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Black Box Explains...Loose-tube vs. tight-buffered fiber optic cable.

There are two styles of fiber optic cable construction: loose tube and tight buffered. Both contain some type of strengthening member, such as aramid yarn, stainless steel wire strands, or... more/see it noweven gel-filled sleeves. But each is designed for very different environments.

Loose tube cables, the older of the two cable types, are specifically designed for harsh outdoor environments. They protect the fiber core, cladding, and coating by enclosing everything within semi-rigid protective sleeves or tubes. In loose-tube cables that hold more than one optical fiber, each individually sleeved core is bundled loosely within an all-encompassing outer jacket.

Many loose-tube cables also have a water-resistant gel that surrounds the fibers. This gel helps protect them from moisture, so the cables are great for harsh, high-humidity environments where water or condensation can be a problem. The gel-filled tubes can expand and contract with temperature changes, too.

But gel-filled loose-tube cables are not the best choice when cable needs to be submerged or where it’s routed around multiple bends. Excess cable strain can force fibers to emerge from the gel.

Tight-buffered cables, in contrast, are optimized for indoor applications. Because they’re sturdier than loose-tube cables, they’re best suited for moderate-length LAN/WAN connections, long indoor runs, and even direct burial. Tight-buffered cables are also recommended for underwater applications.

Instead of a gel layer or sleeve to protect the fiber core, tight-buffered cables use a two-layer coating. One is plastic; the other is waterproof acrylate. The acrylate coating keeps moisture away from the cable, like the gel-filled sleeves do for loose-tube cables. But this acrylate layer is bound tightly to the plastic fiber layer, so the core is never exposed (as it can be with gel-filled cables) when the cable is bent or compressed underwater.

Tight-buffered cables are also easier to install because there’s no messy gel to clean up and they don’t require a fan-out kit for splicing or termination. You can crimp connectors directly to each fiber.

Want the best of both worlds? Try a hybrid, breakout-style fiber optic cable, which combines tight-buffered cables within a loose-tube housing. collapse


Black Box Explains…OM3 and OM4.

There are different categories of graded-index multimode fiber optic cable. The ISO/IEC 11801 Ed 2.1:2009 standard specifies categories OM1, OM2, and OM3. The TIA/EIA recognizes OM1, OM2, OM3, and OM4.... more/see it nowThe TIA/EIA ratified OM4 in August 2009 (TIA/EIA 492-AAAD). The IEEE ratified OM4 (802.ba) in June 2010.

OM1 specifies 62.5-micron cable and OM2 specifies 50-micron cable. These are commonly used in premises applications supporting Ethernet rates of 10 Mbps to 1 Gbps. They are also typically used with LED transmitters. OM1 and OM2 cable are not suitable though for today's higher-speed networks.

OM3 and OM4 are both laser-optimized multimode fiber (LOMMF) and were developed to accommodate faster networks such as 10, 40, and 100 Gbps. Both are designed for use with 850-nm VCSELS (vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers) and have aqua sheaths.

OM3 specifies an 850-nm laser-optimized 50-micron cable with a effective modal bandwidth (EMB) of 2000 MHz/km. It can support 10-Gbps link distances up to 300 meters. OM4 specifies a high-bandwidth 850-nm laser-optimized 50-micron cable an effective modal bandwidth of 4700 MHz/km. It can support 10-Gbps link distances of 550 meters. 100-Gbps distances are 100 meters and 150 meters, respectively. Both rival single-mode fiber in performance while being significantly less expensive to implement.

OM1 and 2 are made with a different process than OM3 and 4. Non-laser-optimized fiber cable is made with a small defect in the core, called an index depression. LED light sources are commonly used with these cables.

OM3 and 4 are manufactured without the center defect. As networks migrated to higher speeds, VCSELS became more commonly used rather than LEDs, which have a maximum modulation rate of 622 Mbps. Because of that, LEDs can’t be turned on and off fast enough to support higher-speed applications. VCSELS provided the speed, but unfortunately when used with older OM1 and 2 cables, required mode-conditioning launch cables. Thus manufacturers changed the production process to eliminate the center defect and enable OM3 and OM4 cables to be used directly with the VCSELS. OM3/OM4 Comparison
850 nm High Performance EMB (MHz/km)

OM3: 2000

OM4: 4700


850-nm Ethernet Distance
1-GbE
OM3: 1000 m

OM4: 1000 m


10-GbE
OM3: 300 m

OM4: 550 m


40-GbE
OM3: 100 m

OM4: 150 m


100-GbE
OM3: 100 m

OM4: 150 m

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Black Box Explains...Insertion loss.

Insertion loss is a power loss that results from inserting a component into a previously continuous path or creating a splice in it. It is measured by the amount of... more/see it nowpower received before and after the insertion.

In copper cable, insertion loss measures electrical power lost from the beginning of the run to the end.

In fiber cable, insertion loss (also called optical loss) measures the amount of light lost from beginning to end. Light can be lost many ways: absorption, diffusion, scattering, dispersion, and more. It can also be from poor connections and splices in which the fibers don’t align properly.

Light loss is measured in decibels (dBs), which indicate relative power. A loss of 10 dB means a tenfold reduction in power.

Light strength can be measured with optical power meters, optical loss test sets, and other test sets that send a known light source through the fiber and measure its strength on the other end. collapse


Black Box Explains... Pulling eyes and fiber cable.

Fiber optic cable can be damaged if pulled improperly. Broken or cracked fiber, for example, can result from pulling on the fiber core or jacket instead of the strength member.... more/see it nowAnd too much tension or stress on the jacket, as well as too tight of a bend radius, can damage the fiber core. If the cable’s core is harmed, the damage can be difficult to detect.

Once the cable is pulled successfully, damage can still occur during the termination phase. Field termination can be difficult and is often done incorrectly, resulting in poor transmission. One way to eliminate field termination is to pull preterminated cable. But this can damage the cable as well because the connectors can be knocked off during the pulling process. The terminated cable may also be too bulky to fit through ducts easily. To help solve all these problems, use preterminated fiber optic cable with a pulling eye. This works best for runs up to 2000 feet (609.6 m).

The pulling eye contains a connector and a flexible, multiweave mesh-fabric gripping tube. The latched connector is attached internally to the Kevlar®, which absorbs most of the pulling tension. Additionally, the pulling eye’s mesh grips the jacket over a wide surface area, distributing any remaining pulling tension and renders it harmless. The end of the gripping tube features one of three different types of pulling eyes: swivel, flexible, or breakaway.

Swivel eyes enable the cable to go around bends without getting tangled. They also prevent twists in the pull from being transferred to the cable. A flexible eye follows the line of the pull around corners and bends, but it’s less rigid. A breakaway eye offers a swivel function but breaks if the tension is too great. We recommend using the swivel-type pulling eye.

A pulling eye enables all the fibers to be preterminated to ensure better performance. The terminated fibers are staggered inside the gripping tube to minimize the diameter of the cable. This enables the cable to be pulled through the conduit more easily. collapse

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Fiber optic cable construction and types.

Multimode vs. single-mode
Multimode cable has a large-diameter core and multiple pathways of light. It is most commonly available in two core sizes: 50-micron and 62.5-micron.

Multimode fiber optic cable can... more/see it nowbe used for most general data and voice fiber applications such as adding segments to an existing network, and in smaller applications such as alarm systems and bringing fiber to the desktop. Both multimode cable cores use either LED or laser light sources.

Multimode 50-micron cable is recommended for premise applications?(backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections). It should be considered for any new construction and for installations because it provides longer link lengths and/or higher speeds, particularly in the 850-nm wavelength, than 62.5-micron cable does.

Multimode cable commonly has an orange or aqua jacket; single-mode has yellow. Other colors are available for various applications and for identification purposes.

Single-mode cable has a small (8–10-micron) glass core and only one pathway of light. With only a single wavelength of light passing through its core, single-mode cable realigns the light toward the center of the core instead of simply bouncing it off the edge of the core as multimode does.

Single-mode cable provides 50 times more distance than multimode cable does. Consequently, single-mode cable is typically used in high-bandwidth applications and in long-haul network connections spread out over extended areas, including cable television and campus backbone applications. Telcos use it for connections between switching offices. Single-mode cable also provides higher bandwidth, so you can use a pair of single-mode fiber strands full-duplex at more than twice the throughput of multimode fiber.

Construction
Fiber optic cable consists of a core, cladding, coating, buffer strengthening fibers, and cable jacket.

The core is the physical medium that transports optical data signals from an attached light source to a receiving device. It is a single continuous strand of glass or plastic that’s measured (in microns) by the size of its outer diameter.

All fiber optic cable is sized according to its core’s outer diameter. The two multimode sizes most commonly available are 50 and 62.5 microns. Single-mode cores are generally less than 9 microns.

The cladding is a thin layer that surrounds the fiber core and serves as a boundary that contains the light waves and causes the refraction, enabling data to travel throughout the length of the fiber segment.

The coating is a layer of plastic that surrounds the core and cladding to reinforce the fiber core, help absorb shocks, and provide extra protection against excessive cable bends. These coatings are measured in microns (µ); the coating is 250µ and the buffer is 900µ.

Strengthening fibers help protect the core against crushing forces and excessive tension during installation. This material is generally Kevlar® yarn strands within the cable jacket.

The cable jacket is the outer layer of any cable. Most fiber optic cables have an orange jacket, although some types can have black, yellow, aqua or other color jackets. Various colors can be used to designate different applications within a network.

Simplex vs. duplex patch cables
Multimode and single-mode patch cables can be simplex or duplex.

Simplex has one fiber, while duplex zipcord has two fibers joined with a thin web. Simplex (also known as single strand) and duplex zipcord cables are tight-buffered and jacketed, with Kevlar strength members.

Because simplex fiber optic cable consists of only one fiber link, you should use it for applications that only require one-way data transfer. For instance, an interstate trucking scale that sends the weight of the truck to a monitoring station or an oil line monitor that sends data about oil flow to a central location.

Use duplex multimode or single-mode fiber optic cable for applications that require simultaneous, bidirectional data transfer. Workstations, fiber switches and servers, Ethernet switches, backbone ports, and similar hardware require duplex cable.

PVC (riser) vs. plenum-rated
PVC cable (also called riser-rated cable even though not all PVC cable is riser-rated) features an outer polyvinyl chloride jacket that gives off toxic fumes when it burns. It can be used for horizontal and vertical runs, but only if the building features a contained ventilation system. Plenum can replace PVC, but PVC cannot be used in plenum spaces.

“Riser-rated” means that the jacket is fire-resistant. However, it can still give off noxious fumes when overheated. The cable carries an OFNR rating and is not for use in plenums.

Plenum-jacketed cables have FEP, such as Teflon®, which emits less toxic fumes when it burns. A plenum is a space within the building designed for the movement of environmental air. In most office buildings, the space above the ceiling is used for the HVAC air return. If cable goes through that space, it must be “plenum-rated.”

Distribution-style vs. breakout-style
Distribution-style cables have several tight-buffered fibers bundled under the same jacket with Kevlar or fiberglass rod reinforcement. These cables are small in size and are typically used within a building for short, dry conduit runs, in either riser or plenum applications. The fibers can be directly terminated, but because the fibers are not individually reinforced, these cables need to be terminated inside a patch panel, junction box, fiber enclosure, or cabinet.

Breakout-style cables are made of several simplex cables bundled together, making a strong design that is larger than distribution cables. Breakout cables are suitable for riser and plenum applications.

Loose-tube vs. tight-buffered
Both loose-tube and tight-buffered cables contain some type of strengthening member, such as aramid yarn, stainless steel wire strands, or even gel-filled sleeves. But each is designed for very different environments.

Loose-tube cable is specifically designed for harsh outdoor environments. It protects the fiber core, cladding, and coating by enclosing everything within semi-rigid protective sleeves or tubes. Many loose-tube cables also have a water-resistant gel that surrounds the fibers. This gel helps protect them from moisture, so the cables are great for harsh, high-humidity environments where water or condensation can be a problem. The gel-filled tubes can also expand and contract with temperature changes. Gel-filled loose-tube cable is not the best choice for indoor applications.

Tight-buffered cable, in contrast, is optimized for indoor applications. Because it’s sturdier than loose-tube cable, it’s best suited for moderate-length LAN/WAN connections, or long indoor runs. It’s easier to install as well, because there’s no messy gel to clean up and it doesn’t require a fan-out kit for splicing or termination.

Indoor/outdoor cable
Indoor/outdoor cable uses dry-block technology to seal ruptures against moisture seepage and gel-filled buffer tubes to halt moisture migration. Comprised of a ripcord, core binder, a flame-retardant layer, overcoat, aramid yarn, and an outer jacket, it is designed for aerial, duct, tray, and riser applications.

Interlocking armored cable
This fiber cable is jacketed in aluminum interlocking armor so it can be run just about anywhere in a building. Ideal for harsh environments, it is rugged and rodent resistant. No conduit is needed, so it’s a labor- and money-saving alternative to using innerducts for fiber cable runs.

Outside-plant cable is used in direct burials. It delivers optimum performance in extreme conditions and is terminated within 50 feet of a building entrance. It blocks water and is rodent-resistant.

Interlocking armored cable is lightweight and flexible but also extraordinarily strong. It is ideal for out-of-the-way premise links.

Laser-optimized 10-Gigabit cable
Laser-optimized multimode fiber cable assemblies differ from standard multimode cable assemblies because they have graded refractive index profile fiber optic cable in each assembly. This means that the refractive index of the core glass decreases toward the outer cladding, so the paths of light towards the outer edge of the fiber travel quicker than the other paths. This increase in speed equalizes the travel time for both short and long light paths, ensuring accurate information transmission and receipt over much greater distances, up to 300 meters at 10 Gbps.

Laser-optimized multimode fiber cable is ideal for premise networking applications that include long distances. It is usually aqua colored.

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