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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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Black Box Explains... Basic Printer Switches

Mechanical—A mechanical switch is operated by a knob or by push buttons and uses a set of copper or gold-plated copper contacts to make a connection. The internal resistance created... more/see it nowby this type of connection will affect your signal’s transmission distance and must be taken into account when calculating cable lengths.

Electronic—Although electronic switches are controlled by knobs and pushbuttons like mechanical switches, the switching is accomplished with electronic gates not mechanical contacts. Electronic switches don’t have the internal resistance of a mechanical switch—some even have the ability to drive signals for longer distances. And since they don’t generate electronic spikes like mechanical switches, they’re safe for sensitive components such as HP® laser printers. Some electronic switches can be operated remotely. collapse


Black Box Explains…Fiber Ethernet adapters vs. media converters.

When running fiber to the desktop, you have two choices for making the connection from the fiber to a PC: a fiber Ethernet adapter or a media converter like our... more/see it nowMicro Mini Media Converter.

Fiber Ethernet adapters:

  • Less expensive.
  • Create no desktop clutter, but the PC must be opened.
  • Powered from the PC—require no separate power provision.
  • Require an open PCI or PCI-E slot in the PC.
  • Can create driver issues that must be resolved.
  • May be required in high-security installations that require a 100% fiber link to the desktop.

  • Media converters:
  • More expensive.
  • No need to open the PC but can create a cluttered look.
  • Powered from an AC outlet or a PC’s USB port.
  • Don’t require an open slot in the PC.
  • Plug-and-play installation—totally transparent to data, so there are no driver problems; install in seconds.
  • The short copper link from media converter to PC may be a security vulnerability.
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    Black Box Explains...Using repeaters to extend your network.

    A repeater is a signal regenerator. It amplifies and regenerates received data and relays data from one length of cable to another—this can be between two segments of the same... more/see it nowcable type (such as UTP to UTP) or between two lengths of entirely different cable types (such as UTP to ThinNet). Because repeaters operate at the Data Link layer of the OSI model, having too many repeaters on a network introduces delays and causes problems with signal timing. Ethernet allows a maximum of two IRLs (InterRepeater Links) between any two devices and up to four per network. A hub also counts as a repeater. (If simple media conversion is your goal, use media converters instead. For details, contact Tech Suport.)

    Repeaters boost distance by amplifying the signal.
    A repeater actually regenerates and amplifies the signal to gain distance. The repeater not only changes the media type, it also gives the signal a boost to send it over a longer distance.

    Repeaters boost distance through a change in media.
    In addition to amplifying the signal, a repeater can also add distance to your network by enabling you to change to a media type such as fiber that supports longer distances. collapse


    Black Box Explains...UARTs at a glance.

    Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitters (UARTs) are integrated circuits that convert bytes from the computer bus into serial bits for transmission. By providing surplus memory in a buffer, UARTs help applications overcome... more/see it nowthe factors that can hinder system performance, providing maximum throughput to high-performance peripherals without slowing down CPUs.

    Early UARTs such as 8250 and 16450 did not include buffering (RAM or memory). With the advent of higher-speed devices, the need for UARTs that could handle more data became critical. The first buffered UART was the 16550, which incorporates a 16-byte First In First Out (FIFO) buffer and provides greater throughput than its predecessors.

    Manufacturers have been developing enhanced UARTs that continue to increase performance standards. These faster chips provide improvements such as larger buffers and increased speeds. Here are the rates of today’s common UARTs:

    UART FIFO Buffer Rate Supported
    16550 16-byte 115.2 kbps
    16554 16-byte 115.2 kbps
    16650 32-byte 460.8 kbps (burst rate)
    16654 64-byte 460.8 kbps (burst rate)
    16750 64-byte 460.8 kbps (burst rate)
    16850 128-byte 460.8 kbps (sustained rate)
    16854 128-byte 460.8 kbps (sustained rate) collapse


    Black Box Explains...Serial ATA technology.

    Introduced in the mid 1980s, the Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) interconnect soon became the industry-standard parallel input/output bus interface for connecting internal storage devices. Ultra ATA, which builds on the... more/see it noworiginal parallel ATA interface, has become the most commonly used type of interconnect.

    But in recent years, sharing digital video and audio files over high-speed networks and other data-intensive uses has placed greater demands on hard drives, optical drives, and media-storage peripherals. So, not surprisingly, Ultra ATA now faces competition from a new technology—Serial ATA.

    As the name implies, this new interconnect uses a serial bus architecture instead of a parallel one. Serial ATA currently supports speeds up to 150 MBps. Further enhancements could to boost rates as high as 600 MBps.

    Compared with Ultra ATA, Serial ATA offers distinct advantages, including a point-to-point topology that enables you to dedicate 150 MBps to each connected device. Each channel can work independently and, unlike the “master-slave” shared bus of Ultra ATA, there’s no drive contention or interface bandwidth sharing.

    Compared with Ultra ATA’s parallel bus design, Serial ATA requires a single signal path for sending data bits and a second path for receiving acknowledgement data. Each path travels across a 2-wire differential pair, and the bus contains four signal lines per channel. Fewer interface signals means the interconnect cable requires less board space.

    Serial ATA also uses thinner cables (no more than 0.25" wide) that are available in longer lengths (up to 1 meter) as well as an improved connector design to reduce crosstalk. It also offers hot-swappable capabilities.

    Although Serial ATA can’t interface directly with earlier Ultra ATA devices, it complies fully with the ATA protocol, so software between the two interconnects is compatible. collapse


    Black Box Explains…SFP compatibility.

    Standards for SFP fiber optic media are published in the SFP Multi-Source Agreement, which specifies size, connectors, and signaling for SFPs, with the idea that all SFPs are compatible with... more/see it nowdevices that have appropriate SFP slots. These standards, which also extend to SFP+ and XFP transceivers, enable users to mix and match components from different vendors to meet their own particular requirements.

    However, some major manufacturers, notably Cisco®, HP®, and 3Com®, sell network devices with SFP slots that lock out transceivers from other vendors. Because the price of SFPs—especially Gigabit SFPs and 10GBASE SFP+ and XFP transceivers—can add significantly to the price of a switch, this lock-out scheme raises hardware costs and limits transceiver choices.

    Many vendors don’t advertise that SFP slots on their devices don’t accept standard SFPs from other vendors. This can lead to unpleasant surprises when a device simply refuses to communicate with an SFP.

    Another game that some vendors play is to build devices that accept open-standard SFPs, but refuse to support those devices when SFPs from another vendor are used with them.

    The only way around this “lock-in” practice is to only buy network devices that accept standard SFPs from all vendors and to buy from vendors that support their devices no matter whose SFPs are used with them. Questions? Call our FREE Tech Support at 724-746-5500. collapse


    Black Box Explains...Breakout-style cables.

    With breakout- or fanout-style cables, the fibers are packaged individually. A breakout cable is basically several simplex cables bundled together in one jacket. Breakout cables are suitable for riser and... more/see it nowplenum applications, and conduit runs.

    This differs from distribution-style cables where several tight-buffered fibers are bundled under the same jacket.

    This design of the breakout cable adds strength to the cable, although that makes it larger and more expensive than distribution-style cables.

    Because each fiber is individually reinforced, you can divide the cable into individual fiber lines. This enables quick connector termination, and eliminates the need for patch panels.

    Breakout cable can also be more economical because it requires much less labor to terminate.

    You may want to choose a cable that has more fibers than you actually need in case of breakage during termination or for future expansion. collapse


    Black Box Explains...Fiber connectors.

    • The ST® connector, which uses a bayonet locking system, is the most common connector.

    • The SC connector features a molded body and a push- pull locking system.

    • The FDDI... more/see it nowconnector comes with a 2.5-mm free-floating ferrule and a fixed shroud to minimize light loss.

    • The MT-RJ connector, a small-form RJ-style connector, features a molded body and uses cleave-and-leave splicing.

    • The LC connector, a small-form factor connector, features a ceramic ferrule and looks like a mini SC connector.

    • The VF-45™connector is another small-form factor connector. It uses a unique “V-groove“ design.

    • The FC connector is a threaded body connector. Secure it by screwing the connector body to the mating threads. Used in high-vibration environments.

    • The MTO/MTP connector is a fiber connector that uses high-fiber-count ribbon cable. It’s used in high-density fiber applications.

    • The MU connector resembles the larger SC connector. It uses a simple push-pull latching connection and is well suited for high-density applications.
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    Black Box Explains... Spread Spectrum wireless technology.

    Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum wireless communication provides error-free transmission, top security, and high levels of throughput without the need for an FCC site license. The key to Spread Spectrum is a... more/see it nowfrequency-hopping transceiver.

    Narrow-band frequency hoppers use a predefined algorithm to maintain synchronization and high throughput between master and remote modems. They achieve this by continually switching or “hopping” from one transmission frequency to another throughout the Spread Spectrum band. The sequence of frequencies is very difficult to predict and thus nearly impossible to eavesdrop on or jam. If interference is encountered at any particular frequency, the built-in error correction detects it and resends the data packet at the next frequency hop. Because EMI/RFI interference rarely affects the entire available bandwidth, and each frequency hop is at least 6 MHz, the radio transmitter has access to as many as 100 frequencies within the spectrum to avoid interference and ensure that data gets through. collapse

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