Fiber optic cables have different types of mechanical connections. The type of connection determines the quality of the fiber optic lightwave transmission. The different types we’ll discuss here are the flat-surface, Physical Contact (PC), Ultra Physical Contact (UPC), and Angled Physical Contact (APC).
The original fiber connector is a flat-surface connection or a flat connector. When mated, an air gap naturally forms between the two surfaces from small imperfections in the flat surfaces. The back reflection in flat connectors is about -14 dB or roughly 4%.
As technology progresses, connections improve. The most common connection now is the PC connector. Physical Contact connectors are just that—the end faces and fibers of two cables actually touch each other when mated.
In the PC connector, the two fibers meet, as they do with the flat connector, but the end faces are polished to be slightly curved or spherical. This eliminates the air gap and forces the fibers into contact. The back reflection is about -40 dB. This connector is used in most applications.
An improvement to the PC is the UPC connector. The end faces are given an extended polishing for a better surface finish. The back reflection is reduced even more to about -55 dB. These connectors are often used in digital, CATV, and telephony systems.
The latest technology is the APC connector. The end faces are still curved but are angled at an industry-standard eight degrees. This maintains a tight connection, and it reduces back reflection to about -70 dB. These connectors are preferred for CATV and analog systems.
PC and UPC connectors have reliable, low insertion losses. But their back reflection depends on the surface finish of the fiber. The finer the fiber grain structure, the lower the back reflection. And when PC and UPC connectors are continually mated and remated, back reflection degrades at a rate of about 4 to 6 dB every 100 matings for a PC connector. APC connector back reflection does not degrade with repeated matings.