In this paper, we provide a detailed insight into photon-counting optical time-domain reflectometer ($\nu$-OTDR) operation, ranging from Geiger-mode operation of avalanche photodiodes (APD), analysis of different APD bias schemes, to the discussion of OTDR perspectives. Our results demonstrate that an InGaAs/InP APD-based $\nu$-OTDR has the potential of outperforming the dynamic range of a conventional state-of-the-art OTDR by 10 dB, as well as the two-point resolution by a factor of 20. Considering the trace acquisition speed of $\nu$-OTDRs, we find that a combination of rapid gating for high photon flux and free running mode for low photon flux is the most efficient solution. Concerning dead zones, our results are less promising. Without additional measures, e.g., an optical shutter, the photon counting approach is not competitive.
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