Fiber optic networks operate
at high speeds - up into the gigabits
Large carrying capacity
Signals can be transmitted further
without needing to be "refreshed" or strengthened.
Greater resistance to electromagnetic noise
such as radios, motors or other nearby cables.
Fiber optic cables costs much less to maintain.

In recent years it has become apparent that
fiber-optics are steadily replacing copper wire
as an appropriate means of communication
signal transmission. They span the long
distances between local phone systems as well
as providing the backbone for many network
Other system users include cable television
services, university campuses, office buildings,
industrial plants, and electric utility companies.

A fiber-optic system is similar to the copper
wire system that fiber-optics is replacing.
The difference is that fiber-optics use light
pulses to transmit information down fiber lines
instead of using electronic pulses to transmit
information down copper lines. Looking at the
components in a fiber-optic chain will give
a better understanding of how the system works
in conjunction with wire based systems.

At one end of the system is a transmitter.
This is the place of origin for information
coming on to fiber-optic lines. The transmitter
accepts coded electronic pulse information
coming from copper wire. It then processes and
translates that information into equivalently
coded light pulses.
A light-emitting diode (LED) or an
injection-laser diode (ILD) can be used for
generating the light pulses. Using a lens,
the light pulses are funneled into the fiber-optic
medium where they travel down the cable.
The light (near infrared) is most often 850nm for
shorter distances and 1,300nm for longer
distances on Multi-mode fiber and 1300nm for
single-mode fiber and 1,500nm is used for for
longer distances.

Think of a fiber cable in terms of very long
cardboard roll (from the inside roll of paper
towel) that is coated with a mirror on the inside.
If you shine a flashlight in one end you can see
light come out at the far end - even if it's been
bent around a corner.

Light pulses move easily down the fiber-optic
line because of a principle known as total
internal reflection. "This principle of total internal
reflection states that when the angle of
incidence exceeds a critical value, light cannot
get out of the glass; instead, the light bounces
back in. When this principle is applied to the
construction of the fiber-optic strand, it is
possible to transmit information down fiber
lines in the form of light pulses. The core must a
very clear and pure material for the light or in
most cases near infrared light (850nm, 1300nm
and 1500nm). The core can be Plastic (used
for very short distances) but most are made
from glass. Glass optical fibers are almost
always made from pure silica, but some other
materials, such as fluorozirconate,
fluoroaluminate, and chalcogenide glasses, are
used for longer-wavelength infrared

There are three types of fiber optic cable
commonly used: single mode, multimode and
plastic optical fiber (POF).

Transparent glass or plastic fibers which allow
light to be guided from one end to the other with
minimal loss.

Fiber optic cable functions as a "light guide,"
guiding the light introduced at one end of the
cable through to the other end. The light source
can either be a light-emitting diode (LED))
or a laser.

The light source is pulsed on and off, and
a light-sensitive receiver on the other end of
the cable converts the pulses back into the
digital ones and zeros of the original signal.

Even laser light shining through a fiber optic
cable is subject to loss of strength, primarily
through dispersion and scattering of the light,
within the cable itself. The faster the laser
fluctuates, the greater the risk of dispersion.
Light strengtheners, called repeaters, may be
necessary to refresh the signal in certain

While fiber optic cable itself has become
cheaper over time - a equivalent length of
copper cable cost less per foot but not in
capacity. Fiber optic cable connectors and the
equipment needed to install them are still more
expensive than their copper counterparts.

Single Mode cable
is a single stand (most applications use 2
fibers) of glass fiber with a diameter of 8.3 to
10 microns that has one mode of transmission. 
Single Mode Fiber with a relatively narrow
diameter, through which only one mode will
propagate typically 1310 or 1550nm. Carries
higher bandwidth than multimode fiber, but
requires a light source with a narrow spectral
width. Synonyms mono-mode optical fiber,
single-mode fiber, single-mode optical
waveguide, uni-mode fiber.

Single Modem fiber is used in many
applications where data is sent at multi-
frequency (WDM Wave-Division-Multiplexing)
so only one cable is needed - (single-mode on
one single fiber)

Single-mode fiber gives you a higher
transmission rate and up to 50 times more
distance than multimode, but it also costs more.
Single-mode fiber has a much smaller core
than multimode. The small core and single
light-wave virtually eliminate any distortion that
could result from overlapping light pulses,
providing the least signal attenuation and the
highest transmission speeds of any fiber cable

Single-mode optical fiber is an optical fiber in
which only the lowest order bound mode can
propagate at the wavelength of interest typically
1300 to 1320nm.

jump to single mode fiber page


Multi-Mode cable
has a little bit bigger diameter, with a common
diameters in the 50-to-100 micron range for the
light carry component (in the US the most
common size is 62.5um). Most applications in
which Multi-mode fiber is used, 2 fibers are
used (WDM is not normally used on multi-mode
fiber).  POF is a newer plastic-based cable
which promises performance similar to glass
cable on very short runs, but at a lower cost.

Multimode fiber gives you high bandwidth at
high speeds (10 to 100MBS - Gigabit to 275m
to 2km) over medium distances. Light waves
are dispersed into numerous paths, or modes,
as they travel through the cable's core typically
850 or 1300nm. Typical multimode fiber core
diameters are 50, 62.5, and 100 micrometers.
However, in long cable runs (greater than 3000
feet [914.4 meters), multiple paths of light can
cause signal distortion at the receiving end,
resulting in an unclear and incomplete data
transmission so designers now call for single
mode fiber in new applications using Gigabit
and beyond.  

The use of fiber-optics was generally not
available until 1970 when Corning Glass Works
was able to produce a fiber with a loss of 20
dB/km. It was recognized that optical fiber
would be feasible for telecommunication
transmission only if glass could be developed
so pure that attenuation would be 20dB/km or
less. That is, 1% of the light would remain after
traveling 1 km. Today's optical fiber attenuation
ranges from 0.5dB/km to 1000dB/km
depending on the optical fiber used.
Attenuation limits are based on intended

The applications of optical fiber
communications have increased at a rapid
rate, since the first commercial installation of a
fiber-optic system in 1977.
Telephone companies began early on,
replacing their old copper wire systems with
optical fiber lines. Today's telephone
companies use optical fiber throughout their
system as the backbone architecture and as
the long-distance connection between city
phone systems.

Cable television companies have also began
integrating fiber-optics into their cable systems.
The trunk lines that connect central offices have
generally been replaced with optical fiber.
Some providers have begun experimenting
with fiber to the curb using a fiber/coaxial
hybrid. Such a hybrid allows for the integration
of fiber and coaxial at a neighborhood location.
This location, called a node, would provide the
optical receiver that converts the light impulses
back to electronic signals. The signals could
then be fed to individual homes via coaxial

Local Area Networks (LAN) is a collective
group of computers, or computer systems,
connected to each other allowing for shared
program software or data bases. Colleges,
universities, office buildings, and industrial
plants, just to name a few, all make use of
optical fiber within their LAN systems.

Power companies are an emerging group that
have begun to utilize fiber-optics in their
communication systems. Most power utilities
already have fiber-optic communication
systems in use for monitoring their power grid


by John MacChesney - Fellow at Bell
Laboratories, Lucent Technologies

Some 10 billion digital bits can be transmitted
per second along an optical fiber link in
a commercial network, enough to carry tens of
thousands of telephone calls. Hair-thin fibers
consist of two concentric layers of high-purity
silica glass the core and the cladding, which
are enclosed by a protective sheath. Light rays
modulated into digital pulses with a laser or
a light-emitting diode move along the core
without penetrating the cladding.

The light stays confined to the core because the
cladding has a lower refractive index—
a measure of its ability to bend light.
Refinements in optical fibers, along with the
development of new lasers and diodes, may
one day allow commercial fiber-optic networks
to carry trillions of bits of data per second.

Total internal refection confines light within
optical fibers (similar to looking down a mirror
made in the shape of a long paper towel tube).
Because the cladding has a lower refractive
index, light rays reflect back into the core if they
encounter the cladding at a shallow angle (red
lines). A ray that exceeds a certain "critical"
angle escapes from the fiber (yellow line).


has a large core, up to 100 microns in
diameter. as a result, some of the light rays that
make up the digital pulse may travel a direct
route, whereas others zigzag as they bounce off
the cladding. These alternative pathways cause
the different groupings of light rays, referred to
as modes, to arrive separately at a receiving
point. The pulse, an aggregate of different
modes, begins to spread out, losing its
well-defined shape. The need to leave spacing
between pulses to prevent overlapping limits
bandwidth that is, the amount of information that
can be sent. Consequently, this type of fiber is
best suited for transmission over short
distances, in an endoscope, for instance.


contains a core in which the refractive index
diminishes gradually from the center axis out
toward the cladding. The higher refractive index
at the center makes the light rays moving down
the axis advance more slowly than those near
the cladding. Also, rather than zigzagging off
the cladding, light in the core curves helically
because of the graded index, reducing its travel
distance. The shortened path and the higher
speed allow light at the periphery to arrive at a
receiver at about the same time as the slow but
straight rays in the core axis. The result: a
digital pulse suffers less dispersion. 


has a narrow core (eight microns or less), and
the index of refraction between the core and the
cladding changes less than it does for
multimode fibers. Light thus travels parallel to
the axis, creating little pulse dispersion.
Telephone and cable television networks install
millions of kilometers of this fiber every year.



1 - Two basic cable designs are:

Loose-tube cable, used in the majority of outside-plant installations in North America, and tight-buffered cable, primarily used inside buildings.

The modular design of loose-tube cables typically holds up to 12 fibers per buffer tube with a maximum per cable fiber count of more than 200 fibers. Loose-tube cables can be all-dielectric or optionally armored. The modular buffer-tube design permits easy drop-off of groups of fibers at intermediate points, without interfering with other protected buffer tubes being routed to other locations. The loose-tube design also helps in the identification and administration of fibers in the system.

Single-fiber tight-buffered cables are used as pigtails, patch cords and jumpers to terminate loose-tube cables directly into opto-electronic transmitters, receivers and other active and passive components.

Multi-fiber tight-buffered cables also are available and are used primarily for alternative routing and handling flexibility and ease within buildings.

2 - Loose-Tube Cable

In a loose-tube cable design, color-coded plastic buffer tubes house and protect optical fibers. A gel filling compound impedes water penetration. Excess fiber length (relative to buffer tube length) insulates fibers from stresses of installation and environmental loading. Buffer tubes are stranded around a dielectric or steel central member, which serves as an anti-buckling element.

The cable core, typically uses aramid yarn, as the primary tensile strength member. The outer polyethylene jacket is extruded over the core. If armoring is required, a corrugated steel tape is formed around a single jacketed cable with an additional jacket extruded over the armor.

Loose-tube cables typically are used for outside-plant installation in aerial, duct and direct-buried applications.


3 - Tight-Buffered Cable

With tight-buffered cable designs, the buffering material is in direct contact with the fiber. This design is suited for "jumper cables" which connect outside plant cables to terminal equipment, and also for linking various devices in a premises network.

Multi-fiber, tight-buffered cables often are used for intra-building, risers, general building and plenum applications.

The tight-buffered design provides a rugged cable structure to protect individual fibers during handling, routing and connectorization. Yarn strength members keep the tensile load away from the fiber.

As with loose-tube cables, optical specifications for tight-buffered cables also should include the maximum performance of all fibers over the operating temperature range and life of the cable. Averages should not be acceptable.

Connector Types

Gruber Industries
cable connectors

here are some common fiber cable types

Distribution Cable

Fiber optic cables

Distribution Cable (compact building cable) packages individual 900µm buffered fiber reducing size and cost when compared to breakout cable. The connectors may be installed directly on the 900µm buffered fiber at the breakout box location. The space saving (OFNR) rated cable may be installed where ever breakout cable is used. FIS will connectorize directly onto 900µm fiber or will build up ends to a 3mm jacketed fiber before the connectors are installed.
Indoor/Outdoor Tight Buffer
FIS now offers indoor/outdoor rated tight buffer cables in Riser and Plenum rated versions. These cables are flexible, easy to handle and simple to install. Since they do not use gel, the connectors can be terminated directly onto the fiber without difficult to use breakout kits. This provides an easy and overall less expensive installation. (Temperature rating -40ºC to +85ºC).
Indoor/Outdoor Breakout Cable
FIS indoor/outdoor rated breakout style cables are easy to install and simple to terminate without the need for fanout kits. These rugged and durable cables are OFNR rated so they can be used indoors, while also having a -40c to +85c operating temperature range and the benefits of fungus, water and UV protection making them perfect for outdoor applications. They come standard with 2.5mm sub units and they are available in plenum rated versions.
Corning Cable Systems Freedm LST Cables
Corning Cable Systems FREEDM® LST™ cables are OFNR-rated, UV-resistant, fully waterblocked indoor/outdoor cables. This innovative DRY™ cable with water blocking technology eliminates the need for traditional flooding compound, providing more efficient and craft-friendly cable preparation. Available in 62.5µm, 50µm, Singlemode and hybrid versions.
Krone Indoor Outdoor Dry Loose Tube Cable
KRONE’s innovative line of indoor/outdoor loose tube cables are designed to meet all the rigors of the outside plant environment, and the necessary fire ratings to be installed inside the building. These cables eliminate the gel filler of traditional loose tube style cables with super absorbent polymers.
Loose Tube Cable

Fiber optic cables

Loose tube cable is designed to endure outside temperatures and high moisture conditions. The fibers are loosely packaged in gel filled buffer tubes to repel water. Recommended for use between buildings that are unprotected from outside elements. Loose tube cable is restricted from inside building use, typically allowing entry not to exceed 50 feet (check your local codes).
Aerial Cable/Self-Supporting
Aerial cable provides ease of installation and reduces time and cost. Figure 8 cable can easily be separated between the fiber and the messenger. Temperature range ( -55ºC to +85ºC)
Hybrid & Composite Cable
Hybrid cables offer the same great benefits as our standard indoor/outdoor cables, with the convenience of installing multimode and singlemode fibers all in one pull. Our composite cables offer optical fiber along with solid 14 gauge wires suitable for a variety of uses including power, grounding and other electronic controls.
Armored Cable
Armored cable can be used for rodent protection in direct burial if required. This cable is non-gel filled and can also be used in aerial applications. The armor can be removed leaving the inner cable suitable for any indoor/outdoor use. (Temperature rating -40ºC to +85ºC)
Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH)
Low Smoke Zero Halogen cables are offered as as
alternative for halogen free applications.
Less toxic and slower to ignite, they are a good
choice for many international installations.
We offer them in many styles as well as simplex,
duplex and 1.6mm designs. This cable is riser rated
and contains no flooding gel, which makes the need
for a separate point of termination unnecessary.
Since splicing is eliminated, termination hardware and labor times are reduced, saving you time and money. This cable may be run through risers directly to a convenient network hub or splicing closet for interconnection.
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