Fiber 101: Best practices for purchasing fiber optic cables

 The demand for fiber optic cable continues to increase. In fact, U.S. consumers are expected to spend approximately $3.5 billion on the product in 2018, according to projections from Research and Markets. Why? Fiber optics far outperform alternative cabling solutions, shuttling data from point to point at unparalleled speed. Businesses looking to develop ultrafast networks and remain competitive are increasingly swapping their Ethernet and copper lines for this bleeding-edge technology.

Before hopping aboard the fiber optics bandwagon, potential buyers should familiarize themselves with purchasing best practices. Here are some of those commonly used strategies:

1. Consider the options 

There multiple types of fiber optic cable. Most enterprise implementations include one of three specific fiber optic cable models: single mode, multimode step index or multimode graded index. Single-mode solutions leverage thin glass fiber cores to transmit single rays of light, or modes. These cables are ideal for long-distance connections as their compact cores make them less susceptible to attenuation, or the loss of signal strength. However, the complex production methods required to manufacture single-mode fiber make it more expensive than its multimode relatives.

Multimode fiber solutions feature large cores that facilitate the transmission of multiple modes. These products can transport more data than single-mode offerings but do so at slower speeds and with an increased risk of attenuation. For these reasons, most users incorporate multimode fiber optic cables into short-range networks. These cables normally come with either step or graded index cladding. Multimode fiber of the former type refracts modes in an angular fashion with considerable dispersion, while cable of the latter variety refracts light rays in a more gradual manner, leading to less dispersion.

These three solutions dominate the marketplace, but several other fiber optic offerings, including hybrid cables that combine single- and multi-mode lines.

2. Understand the installation demands

Fiber optic cables are used in both indoor and outdoor implementations, with each setup requiring a unique installation. Organizations putting into place outside-plant, or OSP, networks normally leverage single-mode solutions, which are buried, according to the Fiber Optic Association. Underwater OSP implementations are also common, the most prominent example being the submarine fiber optic cabling that span the Atlantic Ocean and facilitate international networking.

On-premises installations are equally as complicated. Instead of navigating natural obstacles, adopters must design networks that function properly in existing structures and meet building codes. Indoor applications centered on local area networks, or LANS, are most common. In many cases, businesses installing on-premises fiber use such solutions in conjunctions with Ethernet or copper cables. Though, centralized fiber cabling, which does not require grounding, power or temperature control, is becoming more common. However, virtually all on-premises adopters, regardless of implementation methodologies, use multimode fiber.

Fiber installers usually offer specialized services centered on either OSP or on-premises applications. Very few do both due to the wildly different work requirements associated with each implementation type.

3. Find the right fiber provider

There are countless fiber optic cable providers on the market. Unfortunately, product quality and support vary significantly. Additionally, many networking resource providers have only recently begun offering fiber to meet the recent rise in demand. With this in mind, companies embracing fiber should carefully vet potential partners and pinpoint vendors that offer proven solutions, prompt technical support and fast shipping options. Businesses investing serious resources in fiber-based network upgrades, especially those doing so for the first time, should not accept anything less.

Organizations that adhere to these fiber optics-purchasing best practices can implement advanced, in-demand networks that support efficiency and productivity, without weighing on the bottom line.

Is your organization prepared to embrace fiber optic technology? Consider working with LAN Shack. We specialize in pre-terminated fiber optic assemblies designed to support businesses of all sizes, in every industry. Contact us today to learn how we've been helping enterprises stay connected for more than 20 years.