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Choose the Right Fiber Optic Cable for the Right Job

FIS Cable

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Simplex Cable

Duplex Cable

Ribbon Cable

Distribution Cable

Armored Cable

Loose Tube Cable

Indoor/Outdoor Cable

Breakout Cable

Furcation Tubing


Fiber Optic Cable Options

There are so many cable options available that one might wonder where to start. The following is a list of many of the different types of fiber optic cable and their specific uses.

Multimode or Singlemode Cable?

Multimode Cable - Applications: Multimode fiber is used to transport high volumes of data over relatively short distances (compared to single mode fiber). Common applications include Data Centers and other Local Area Network (LAN) applications. Note that multimode distance capabilities have increased over the years (see distance chart in centerfold). Multimode cable now offers an economical alternative to single mode cable for certain applications.

Design: Multimode cable has a relatively large core (either 50 or 62.5μm) that enables multiple streams of data to be transported simultaneously.

Singlemode Cable - Applications: Telcos and CATV companies use single mode cable to transport signals over long distances. Business campuses and other institutions also use single mode cable for longer cable runs, such as links between buildings.

Design: The core diameter of single mode fiber is so small (9μm) that it permits only one mode of light to pass through it at any given time. This character-istic reduces attenuation and enables light to be transmitted over great distances.

While the purchase price of single mode cable is less than multimode cable in general, single mode transceivers and network interfaces are generally more expensive than that used for multimode.

Simplex or Duplex Cable?

Simplex or Duplex Applications: Simplex and Duplex cables are typically used for patch cords and desktop installations that don’t require a high fiber count.

Design: Simplex cables contain a single 900μm coated fiber or a combination of a 900μm coated fiber surrounded by an aramid yarn strength member with an outer jacket diameter varying from 3, 2, 1.8 and 1.6mm.

Design: Duplex cables contain two 900μm coated fibers surrounded by an aramid yarn strength member with an outer jacket diameter varying from 3, 2, 1.8 and 1.6mm.

Loose Tube or Tight Buffer Cable?

Loose Tube Cable - Applications: Loose tube cable is ideal for use in long distance outside plant applications that require a high fiber count. The cable is designed to withstand harsh outdoor environments; the cable’s unjacketed fibers are free to expand and contract with temperature changes.

Design: Fibers within loose tube cables are surrounded by a water blocking component (either gel or a dry water-blocking material). Although loose tube cables are engineered to withstand damp outdoor environments, they are not designed to be submerged in water, but can come in contact with water.

Terminating Loose Tube Fibers - Fibers within gel-filled tube cable have a very thin tight buffer coating of only about 250μm in diameter. Before terminating, the fibers must be put into small plastic tubes (called a breakout kit or box). The tubes protect the thin fibers and make them easier to handle when terminating and connecting to network equipment.

Tight Buffer Cable - Applications: Tight buffer cable is typically used indoors. A tight buffer (cable jacket) encapsulates each fiber. The buffer enables the fibers to be directly terminated without requiring a breakout kit, which saves substantial time. Although optimized for indoor use, the robust construction of these cables offers advantages over loose tube in certain outdoor applications.

Design: Tight buffer cables have two protective coatings; a plastic jacket and acrylate tight buffer.

Distribution or Breakout Cable?

Distribution Cable - Applications: Distribution cable is ideal for networks that terminate multiple fibers at a common location, such as a patch panel or communications closet. Unlike breakout cable, fibers within a distribution cable don’t have their own individual cable jackets. This space-saving features enables up to 144 fibers to be bundled within the cable. “Micro Distribution” cable may contain up to 432 or more fibers. A disadvantage of micro-distribution cable is that the unjacketed fibers require the use of a breakout kit for termination.

Design - Distribution cable contains a number of 250μm - 900μm fibers that are color-coated for easy identification. The cable includes an aramid yarn strength member and a thick outer jacket that provides protection and strength during cable installation. If required, the cables can be purchased with interlocking armor.

Breakout Cable - Applications: Breakout cable is ideal for applications where fibers are connected directly to equipment, including local hubs. Also, the robust design of breakout cable makes them well suited for use as drop cables.

Design - Breakout cable differs from distribution cable in that each of the fibers in a breakout cable have their own cable jackets or “tight buffers” and can be terminated without requiring a breakout kit. This can save substantial time and installation cost.

One disadvantage of breakout cable is that the fiber jackets take up room within the cable, so breakout cable cannot contain as many fibers as distribution cable. Fiber counts for breakout cable are typically 2-24 fibers (maximum is 48 fibers).

Plenum or Riser Cable?

Plenum-Rated Cable: A plenum is a pathway used for circulating air within a building. Plenum Cable (OFNP) has a fire rating that allows it to be routed through a plenum.

Riser-Rated Cable: Riser Cable (OFNR) may be run between floors but NOT through a plenum.

LSZH Cables: Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH) cables produce minimal smoke or hazardous halogen compounds when burned.

Final Considerations when Choosing Fiber Optic Cable

Identify your cable pathways before ordering cable. This will enable you to determine the length of the cables you need as well as the degree of physical protec-tion the cables will require. Note that newer bend-insensitive optical fibers enable fiber optic cable to negotiate tight turns with little or no decrease in signal propagation. This new type of fiber greatly expands your cable path options.

It is highly recommended that you “future proof” your network by ordering cables that have a higher fiber count than you currently require. Optical fibers are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of installing them at a future date. Finally, whether you already know the exact type of cable you require, or still have some questions, that’s where our specially trained technical experts can assist you. Need something special? You can indicate all of the cable features you need and we will provide cables built to your specifications.

Contact us today we can assist you. or 1 800 5000 FIS (347)

Simplex Cable

A single cable structure with a single fiber. Simplex cable varieties include 1.6mm & 3mm jacket sizes.


Duplex Cable

This cable contains two optical fibers in a single cable structure. Light is not coupled between the two fibers; typically one fiber is used to transmit signals in one direction and the other receives.



Ribbon Cable

Consists of up to 12 fibers contained side by side within a single jacket. Often used for network applications and data centers.


Distribution Cable

This compact building cable consists of individual 900µm buffered fiber, is smaller in size and costs less than breakout cable. Connectors may be installed directly on 900µm buffered fiber at breakout box location.


Armored Cable

Armor cable serves a very important role in applications that require a rugged cable. Excellent crush and rodent resistance makes armored cable ideal for replacing the need for conduit in backbones in the campus or building as well as for data centers and industrial applications.


Breakout Cable

This cable consists of several simplex tight buffer fibers contained within an outer jacket. Breakout cable enables the quick installation of connectors onto 2+mm robust jacketed fiber.


Loose Tube Cable

Tube encloses multiple coated fibers that are surrounded by a gel compound that protects the cable from moisture in outside environments. Cable is restricted from indoor use, typically allowing entry not to exceed 50 feet.


Indoor/Outdoor Cable

This cable is suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications. One advantage of this cable is that it eliminates the need for a splice or connector at the point where the cable transitions between an outdoor and indoor environment.


Fiber Optic Mechanical Splice

Furcation Tubing

One of the main difficulties in working with bare fiber is that connectors will not terminate directly to the 250um Acrylate coating. The fiber needs to be “built up” in order to accept connectors. Furcation tubing fills this need and is integral to the termination of bare fiber, especially in loose tube applications. Furcation tubing is available in 900um, 2.0mm and 3.0mm options, typically.