Knowing the Difference Between Single Mode and Multimode Fiber Cables

Sept. 27, 2023
Being aware of the distinctions between single mode and multimode cables is imperative.

In the industry there are many different types of cables being used all with various purposes and features. Among these types of cables are single mode and multimode fiber optical cables. So what’s the difference between the two?

Getting to the core

Single mode fiber cables have a smaller core from 8 to 10 micrometers and can only support one type of data transmission mode. This type of cable is preferred for long-haul installations and is generally more expensive to install.

Multimode fiber cables have a core of 50 or 62.5 micrometers, or even larger in diameter and can support multiple data transmission modes. Multimode fiber is used for shorter distances and are considered easier to install and align because of the larger cores.

Single Mode vs Multimode Fiber Cables: Bandwidth

One primary difference between single mode and multimode fiber optical cables is bandwidth. Due to the smaller size of the single mode fiber optic cable, only one signal of light can go through the fiber at a time. Because of this and the fact that they operate with lasers that work in wavelengths, the signal is stronger and can go a further distance than with multimode fiber cables.

Difference in distance and color

With multimode fiber cables the signal becomes degraded after a set distance depending on the grade type; this is not an issue with singlemode fiber cables. The grades for multimode cables are from OM1-OM5 with each grade having a different bandwidth capacity. Higher bandwidth enables a multimode fiber to support a longer transmission distance. For example, an OM1 cable will support 1 Gbit/sec for a distance of 100 ft or 33 m, while an OM4 cable will support 10 Gbits/sec for a distance of 1,312 ft or 400 m.

Another important distinction between both types of cables is in their color-coding. Singlemode cables are typically yellow, and multimode cables are usually aqua or orange.

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