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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Optical Fiber

Posted on By FS.COM

Optical fiber is rising in both telecommunication and data communication due to its unsurpassed advantages: faster speed with less attenuation, less impervious to electromagnetic interference (EMI), smaller size and greater information carrying capacity. The unceasing bandwidth needs, on the other hand, are also yielding significant growth in optical fiber demands. Let’s take a review of  common fiber optic cable types, explore the advantages and disadvantage of optical fiber, and offer tips on selecting fiber optic cable.

What Is Optical Fiber?

Optical fiber uses light pulses instead of electrical pulses to transmit information, thus delivers hundreds of times higher bandwidth than traditional electrical systems. Fiber optic cable can be protected by sheathing and armor to make it resistant to harsh environment conditions. Hence it is widely adopted in commercial business, governments, military and many other industries for voice, video and data transmission.


Common Fiber Optic Cable Types

Generally, there are three types of fiber optic cables: single mode fiber optic cable, multimode optical fiber and plastic optical fiber (POF).

Single Mode Fiber Optic Cable

The "mode" in fiber optic cable refers to the path in which light travels. Single mode fiber has a smaller core diameter 9 microns (8.3 microns to be exact) and only allows a single wavelength and pathway for light to travel, which greatly decreases light reflections and lowers attenuation. Single mode fiber optic cable is slightly more expensive than its multimode counterparts, which is often used in network connections over long lengths.

single mode fiber optic cable

Multimode Optic Fiber

Multimode optical fiber has a larger core diameter than that of single mode fiber optic cable, which allows multiple pathways and several wavelengths of light to be transmitted. Multimode optical fiber is available in two sizes, 50 micron and 62.5 micron. It is commonly used for short distances, including patch cable applications such as fiber to the desktop or patch panel to equipment, data and audio/video applications in LANs.

multimode optical fiber

Plastic Optical Fiber (POF)

POF is large core step-index optical fiber with a typical diameter of 1 mm. The large size enables it to easily couple lots of light from sources and connectors that do not need to be high precision. So typical connector costs are 10-20% as much as for glass fibers and termination is simple. Being plastic, it is more durable and can be installed in minutes with minimal tools and training. Plastic optical cable price is more competitive, making it a viable option for desktop LAN connections and low speed short links.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Optical Fiber

Given the speed and bandwidth advantages optical fiber has over copper cable, it also contains some drawbacks. Here are advantages and disadvantages of optical fiber cable.

Advantages of Optical Fiber

Greater Bandwidth & Faster Speed—Optical fiber cable supports extremely high bandwidth and speed. The amount of information that can be transmitted per unit of optical fiber cable is its most significant advantage.

Cheap—Several miles of optical fiber cable can be made cheaper than equivalent lengths of copper wire. With numerous vendors swarm to compete for the market share, optical cable price would sure to drop.

Thinner and Light-weighted—Optical fiber is thinner, and can be drawn to smaller diameters than copper wire. They are of smaller size and light weight than a comparable copper wire cable, offering a better fit for places where space is a concern.

Higher carrying capacity—Because optical fibers are much thinner than copper wires, more fibers can be bundled into a given-diameter cable. This allows more phone lines to go over the same cable or more channels to come through the cable into your cable TV box.

Less signal degradation—The loss of signal in optical fiber is less than that in copper wire.

Light signals—Unlike electrical signals transmitted in copper wires, light signals from one fiber do not interfere with those of other fibers in the same fiber cable. This means clearer phone conversations or TV reception.

Long Lifespan—Optical fibers usually have a longer life cycle for over 100 years.

Disadvantages of Optical Fiber

Limited Application—Fiber optic cable can only be used on ground, and it cannot leave the ground or work with the mobile communication.

Low Power—Light emitting sources are limited to low power. Although high power emitters are available to improve power supply, it would add extra cost.

Fragility—Optical fiber is rather fragile and more vulnerable to damage compared to copper wires. You’d better not to twist or bend fiber optic cables.

Distance—The distance between the transmitter and receiver should keep short or repeaters are needed to boost the signal.

How to Select the Right Optical Fiber Cable?

Optical fiber has gained much momentum in communication networks, and there emerges a dazzling array of vendors competing to manufacture and supply fiber optic cables. When selecting optical fiber, you’d better start with a reliable vendor. Here’s a guide to clarify some of the confusions about choosing fiber optic cable.

Check manufacturer qualification

The major optical cable manufacturers should be granted ISO9001 quality system certification, ISO4001 international environment system certification, the ROHS, the relevant national and international institutions certification such as the Ministry of Information Industry, UL certification and etc.

Choose cable jacket

The standard jacket type of optical cable is OFNR, which stands for “Optical Fiber Non-conductive Riser”. Besides, optical fibers are also available with OFNP, or plenum jackets, which are suitable for use in plenum environments such as drop-ceilings or raised floors. Another jacket option is LSZH. Short for “Low Smoke Zero Halogen”, it is made from special compounds which give off very little smoke and no toxic when put on fire. So always refer to the local fire code authority to clarify the installation requirement before choosing the jacket type.

Indoor vs. Outdoor

The choice greatly depends on your application. The major difference between indoor and outdoor fiber cable is water blocking feature. Outdoor cables are designed to protect the fibers from years of exposure to moisture. In a campus environment, you can get cables with two jackets: an outer PE jacket that withstands moisture and an inner PVC jacket that is UL-rated for fire retardancy. You can bring the cable into a building, strip off the PE jacket and run it anywhere, while normal outdoor cables are limited to 50 feet inside the building.

Fiber count

Both indoor and outdoor fiber cable have a vast option of fiber count ranging from 4-144 fibers. If your fiber demand exceeds this range, you can custom the fiber count for indoor or outdoor optical cable. Unless you are making fiber patch cords or hooking up a simple link with two fibers, it is highly recommended to get some spare fibers.

FS.COM Optical Fiber Solution

Optical fiber provides a fast, constant and stable Internet connection that allows a lot of data to be transmitted over incredible distances. As data demands become enormous, fiber optic cabling is the sure way to go for network flexibility and stability. FS.COM is a renowned vendor that committed to develop and supply optical fiber of all types, including fiber patch cable, indoor/outdoor optical cable and FTTH fiber optical cable, etc. Each of our fiber optic cable is tested in strict environment to deliver excellence in performance and reliability. Optical fiber custom service is also available in FS.COM, so you can make your unique fiber optic cable in according to your specific needs. Moreover, our global inventory system enables fast same-day shipping that will greatly shorten your waiting time.

Related Article: Single Mode vs Multimode Fiber: What’s the Difference?