Optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR) enables simple identification and localization of a plethora of refractive and reflective events on a fiber link, including splices, connectors and breaks, and measuring insertion/return loss. Specifically, large enough OTDR dynamic range (DR) and thus high signal-to-noise-ratio (SNR) enable clear far-end visibility of longer fibers. We point out here that, under such conditions, the optical bit-error-rate (BER) floor is dominantly determined by reflective events that introduce significant return loss. This complements the OTDR legacy tests by appropriate optical BER floor estimation in the field. As high SNR implies inter-symbol interference as dominating error generating mechanism, we could apply the classical time-dispersion channel model for the optical BER floor determined by the root-mean-square (rms) delay spread of the actual fiber channel power-delay profile. However, as the high-SNR condition is not always fulfilled mostly due to insufficient DR, we propose here inserting a low-noise optical preamplifier as the OTDR front-end to reduce noise floor and amplify the backscattered signal. In order to verify the model for the exemplar test situation, we measured BER on the same fiber link to find very good matching between the measured BER floor values and the ones predicted from the OTDR trace.
Keywords: BER floor; OTDR; dynamic range; optical amplifier.