-priced advanced fusion splicers that repeatedly produce low-loss connections.  

What are Splice-On Connectors? 

SOCs are fiber optic termination components that provide a link between other fiber optic components to transmit data in a network. They enable quick connection and disconnection of optical fibers where this capability is required. A SOC has a factory-polished ferrule terminated to the stub of fiber. This stub is spliced to a field fiber, and a fiber protection sleeve is assembled into the connector. After installation, the connector looks like a factory-installed connector. 

SEL’s Lynx SOCs also perform like factory-installed connectors and meet industry standards for use in data centers, premise networks, and outside plant applications. Many configurations are available, including LC, SC, ST, FC, and MPO, and can be terminated to anything from a 250-micron fiber to a jacketed cable. 

When it comes to installation, speed and simplicity are important. SOC installation can be reduced to three basic steps:  

  1. The SOC components are applied to the fiber – including the fiber protection sleeve and connector boot. 
  2. Using a fusion splicer, the fiber stub in the SOC is fused to the field fiber.  
  3. The protective sleeve is shrunk using heat, and the connector is assembled over the fiber protection sleeve. 

It’s that simple. 

SOCs vs. The Rest 

Let’s compare SOCs to other field installable connectors: 

1. Field Polish Connectors vs. SOCs 

With a field polish connector, a technician pushes the fiber through the connector body. They then cleave off the end of the fiber beyond the ferrule endface and manually polish the fiber-end face until it is ready to be tested and installed. Field polish connectors are the most labor-intensive option and have the highest IL of all connector types. Typically, performing a field polish requires effort, skill, and training. SEL’s Lynx SOCs allow even inexperienced technicians to achieve exceptional results. 

2. Splice-On Pigtails vs. SOCs 

Unlike splice-on pigtails, SOCs do not require splice chips, splice trays, splice cabinets, or extra rack space for slack cable management. SOCs maintain the same level of performance as splice-on pigtails while providing valuable space savings.  

3. Mechanical Connectors vs. SOCs

Factory-polished mechanical connectors require a mechanical joining process utilizing index-matching gel. In a mechanical splice connector, the cleaved field fiber is pushed against a pre-polished stub of fiber inside the connector and mechanically held in place. Index-matching gel enables the transmission of light between the field fiber and the stub. SOCs, which are fusion spliced to the field fiber, create a permanent, seamless splice, providing improved IL and RL characteristics typically required in modern-day applications. Mechanical factory-polished connectors have an average IL of 0.2-0.4 dB, depending on fiber type/polish, and maximum of 0.5-0.75dB. SOCs average 0.10-0.15 dB IL, with a maximum of 0.25-0.3db IL.  

SOCs are also more reliable, especially over temperature ranges seen in outside plant applications. Temperature cycling can cause mechanical connectors to fail. SEL’s Lynx Splice-On Connectors, by contrast, utilize a permanent and reliable fusion splice proven to endure those conditions. 

SOCs and fusion splicing kits are more affordable than ever and rival the cost of top-rated mechanical connectors and mechanical termination kits on the market. The learning curve to install mechanical connectors to SOCs is minimal because the splicer performs most of the critical work. If a tech knows how to assemble a mechanical connector, they’ll be pleased with how similar the process is for SOCs. 

Some professionals will say that installing a single mechanical connector is faster than installing a SOC. Mechanical connectors, however, often require more than one attempt to terminate successfully, and their success is highly dependent on the skill of the technician. SOCs don’t require as much skill from the technician to create a successful splice. The splicer analyzes the fibers before and after the splice and generates an accurate estimated loss. Mechanical connector systems’ estimated losses are not as accurate as SOCs installed with a SEL splicer. 

Because mechanical splices are joined via index-matching gel, they are susceptible to failure due to the gel deteriorating over time. SOCs do not have a shelf life and create connections that remain robust over time. 

The Cost of Failure 

Consider the cost of failure: mechanical connectors are known to fail over time, making it likely that installed mechanical connectors will fail, causing high-reflective events and debilitating signal loss to a network. When this happens, it is necessary to send a technician to identify the fault area and perform the repair. The expense of this type of repair can be avoided with SOCs – fewer truck rolls equal more savings. 

Other Benefits of Switching to SOCs 

In addition to the monetary savings of switching to SOCs, other benefits include: 

  • SOCs are the only method that guarantees proper mating of the field fiber to the fiber stub with the lowest IL and RL in the industry. 
  • Only SOCS deliver measurable results – the splicer provides the loss estimate. There is no guessing. 
  • SOCs are the ideal solution for future-proofing networks. As the world transitions to 5G and Wi-Fi 6, these networks boost more data transmission with lower latency than ever before. Next-generation networks require reliable, fast, and efficient termination methods. 
  • SOCs are the only solution that is scalable, and it is the most reliable. Mechanical connectors come with a host of downsides: reworks, higher costs, labor-intensive repairs, and worse, network downtime.  
  • SOCs are the easiest and fastest on-site emergency maintenance solution. 

SOCs will improve the quality of your connection, saving time and money while increasing the efficiency of your entire fiber-optic network. With an efficient installation process, and a never-ending shelf life, SOCs are the best choice. 

Click here to learn more about installing splice-on connectors by watching Sumitomo Electric Lightwave’s easy-to-follow videos. 

For information and product details, visit our Splice-On Connectors page. 

Download our Lynx Splice-On Connectors Instructions