Tripp Lite
1111 W. 35th Street
Chicago, IL 60609
+1 (773) 869-1774
+1 (773) 869-1329

Fiber Optic Cable Buying Guide

Connect a blazing-fast network over long distances

What is a fiber optic cable and how does it work?

Fiber optic cables send digital data at the speed of light... because they operate by transmitting light through flexible, optically pure fibers of glass or plastic.

Each optical fiber strand is about the width of a human hair. The fibers are arranged in core bundles called optical cables - the light is transmitted through this core. An outer optical material called cladding surrounds the core and reflects light back into the core.

Because fiber patch cables can transmit over long distances, they are ideal for networking, telecommunications and storage applications in wiring closets, distribution frames, gateways, central offices and data centers.

what is fiber optic cable

What are the different types of fiber optic cables?

There are two basic types of optical cable used for data and communications, singlemode and multimode. The principle differences are core size and the distance signals can be carried. Fiber cable is measured by its core and cladding diameter in micrometers (µm).

Multimode Fiber has a relatively wide core size of either 62.5 µm or 50 µm. It transmits infrared light commonly from light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Generally, multimode cable is used for communication over short to midrange distances, such as within a building or on a small campus. Typical multimode fiber links are suitable for distances under 2,000 feet.

Multimode fibers are identified by the OM (optical mode) designation outlined in the ISO/IEC 11801 standard:

OM1 Fiber with 200/500 MHz-km overfilled launch (OFL) bandwidth at 850/1300nm (typically 62.5/125 µm fiber)
OM2 Fiber with 500/500 MHz-km OFL bandwidth at 850/1300nm (typically 50/125 µm fiber)
OM3 Laser-optimized 50 µm fiber having 2000 MHz-km effective model bandwidth (EMB, also known as laser bandwidth), designed for 10 Gbps transmission
OM4 Laser-optimized 50 µm fiber having 4700 MHz-km EMB bandwidth designed for 10 Gbps, 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps transmission
OM5 OM5 Laser-optimized 50 µm fiber having 4700 MHz-km EMB designed for 10 Gbps, 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps transmission. Created to support shortwave wavelength division multiplexing (SWDM) technology.

Singlemode Fiber has a narrower core size of 8.3 µm. It transmits infrared light from lasers and delivers twice the bandwidth throughput of multimode cable and can provide 50 times more distance than multimode. On the flip side, it costs more than multimode cable. Duplex singlemode cable is commonly used in long-haul network connections.

Mixing different sizes or types of fiber optic cable is not recommended; doing so will result in distortions, signal degradation and severely limited distances (see section on Mode Conditioning Cables below).

How far can a fiber optic cable carry a signal?

The distance limit is dependent on the style of cable, the wavelength and the network itself. Typical ranges are about 984 ft. for 10 Gbps multimode cable and up to almost 25 miles for singlemode cable. If a longer span is required, optical amplifiers or repeaters are used to ensure signal integrity over the full distance.

how far can fiber optic cable carry a signal

These are the connector types commonly found on fiber optic cables:

LC Duplex connector
LC Duplex
LC with Pull/Push Tab connector
LC Duplex with Pull/Push Tab
Mini LC connector
Mini LC Duplex
FC connector
SC Duplex (Male) connector
SC Duplex
ST Duplex (Male) connector
ST Duplex
MTP/MPO (Female) connector
MTRJ connector

What are mode conditioning cables?

Mode Conditioning Transceiver Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-LX) modules produce only singlemode long wave signals. If the existing fiber network uses multimode cable, differential mode delay (DMD) can cause multiple signals, leading to errors in the data. Mode Conditioning Cables eliminate DMD and the resulting multiple signals.

mode conditioning cables

What are the advantages of fiber over copper?

Although copper cabling can still be a practical choice in many ordinary desktop environments networked over short distances, there are a number of reasons to choose fiber optic cabling over copper cabling:

  • Greater bandwidth, higher speed - Fiber optic cables are able to transmit much more data than copper cables of the same diameter.
  • Less attenuation (signal loss) over greater distances - Copper cables require a booster after just 328 ft., while singlemode fiber cables reliably can go thousands of feet before an amplifier or repeater is needed.
  • No crosstalk - Copper is prone to electromagnetic interference that can garble data; this problem doesn't exist with fiber because the signal is sent as light instead of current.
  • Security - Fiber does not radiate signals, making it difficult to tap.
  • Lower cost in the long run - Fiber is easier and less costly to maintain, has less downtime and requires less network hardware. Costs for fiber optic cable and related components continue to come down as technology advances.
  • Ready for tomorrow - The standard transmission speed for fiber in data centers is rapidly becoming 40 Gbps. As data loads have increased in our information-hungry world, fiber optic cable is able to keep up with data's demands.

What accessories and components are available for fiber optic installations?

Media Converters Economically extend the distance of Ethernet network nodes by connecting Cat5/6 UTP cables to singlemode or multimode fiber. For example, a converter allows you to connect 10BaseT/100BaseT UTP Ethernet to 100BaseFX Fiber Ethernet.
Couplers Provide a simple and easy way to link two fiber optic cables, even if they have different connector types.
Fiber Cable Tester Combination power meter/light source tester/visual fault locator allows you to test fiber optic cables for breaks, insertion loss and optical power loss.
High-Density Copper/
Fiber Cassette Solutions
Tripp Lite's new patch panel solutions offer cassettes for both copper and fiber cabling, allowing the user to interconnect any combination of 10Gb, 40Gb and 100/120Gb network equipment in a simple, elegant and highly flexible way.

What if my application requires special features?

Tripp Lite's custom, pre-bundled fiber cables and connectivity solutions simplify installs, save money and increase profitability. We can quickly customize the following fiber optic cable features for your ideal solution:

  • Fiber type
  • Length
  • Labels
  • Jacket type
  • Connectors
  • Color-coding
  • Breakout panels
quickly customize fiber optic cable features for your ideal solution

For more information about custom fiber optic cable solutions, email us

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+1 (773) 869-1774

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Tripp Lite
1111 West 35th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60609
United States

+1 (773) 869-1111 Main
1 773.869.1329 Fax

Business Hours
8 AM - 5:30 PM CST

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Need help with your purchase?
We're always available to help with questions, including product selection, sizing, installation and product customization. Call us at +1 (773) 869-1774 or email