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Everything you need to know about fiber optic cables- Including OM5

What fiber cables do you need?

You’ve started a project to upgrade your network but not sure of what fiber cables you need. Should the cables be single-mode or multi-mode? Is there a specific length or speed needed? All of these questions are great to ask as you prepare your network project and think of future upgrades. Here is everything you need to know about fiber cables including the newest fiber type, OM5.

Singlemode vs Multimode

There are primarily two types of fiber optic cabling in the IT space. Those two types of fiber optic cable are single-mode and multi-mode. An optical fiber cable is constructed of a core (inner layer), cladding (layer around the core), and jacket (coating around the cladding). Some layers of protective sheathing are added depending on the application and environment.

Single-mode fiber optic cables have a typical core size of 8.3 to 10 microns (in diameter) and a cladding size of 125 microns. Single-mode cables are normally used in long distance applications with lasers for the optical transmission devices. OS1 and OS2 are the standard types of single-mode fiber cables. Both types of fiber cables are built to perform between 1310 nm and 1550 nm, but the OS2 types of cables have a better transmission performance especially over longer distances.

Multi-mode fiber optic cables have a typical core size of either 50 microns or 62.5 microns. They have a cladding size of 125 microns. Shorter cables distances, especially in data centers, are common uses for multi-mode cables. Multimode cables are typically manufactured to certain specifications and are classified by Optical Mode categories. These Optical Modes are known as OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4, and OM5. OM1 fiber optic cables have a 62.5 micron core size. All the other OM types listed below have 50 micron core sizes.

New Fiber Types

OM5 is the newest type of multi-mode fiber optic cables, and it is backwards compatible with OM4. This type of fiber was formerly called Wideband Multi-mode Fiber. OM5 is constructed to perform outside the normal operating bands of typical multimode cable. It can support wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) between the wavelengths of 850 nm and 953 nm. OM5 fiber cabling can transmit at least 4 wavelengths in the 850 nm to 950 nm range.

Violet OM4 fiber optic cables are a fairly new type of fiber cables as well. This color of fiber cables has been used for the past couple of years in Europe. The reason for this was mainly to distinguish between aqua OM3 cables and aqua OM4 cables. The new violet color of cables helps with this quick distinction.

Basic Specs for Fiber Optic Cables

Optical Mode Fiber Type Jacket Color 1GB Max Distance* 10GB Max Distance* 40GB Max Distance* 100GB Max Distance*
OS2 Singlemode Yellow 5000m 10km X X
OM1 Multimode Orange 275m X X X
OM2 Multimode Orange 550m X X X
OM3 Multimode Aqua 550m 300m X X
OM4 Multimode Aqua or Violet 550m 400m 150m X
OM5 Multimode Lime 550m 400m 150m 100m

*These are recommended max distances. These disatnces can vary depending on optical transceiver, modal bandwidth and wavelength.

Additional Learning Center Resources

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