Fibre Optic Cable Buying Guide

Fibre Optic Cable Buying Guide
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Jun 2022 4 min read

Fibre Optic Cable Buying Guide

Fibre optic cables (also called optical fibre cable) transmit information as light pulses through flexible fibres composed of glass.

Fibre is now a common option for Ethernet networks and telecom applications due to its high speeds for data transmission across long distances.

Composition of a Fibre Cable

A glass fibre is composed of two concentric layers, which are referred to as the core and the cladding.

Core

The central component of a fibre optic cable is the core, which is made of glass. It transports light pulses produced by a laser, or less commonly light emitting diode (LED). Singlemode cores will typically have a 9um diameter, whereas multimode cores are offered with 50 or 62.5um diameters

Cladding 

The cladding protects and covers the fibre's core, allowing the light waves to transmit through the length of the cable. The cladding has a higher refractive index, which means the light does not pass through it and instead reflects back into the core.

Primary Coating 

The primary coating adheres to the glass surface of the cladding, protecting both the core and cladding and therefore improving the tensile strength of the fibre and preventing damage due to shock and excessive bending.

Strengthening Elements

A strengthening element can take several forms, from gel-filled sleeves to strands made of Kevlar, and in the case of some fibre optic cables there is a central strength member which is made from glass reinforced plastic (GRP). The strength element is designed to protect the core from excessive pull forces and crushing, especially during the installation.

Outer Jacket

The outer jacket, also known as a sheath, acts as an additional layer of protection to the conductor at its core and enhances the strength of the cable. The jacket of a tight-buffered cable is generally coloured to indicate the mode of optical fibre: yellow for single mode, orange for OM1, aqua for OM3, erika violet for OM4 and lime green for OM5. In Australia, loose tube cables generally have a blue nylon outer jacket.

Cable jackets can be made from different materials such as PVC, nylon, OFNR, OFNP, or LSZH.

How to Select Fibre Optic Cable

The selection of fibre optic cables is reliant on the customer knowing the performance characteristics and precise requirements for the installation.

Begin by determining the installation requirements, including:

  • Distance and network speed (mode of fibre to be used)
  • Environment (indoor, outdoor or underground)
  • Fire-rating (does the cable need to withstand flame)

After narrowing down your options, you should also think about the cost and the possibility of future-proofing your installation. Speciality cables are available for specific applications. If you need help selecting the right fibre cable, whether pre-terminated or customised, contact MSS Data Solutions for assistance.

Distance and Network Speed

Multimode Fibre (MMF) is the preferred option for enterprise and data centre networks because of the shorter distances the data is required to travel.

Singlemode fibre is the preferred option for carrier networks because of the long distances that data is transmitted.

For example, an OM4 multimode fibre cable will support 10 Gigabit transmission up to 500 metres, whereas an OS2 singlemode fibre cable will support 10 Gigabit transmission up to 40kms.

Environment

Loose tube cable is used for underground/outdoor applications. Loose tube cable contains materials (gel, dry-block power, and water-swelling elements) which will prevent any water that enters the cable from spreading along the length of the cable.

Tight buffered cable can generally be used both indoor and outdoor as long as when they are used outside they are protected from the elements.

Fire-rated cables are used in applications where it is critical to maintain communications in the event of a fire. These are generally 2-hour rated.

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