What Is Optical Cable and How to Choose It?
Home Cabling What Is Optical Cable and How to Choose It?

What Is Optical Cable and How to Choose It?

Posted on by FS.COM

As an appropriate means of communication signal transmission, optical cable is more of a preference than copper cable over the years. Optical cables use light pulses as opposed to electrical signals to send information. Nowadays, Optical cables are used by commercial business, governments, the military and many other industries for myriad applications involving the transmission of voice, video and data. In this article, we would give a comprehensive introduction to fiber optical cable, which covers types, pros and cons, market, and selection guide.

Types of Optical Cable

Basically, optical cable contains FTTH fiber cable, indoor cable, outdoor cable. FTTH drop cable contains 1 to 4 colored singlemode optical fibers with 250 µm individually, which provides a good solution for fiber to the home last mile solution. Indoor cables are what we call “tight-buffered” cables, where the glass fiber has a primary coating and secondary buffer coatings. Indoor fiber cable can be further divided into tight-buffered distribution cable, tight-buffered breakout cable, ribbon fiber cable, armor tight-buffered breakout cable, mining harsh environment cable, and etc.

indoor and outdoor cable

indoor/outdoor optical cable

The fibers in outdoor optical cables only have their primary coating, so they are tiny—250 microns or 1/4 mm in diameter. Outdoor cable can also be further divided into single-/double-armored direct buried cable, self-supporting/all-dielectric/armored aerial cable, ADSS fiber cable, and armored ribbon cable. Different outdoor cable designs for different deployment, direct buried cable designed to be buried under the ground while aerial cable is supposed to be installed in short spans between aerial poles.

Pros & Cons of Optical Cable


1.Higher bandwidth

Fiber optical cable transmits data via the pulses of light while copper cable uses electricity-based signals to transfer data. The difference between light transmission and electrical transmission is very distinct, as the copper wires can transmit 50Mbps (megabits per second) while the fastest recorded transmission via optical cables has so far reached 1.05Pbps (petabits per second) in which 1 petabit is equal to 1,073,741,824 megabits.

2.Transmission distance

The technology used within optical fiber cable allow the transfer of data covering longer distances. Copper cables are able to send data for DSL of up to 5km before it will require regeneration, while fiber optics spans about 200km.

3.Secured technology

This new technology of optical cable offers circuits to be electrically isolated, making it safer to use in unsecure environments. Thus, it can be used safely even in explosive environments as fiber optic technology doesn’t carry any current.

4.Lighter & thinner cables

Compared to regular copper cables, optical cables are 5x smaller and 20x lighter. As a matter of fact, the center of the optical fiber cable measures only about 10-15 micrometers, which is about a fifth the thickness of the regular human hair.


In comparison to copper cables, the use of optical fiber technology is more expensive to set up. Such modern technologies are only being used in industries that require high-speed telecommunications, while most households only use digital lines. In addition, the use of optical fiber technology has been more vulnerable to damage compared to copper wires. Once the optical cables are bent, it will no longer be functional.

Optical Cable Market

The fiber optics market involves many factors, including cable type, optical fiber type, application, and region. Both cable type and optical fiber type all can be further divided. The market of singlemode fiber optic cable type is expected to grow at a high rate from 2017 to 2021. The next generation of high bandwidth applications, along with the proliferation of connected devices, is expected to require faster and higher bandwidth networks which will require the use of multimode optical fiber cable for data transfer. This growth in the FTTx networks in turn is expected to drive the fiber optics market. And thus, the optical cable market ahead is still buoyant.

How to Select Optical Cable?

With the widely deployment of optical cable, the optical cable manufacturer emerges one after another. In terms of selecting fiber optic cable, the fiber optic cable manufacturer does matter. Apart from fiber optic cable manufacturer, there are also many other factors needing to be considered. Here, we provide some tips to guide you to select the right fiber optic cable.

1.View manufacturer qualification

Before you selecting a reliable optical cable manufacturer, viewing manufacturer qualification really matters. Normally speaking, 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.

2.Check the jacket

The standard jacket type of optical cable is called OFNR, which stands for “Optical Fiber Non-conductive Riser”. Fiber optic jumpers are also available with OFNP, or plenum jackets, which are suitable for use in plenum environments such as drop-ceilings or raised floors. Another option for jacket type is LSZH, which stands for “Low Smoke Zero Halogen”, which is a jacket made from special compounds which give off very little smoke and no toxic halogenic compounds when burned. So please check with the local fire code authority to be sure of the requirements of the installation before making the jacket selection.

4.Indoor Vs. Outdoor

Water blocking is the major difference between indoor and outdoor fiber cables. Outdoor cables are designed to protect the fibers from years of exposure to moisture. Like being mentioned, different indoor and outdoor cable applies for different environment. In a campus environment, you can even 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.

5.Fiber count

Both indoor and outdoor cable have a full range of fiber count, simplex, duplex, 4/6/8/12/24/48/96/144 fibers. If your fiber demand exceed this range, you can also custom the fiber count you want for indoor or outdoor optical cable. Unless you are making patch cords or hooking up a simple link with two fibers, it is highly recommended that you include a number of spare fibers. Corporate network backbones are often 48 fibers or more. So you can install the fiber based on your demand.


In this article, we mainly introduce four aspects of the optical cable—cable type, merits and demerits, market as well as selection tips. Before you are going to order optical cables, you should take the following factors into consideration—manufacturer qualification, cable jacket, indoor or outdoor, and fiber count. Hope this post is helpful for you to fully understand fiber optic cable.

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