Comparing Optical Fiber Types: OM3 vs. OM4 vs. OS2

Comparing Optical Fiber Types: OM3 vs. OM4 vs. OS2

Fiber-optic cabling is progressively supplanting copper in numerous network infrastructures. Historically utilized by carriers for long-distance connectivity and high-speed backbones, fiber optics now extend to the “last mile,” linking customers directly to carrier networks. Organizations leverage fiber for campus networks, data center backbones, and scenarios requiring high speeds, vast bandwidth, and extended transmission distances. While fiber-optic cables, terminations, and components initially incur higher costs compared to copper, the expense disparity with high-speed copper can be minimal. However, fiber promises long-term cost savings through reduced maintenance and future-proof network capabilities.

How Fiber Optic Cables Function

Fiber-optic cables transmit data using light pulses, unlike copper cables that employ electronic pulses. In fiber optic systems, a transmitter at one end converts coded electronic pulse data into light pulses, generated by light-emitting diodes (LEDs), vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), or injection-laser diodes (ILDs). These pulses are then directed into the cable via a lens. The core of the fiber-optic cable possesses reflective properties, enabling light to travel along its length, even through bends. At the receiving end, a receiver decodes the light pulses back into electronic form.

Fiber-optic cabling comes in single-mode and multimode varieties. Single-mode fiber transmits a single light mode through a narrow core as small as 8.3 microns, facilitating longer distances and higher speeds but requiring costlier laser sources. In contrast, multimode fiber, with a larger core of 50 to 100 microns, supports cheaper LED or VCSEL light sources and accommodates multiple light modes, making it suitable for shorter-distance applications demanding greater data throughput, such as local area networks (LANs).

Types of Fiber Optic Cables

Standards like ISO/IEC 11801 and EIA/TIA define single-mode (OS1 and OS2) and multimode (OM1, OM2, OM3, and OM4) fiber optic cables. OS2, OM3, and OM4 are particularly relevant today.

What is OS2 Fiber:

Designed for single-mode applications, OS2 fiber enables transmission rates from 1Gb to 10Gb over distances ranging from 5,000 meters to 10 kilometers. It can be constructed using blown or loose-tube methods, the former involving the use of compressed air to install fibers through micro-ducts swiftly, and the latter using plastic buffer tubes to protect strands, ideal for underground installations.

What is OM3 and OM4 Fiber:

These multimode fiber cables utilize VCSELs and support transmission rates of 10Gb and beyond. OM3 delivers 10Gb up to 300m and 100Gb up to 100m, while OM4 extends these distances by 50 percent. Previously, OM1 and OM2 cables with LED sources were prevalent in conventional Ethernet networks.

Fiber-Optic Solutions from Idealink/Idex

Choosing the right fiber-optic cabling depends on specific project needs. At Idealink/Idex, our experts provide comprehensive assistance in selecting components tailored to your requirements. We offer a variety of single-mode and multimode fiber cabling with different fiber counts and lengths, color-coded to industry standards for easy identification. Our products include MSA-compliant transceivers, adapters for precise connector alignment, and panels/cassettes for simplified installation and enhanced cabling performance. Explore our range of network cabling solutions and contact us today to discuss how we can support your project.

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