A Guide to Multimode Fiber Types

Published on October 22, 2020 by Jace Waechter

Multimode fiber optic cable is a frequent choice for customers seeking high-speed, high-capacity bandwidth, and data transmission over short distances. For instance, multimode fiber connects governments and businesses to datacenters for data storage, backup and recovery, data management, and networking. However, choosing the right multimode fiber for your system applications can be tricky. If you didn’t already know, there is an array of multimode fiber types available on the market. For example, there are five different multimode fiber types: OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4, and OM5 multimode fiber cable.

With so many options, it can be tough to select the most suitable multimode cable for your network needs. You may find yourself asking – What’s the difference between OM1 multimode cable and OM5 multimode cable? What about all those other fiber types in between? And which one is right for my network? This quick read will have the answer.

What is Multimode Fiber?

Multimode fiber is versatile enough to support the most commonly used connector types. For example, a multimode cable can be paired with LC, SC, FC, and ST connectors. Single mode fiber has a much smaller glass core and uses only one mode of light. Multimode cable has a larger core diameter which enables it to transmit more data using multiple modes of light.

The letters “OM” stand for optical multi-mode. OM1 has a glass core diameter of 62.5μm (micrometers). The rest of the fiber types – OM2, OM3, OM4, and OM5 – have a smaller core diameter of 50μm, which is better optimized for use with modern lasers. But, most importantly, the practical differences between all the multimode fiber types are the various thresholds for carrying data over certain distances.

OM1 Patch Cable

  • OM1 – Usually comes in an orange jacket, according to industry color-coding standards, and can support a 10Gb Ethernet at lengths up to 33 meters (110 ft). This type commonly uses an LED light source.

OM2-OM3 Patch Cable

  • OM2 – Able to carry 10Gb Ethernet up to 82 meters (270 ft) on an LED light source. It can be found in orange and aqua jackets.
  • OM3 – Supports 10Gb Ethernet at lengths up to 300 meters. Instead of LED light, the OM3 cable’s design makes it optimized for laser transmission to help support 10Gb, 40Gb, and 100Gb Ethernet for up to 75 meters. OM3 cable is distinguished by an aqua jacket.

OM4 Patch Cable

  • OM4 – Sharing the same aqua jacket as OM3, OM4 also supports laser transmission and can carry 10Gb Ethernet up to distances of 550 meters or 100Gb up to 100 meters. Some versions of OM4 cable have a magenta jacket.

OM5 Patch Cable

  • OM5 – The latest iteration of the OM cable, OM5 packs some muscle that can carry high bandwidth for short to medium distances. What distinguishes OM5 from the rest is that it can achieve high bandwidth over short-range distances using fewer cables. Traditionally, 400Gb Ethernet was achieved using 16 transmit and receive cables, but with OM5 cables you can accomplish this with just four transmit and receive cables. It always comes in a lime-green jacket.

What makes OM5 Different?

When compared to the capabilities of an OM4 cable, OM5 does not look like it has many advantages other than its jacket color. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that OM5 supports a specific technology called short wavelength division multiplexing (SWDM4). In short, OM5 reduces the fiber count by at least a factor of four. For example, OM5 allows for the use of two fibers rather than 8 for transmitting 40Gb to 100Gb in short-range applications. Also, OM5 increases distance 50% over OM4 for customers using WDM (wavelength division multiplexer). This jump in distance is made possible through additional specifications of effective bandwidth and attenuation. To simplify, if you’re utilizing 40Gb to 100Gb SWDM, OM5 might be a solution for you. If not, go with the more affordable options of OM3 or OM4.

Contact the Megladon team today for help with all types of patch cable!

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About Megladon

A global industry leader in fiber optics and your premier partner for fiber optic connectivity, Megladon has spent over a decade developing fiber optic technology and perfecting the HLC interconnect. Our patented technology and process results in a reference grade interconnect that is reliable, rugged, repeatable and provides maximum performance. With millions of our products deployed worldwide, our fiber optic technology has been proven time and again to solve many of the problems encountered in network deployment and maintenance. We have also been able to use HLC as the foundation piece to develop unique and passive fiber optic solutions for our customers.