Fiber Optic Cable Types: A Complete Guide

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Fiber Optic Cable Types

The “gold standard” in network cabling is frequently regarded as fiber optic cables. They outperform their conventional copper counterparts in every way, and as a result, they can travel much longer distances without experiencing signal deterioration.

However, fiber optic connections are not the only preferable option. There are many distinct fiber optic cable kinds, designs, and connector combinations. You may want to choose one type of fiber optic cable over another depending on the distances your networking wiring needs to span and the performance you need.

Here is all the information you require regarding the many sorts of fiber optic cables, why they are so beneficial, and which kind of fiber optic cables you should purchase for your upcoming networking project.

What are Fiber Optic Cables?

As their name suggests, fiber optic cables transport information using light rather than electricity. The light can bounce back and forth down the length of the cable because they are made of silica glass fibers roughly the width of a human hair. A fiber optic cable has a glass core that is encased in a thin layer of glass cladding to stop light from escaping and guarantee it is reflected down the entire length of the cable. The interior glass structure of the cable is further protected by a primary layer of plastic, which also serves to resist excessive bending.

The majority of high-quality fiber optic cables then further safeguard the wiring’s core with an additional layer of reinforcing fibers composed of various materials depending on the manufacturer. While some utilize kevlar and others gel-filled sleeves, most serve the same purpose and strengthen the cable’s rigidity and protection.

A colored plastic jacket serves as the last exterior covering, helping to distinguish the different types of fiber optic cables and further protecting the inner. With varying ratings assigned to each outside layer so that purchasers can know the level of protection their cabling provides, the majority of outer layers also offer a layer of fire resistance for the wire.

structure of fiber optic cable

What does a Fiber Optic Cable Look Like?

Given that their outermost layer frequently consists of colored plastic or silicon tubing, fiber optic cables don’t appear very different from many other types of cabling from the outside, at least. While it’s typical for them to be white, grey, or black, there are also variations in more vibrant colors if that would be helpful. It may also occasionally refer to a particular characteristic. Fiber optic patch cables, for instance, maybe orange to indicate that they are multimode optical fiber cables or yellow to indicate that they are single-mode optical fiber cables.

Depending on the purpose of the fiber optic cable, the end of the cable will have a different appearance. A fiber optical patch cable may be equipped with an LC connection at each end, however a TOSLINK optical fiber cable used for audio transmission contains a small plastic tip that, when plugged in at one end, will show the visible light being carried by the cable. However, in some circumstances, it can still be seen. A laser-transmitted light, for example, should not be looked at directly since it might seriously harm the eyes.

 Single Mode Fiber Optic Cables

Fiber optic cables transmit data at the speed of light because they use light as their medium. However, the bandwidth and transmission distance can be significantly impacted by the way the cables are built. The maximum lengths of some other wires, such as copper patch cables or HDMI cables, might vary depending on the materials used in their construction or whether they are active or passive cables, so this is not wholly unique to fiber optic cabling, but it does depend on a distinct factor.

The core, or the glass fibers that transport light and subsequently information down the length of the cable, differs in diameter for single-mode and multimode fiber optic cables. Single-mode fiber cables feature a very tiny core, keeping the light’s route narrow as a result. This allows the cable to carry the light signal over extended distances before it becomes weak and requires repeating or enhancing.

fiber optic cable

A single glass fiber strand is typically used to create single-mode fiber optic cables, resulting in extremely small core diameters of about 9 m. This form of fiber optic cable is roughly six to seven times narrower than multi-mode fiber optic cable.

Signals can travel long distances on single-mode fiber optic lines without needing augmentation. As a result, they are significantly more capable of transporting data over longer distances than multi-mode fiber optic cables, which are intended to do so.

A single-mode fiber optic cable’s real maximum range is determined by its transmission rate and cable type. The OS1 and OS2 varieties of single-mode fiber optic cable are available. The former is a compact buffered cable that is primarily intended for usage indoors, where electrical interference may be more intense and distances tend to be shorter. They normally operate at a maximum speed of 10 Gigabits per second over distances of no more than six miles. They are often the least expensive of the two cable types.

On the other hand, OS2 cables, with a maximum range of 125 miles, are more suited for outdoor and longer-distance use. They cost more than OS1 fiber optic cable types and provide throughput of up to 100 Gigabits per second. In addition to their potential for performance, OS2 cables are constructed differently. The real fiber optic core is set out in a spiral pattern inside semi-rigid tubes in a loose-tube structure, allowing the cable to flex and stretch without putting any strain on the glass fibers.

The OS2 fiber optic cable type offers the best performance over greater distances and is more resilient. Although they are more expensive, they offer the best connection for larger networks, and because of their enhanced durability and total throughput support, they are becoming more and more popular in all kinds of settings.

It is frequently used in cable TV transmission systems, significant telecommunications networks, and university campus data networks. Due to the increased reliability of OS2 cables, backhaul networks are also frequently used with them.

Multimode Fiber Optic Cables

Multiple streams of data can be sent via multimode fiber optic cables thanks to its substantially wider internal core, which measures either 50 or 62.5 m. Due to the ability to incorporate more reasonably priced LEDs and vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) into their construction, multimode fiber optic cables are often substantially less expensive than their single-mode equivalents.

single mode vs multimode fiber cable

Due to the larger core’s increased frequency of light reflection of its interior, numerous routes for simultaneous transmission of multiple beams of light are made possible. The disadvantage of this is that multimode fiber optic cables simply cannot handle the same distances as single-mode cables due to greater signal attenuation. Instead, they need to be enhanced more frequently if longer distances are needed.

Five different types of multimode cables with a wide range of characteristics and capabilities are available. With a maximum capacity of 10 Gigabits per second at about 100 feet, OM1 is the least expensive but also the least effective type of fiber optic cable. While OM3 improves the connection even further to 1000 feet while maintaining the same throughput, OM2 offers a higher quality connection and can retain the same performance over 260 feet.

Even more amazing is OM4, which has a 1,300-foot range and a 10 Gigabit/s data rate. The same is mostly true for OM5, and both OM4 and OM5 are capable of sending data at higher speeds of up to 500 feet at 40 and 100 gigabits per second, respectively. However, OM5, the more recent standard, uses short wavelength division multiplexing, which employs various laser light colors to boost its capability for even more bandwidth, up to 200 Gigabits and even 400 Gigabits per second.

Each of these many cable types has a separate color coding for its outer jacket to aid in distinguishing between them. While OM2 multimode cables only come in orange, OM1 multimode cables frequently include grey or orange outer jackets. While OM4 multimode cables can be colored purple or aqua, OM3 multimode cables employ a cyan-blue coloring that is frequently referred to as aqua.

The newest cable type, the OM5, has a lime green covering to draw attention to its unique design profile.

The varying performance capabilities of OM2, OM3, OM4, and OM5 cables make it conceivable but not recommended to mix and match them. However, due to their dissimilar core sizes, OM1 and any other type of fiber optic cable cannot be physically combined.

Due to their different core diameters and light wavelengths, single-mode and multi-mode fiber optic cable types cannot be used interchangeably.

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