How to Choose Fiber Optic Cables?

Among all fiber optic devices, fiber optic cable forms the core of a secure fiber optic network. It makes up the connections of the fiber optic network and helps you to retrofit your existing network infrastructure and build a broadband network. This blog will introduce some basics of fiber optic cable and tell you how to choose a suitable fiber cable.

What is Fiber Optic Cable?

A fiber optic cable is a network cable that contains multiple fiber strands that are wrapped by multiple protective layers. The main advantage of the fiber optic cable is that compared with the traditional copper cabling, it can transfer a larger amount of data in less time. It uses light pulses rather than electrical pulses to transmit information and can be used for numerous applications that require a wide bandwidth connection, like long-distance, high-performance data networking, telecommunications, CCTV systems, P2P security applications, etc.

Structure of the fiber optic cable:

The fiber optic cable is composed of four key elements: fiber core, cladding, buffer tube and jacket. The fiber core is a strand of super-thin glass/plastic fibers, the medium through which the light pulses are transmitted. And it is surrounded by an insulating layer called cladding that reflects light back to the core to prevent light leaking during the passthrough. Together, the core and cladding make up what is generally referred to as fiber. The fiber is wrapped in a protective layer known as the buffer tube, which is normally made of Kelvar. Its high tensile strength protects the cable from damage when being pulled. Outside is a coating called the jacket, and it protects the fiber from shocks, moisture and other penetrative particulates.

Advantages of Fiber Optic Cable

1)Faster Speed: In data networking, no current technology is better than fiber. The fiber optic network is significantly faster than even the highest-speed copper-based network connection since it transmits data at 2/3 the speed of light (slightly slower than that in the vacuum due to refractive index). And it’s fairly easy to get 10 Gibagit with fiber, while most copper cables like the Cat5 cables (10/100 Mbps) can only support Fast Ethernet. Some copper cables can transfer data at Gigabit speeds, but they have vastly lower bandwidth than fiber cables.

2)Increased Reliability & Security: The fiber optic cable is less susceptible to environmental factors than other network cables. It’s immune to temperature fluctuations, moisture, shocks and vibration, lightning surges, etc. And since the fiber optic cable doesn’t carry electrical currents, it can’t be bothered by electromagnetic interference during data transmission. Additionally, the fiber cable features a higher security level. The signal traveling through the cable is trapped in the individual strand and can only be accessed from the end of the cable, so any attempts to tap the information will be immediately acknowledged.

Fiber Optic Cable vs Ethernet Cable

The Ethernet cable is normally used in a copper-based network where both power and data are transmitted through the same network cable at a maximum distance of 100 meters. It’s hot-swappable featuring a simple plug-and-play design. However, the major drawback is that it will experience severe signal degradation at long distances. When the distance hits 500 meters, its bandwidth will slow down along with considerable power loss. And the signal loss will increase as the DC resistance rises. However, the fiber optic cable is not restricted by distances and is able to transmit more information at a much faster speed than the copper wire in the same amount of time. It doesn’t carry electricity, so it’s inherently safer than the copper cable. Additionally, the fiber optic cable is impervious to EMI and power fluctuation, which makes it more applicable to situations where lightning and power surges are often present.

How to Choose the Fiber Optic Cable

When choosing the correct fiber optic cable for your network applications, you have to consider the following aspects.

Single-mode and Multi-mode

One of the very first things to consider when choosing fiber optic cables is the core diameter. The single-mode fiber has 125μm of cladding around a very tine core of 9μm and allows the transmission of only one spread of light beam (laser) to pass through, making it more suitable for long-haul installations (up to 100km). The single-mode fiber has very low propagation loss and merely no dispersion. Its extremely thin core allows the laser to travel in it with virtually no reflection, which highly lowers the attenuation rate. It can be applied in fast-speed point-to-point links, metropolitan and access networks, small-to-mid-sized businesses, campuses, etc.

The multi-mode fiber has the same cladding but a large core (typically 50μm or 62.5μm). It is designed to carry multiple light rays and is usually preferred for data transmission at relatively short distances, for example, within a building. More information can pass through the multi-mode fiber at a given time without any interference and keep unchanged. The multi-mode fiber supports multiple data transfer protocols, such as Ethernet and Internet protocols. Due to the larger core diameter, the fiber end is more easily aligned during fiber termination. And the multi-mode fiber and connector are more economical and easier to work with other optical equipment. It can be used in short-distance applications like a data center (<~100m), sensing systems, radio telecommunications, etc.

Connector Type

The connector plays a key role in establishing a secure fiber network. Numerous types of connectors have been developed, such as ST, SC and LC, to offer easier fiber termination. The ST connector is the most popular fiber connector in multi-mode networks. It’s spring-loaded, which means it can be easily connected and removed. The SC connector is a snap-in connector that latches with a simple push-pull motion. It’s mainly designed for the single-mode and duplex networks, often utilized in optical network applications, such as cable TV, media converters and FTTX. The LC connector is a standard ceramic ferrule connector that can be easily terminated with any adhesive, nearly half the size of the SC connector. It is mainly used for single-mode systems and high-density network applications, like data centers, local networks, FTTH, CATV, etc.

Simplex and Duplex

Simplex and duplex fiber optic cables feature two different types of communication channels in the fiber optic network. They are both jacketed with Kevlar fibers In the simplex fiber, information can only travel in one direction at a time. It only contains a strand of glass or plastic fiber: one end is the transmitter, while the other end is the receiver, and these two ends are not reversible. The simplex fiber optic cable is mostly used for one-way data transfer. It’s a good choice for applications like oil line monitors, interstate trucking scales, automated speed and boundary sensors, etc.

In the duplex fiber cable, the transmission is bidirectional for it uses 2 fibers to communicate. The fibers are arranged in a zipcode construction. One strand transmits data from point A to point B and the other from B to A. Both ends have a transmitter and a receiver. The duplex fiber optic cable can also be further categorized into half-duplex and full-duplex. Half-duplex means that information can be transmitted in both directions but not simultaneously, while full-duplex means that data transfer can occur in both directions at the same time. It can be utilized in applications, such as telecommunications, workstations, Ethernet/fiber switches, large modems and network servers, and backbone ports.

Jacket Material

The jacket of the fiber optic cable is made of various types of materials, like PVC, PE. Each is designed for use in different scenarios. The PVC is usually a low-cost, flexible material, and it cannot tolerate high temperatures, hydrogen chloride gas, etc., so the PVC jacket is more suitable for applications like low-voltage devices and computer networking. On the other hand, PE has excellent resistance to water and moisture and it can work under a wide range of temperatures. So it’s a good option for making outdoor fiber optic cables. Another type of jacket is made of LSZH. This material does not give off halogenic compounds when it is burned, which reduces the chances of toxicity in combustible atmospheres.

What is the Pre-terminated Fiber Optic Cable?

The pre-terminated fiber cables are normally made at pre-defined lengths, and they are undeniable of higher quality and provide more reliable performance than their counterparts in mission-critical applications like video surveillance, which demands the highest level of accuracy. They are also a great choice for disaster recovery situations and temporary data communication setups, ideal for individuals and businesses to minimize potential downtime.

Benefits of Using Pre-terminated Fiber Optic Cables

1)Quick fiber connection with reduced installation costs: As the cables are pre-terminated, no additional connectors or equipment are required during installation, which helps eliminate rework, signal testing, etc., ideal for applications that call for short deadlines in particular. In the field termination, you may have to spend at least $15,000 on a good fiber splicer to make a precise splice between two fibers, while the pre-terminated fiber optic cables arrive with the connectors installed and ready to use.

2)High-speed data transmission at long distances: All fiber optic cables are pre-terminated in a clean environment with the least possible contamination on the connectors, which means the fiber termination is more precise and signal loss is greatly reduced to build a broadband network with greater reliability over long distances. Fastcabling has launched a collection of pre-terminated fiber optic cables at different cable lengths (100m/300m/500m) to meet your specific needs.

3)Easy-to-use, user-friendly designs: The pre-terminated fiber cables feature a simple plug-and-play design, ready for immediate use. And the pulling eye design helps you save lots of time when installing fiber cables through conduits, ducts or risers. The pre-terminated fiber cables are also wrapped with a rugged armored jacket to prevent transmission failures caused by bending, twisting, breakage, etc.