Fiber Optic Cable Types: Comprehensive Guide

Fiber Optic Cable Types: Fiber Optic Cable Types

Fiber optic cables are popular for data transmission due to their high speed and durability. However, several types of fiber optic cables exist, each with its characteristics and uses.

These tiny yet powerful strands play a crucial role in our modern communication networks. But did you know that not all fiber optic cables are created equal? There are several different types, each designed for specific purposes and environments.

Let’s look at the different fiber optic cable types and how they work.

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Two Types of Fiber Optic Cable

There are two main types of fiber optic cables: single-mode fiber (SMF) and multimode fiber (MMF).

SMF has an extremely thin layer of core, measuring 8-9µm in diameter. Its small core size enables it to carry only one light signal or mode, making it ideal for long-distance transmission since it is not affected by fiber bending or stretching.

Multimode fibers have a larger fiber core, typically measuring 50µm and 62.5µm in diameter. This allows MMF to carry multiple light modes and transmit light and data at high speeds over short distances like coaxial cables.

How Do Fiber Optic Cables Work?

Fiber optic cables consist of a core, made of glass or plastic, and cladding, which is also made of glass or plastic. The glass core is surrounded by the cladding, which has a lower index of refraction.

This difference in refractive indices of glass fibers between the core and cladding creates total internal reflection, enabling data to be transmitted at high speeds.

What Are the Standard Core Sizes of Optical Fiber Cable?

single mode vs multimode fiber optic cables

The core of fiber optic cables is measured in microns (µm). The core size of multimode fiber cables is 50µmand 62.5µm, while single-mode fiber cables are measured in 8-9µm.  

What Is Single-Mode Fiber?

Single-mode fibers (SMFs) have thin core measuring 8-9µm. The small core size of the indoor fiber optic cable enables the fiber to carry only one light mode or optical signal. Unlike a copper cable, this optical fiber is used for long-distance data transmission to avoid incomplete data transmission.

What Is Multimode Fiber?

Multimode fiber (MMF) has a larger core, typically measuring 50µm to 62.5µm in diameter. This glass fiber can carry multiple light modes, allowing it to carry data at high speeds over short distances. MMF is commonly used for fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) and fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) networks.

Standard Wavelengths 

Fiber optic wavelength is measured in nanometers. Multimode fiber wavelengths are 850nm and 1300nm, while single-mode fiber wavelengths are 1310nm and 1550nm. 

Fiber optics carry different frequencies of light waves. The wavelength is like a light color, and fiber optic cables are typically made to transmit one of two colors: 850nm or 1310nm. These two colors are part of the near-infrared spectrum and are invisible to the human eye.

What Is the Difference Between 850NM & 1300NM Fiber Optic Cable?

difference between 850nm and 1300nm fiber optic cable

When using a multimode, 850nm fiber optic cable is the most common type of fiber used in transmission. It has a lower attenuation rate, meaning it can carry data light signals without losses. The 1300nm fiber optic cable is less common but has a higher bandwidth than traditional copper cables, making it better suited for high-speed transmission.

The 1310nm cable is the most popular single-mode fiber type because of its high bandwidth and ability to carry data over long distances.

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Optic Cable Types 

Single-Mode Fiber


OS1 or indoor fiber optic cables are typically used in local or indoor applications such as fiber to the desktop (FTTD), fiber to the home (FTTH), and fiber to the node (FTTN). Indoor fiber optic cables have tight buffer fiber coating for crush and fire resistance and are easier to install than loose-tube cables. The OS1 standard supports speeds up to 10G and distances up to about 10km (6 miles).


OS2 fiber optic cables are typically used in long-haul or outdoor applications such as fiber optic backbone and fiber optic backhaul lines. Their loose-tube cable design makes them more flexible and simplifies installation in ducts and conduits. The OS2 standard supports speeds up to 100G and distances up to about 200km (124 miles) loose tube construction.

Multimode Cable Type


OM1 fiber cable is the most common type of fiber used in local area networks and private networks. It has a core diameter of 62.5 microns (µm) and can support data rates up to 1Gbps at distances at an 850nm wavelength and distances of 300 meters. An orange outer jacket defines the OM1 cable.


OM2 fiber optic cables enhance the original OM1 fiber. The only difference is that it has a core diameter of 50 µm, which allows it to support data rates up to 1Gbps at 850nm wavelength and distances of 600 meters, which is twice the distance of OM1. It has the same orange jacket as OM1 fiber.


OM3 fiber cables, also known as laser-optimized multimode cables, are commonly used in larger private fiber networks and can easily be identified by their aqua jacket color. The main difference between OM2 and OM3 fiber is that the core of an OM3 fiber is 50 µm, which allows it to support data rates up to 10Gbps at 850nm wavelength and distances of up to 300 meters.


Another laser-optimized multimode cable, the OM4 optic fibers, can support data rates up to 10Gbps at an 850nm wavelength and distance of 550 meters. They can also support 10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-SW, and 10GBASE-LW applications. The fiber is identified with an aqua-colored jacket.


The OM5 fiber optic cables are a newer fiber type designed to support Short Wavelength Division Multiplexing (SWDM).

These optical fiber cables use a wider range of wavelengths between 850nm and 953nm, allowing them to support 40GBASE-SR4, 100GBASE-SR10, and 100GBASE-SW4 fiber applications. The fiber is typically identified with a lime green jacket color. OM5 is fully compatible with OM3 and OM4 cabling, which can adapt to a wide range of wavelengths between 850 and 953nm.


What are the four types of fiber optic connectors?

Common fiber optic connectors include SC (Subscriber Connector), LC (Lucent Connector), ST (Straight Tip), and MTP/MPO (Multi-Fiber Termination Push-On). Each connector type has its own design and application suitability, catering to different connection requirements of optical fibers. 

What is the most common type of fiber optic cable?

The most common type of fiber optic cable depends on the application. Multimode fiber (MMF) is often used for general purposes due to its lower cost and suitability for shorter distances in data centers. However, single-mode cable is more prevalent in long-distance and high-bandwidth applications.

How do I know what type of fiber optic cable I have?

To determine the type of fiber optic cable you have, check any documentation provided with the cable or look for markings on the cable jacket. Additionally, you can visually inspect the characteristics of the outdoor or indoor fiber optic cable, such as fiber core diameter, color-coded, and construction, to help identify its type.

Arrange Your Fiber Optic Cabling Consultation

Do you have any questions about selecting the right fiber optic cable type for an upcoming installation? 

We would be delighted to help. Contact us today for a free consultation and no-obligation quote.

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The Network Installers is a low voltage electrical contractor that provides data cabling, network installation, fiberoptic installation, and WIFI installation. We've been serving commercial customers since 2008 with exceptional quality, consistency, and professionalism.


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