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Fiber Face-Off: Field vs Factory Terminated Fiber Optic Cables

The terms ‘field terminated’ and ‘factory terminated’ are common for many fiber optic technicians, but the average person would not know the difference. A ‘terminated’ fiber optic cable is simply a cable with a connector attached to the end – the connector plugs into a network and transfers data via the cable. Field terminated cables allow valuable flexibility, but require highly skilled technicians and even then, quality can suffer. When flexibility is not needed and the fiber measurements are known, terminations that take place in a controlled environment like a factory tend to be more useful and reliable, especially for single mode applications.

Fiber technicians face important trade-offs when deciding on a termination method, so we will compare in detail the merits and choices between factory termination and field termination. 


Field Terminated Cables

If you do not have a reliable way to estimate distance, field termination is your best bet for your fiber network project. You can install as much cable as you need without coming up short or have too much ‘slack’ in the cable. Also, field splicing allows for pulling cable through tight spaces and conduit safely.  However, in-field work has many disadvantages. Field termination takes time and requires a fully stocked kit of specialized tools and supplies. The connectors themselves require OTDR field testing to ensure functionality. Field terminations require skill and precision – if not handled carefully this method can compound costs. Single mode applications run a higher risk of decreased quality than multimode applications.  If splicing is required for an application, we strongly advise that technicians buy pre-terminated 900um pigtails for optimum performance. 

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Factory Terminated Cables

A factory terminated fiber optic cable is a reliable way to ensure the quality of your network. A factory-installed cable, also known as pre-terminated fiber optic cable, is built to a specific length and fits perfectly in its application. The connector ferrule is polished to perfection, and epoxy is cured for the correct amount of time. Most importantly, there are no specs of dust or microscopic blemishes on the cable endface that could hinder data transmission. Factory terminated cables are the best way to ensure minimum insertion loss and overall quality. 

To use pre-terminated fiber optic cable, you must have your cable length measurements exact. Best practice suggests allowing enough slack in a cable for minor changes in the final configuration. If your project needs flexible cable length determination, field terminated cables are the only option.  You can buy pigtailed cables and trunks, allowing for one end to be factory terminated, and the other end to be spliced in the field.  This is a solution that allows the benefits of factory terminations on at least half of the installation and saves time for onsite installations. 


Photo of Singlemode Fiber Optic Pigtail Assembly with LCUPC connectors


What is the typical variation in IL (Insertion Loss) when comparing a factory terminated LCUPC connector and a field terminated splice-on style connector?

Factory-terminated connectors tend to have lower insertion loss values than field-terminated connectors because they are made in a controlled environment and undergo rigorous quality control testing. The typical insertion loss for a factory terminated standard LCUPC connector is around 0.3dB (Max) per connector.

On the other hand, field-terminated splice-on connectors can have insertion loss values that are significantly higher, up to 0.5dB per connector or higher. This also of course depending on the skill of the technician and the quality of the connector. It is also worth noting that insertion loss may also affected by other factors such as the type of fiber, connector and environmental factors (temperature, humidity, dust and so on), so it’s hard to provide a precise value without more details.

6 key advantages to using factory-terminated fiber optic cables as opposed to field-terminated connectors or spliced connectors:

  1. Overall reliability: Factory-terminated cables are less prone to human error and typically have a higher level of quality control, resulting in a more reliable connection.
  2. Consistency & repeatability: Factory-terminated cables are all made in the same way, typically in ISO certified facilities, ensuring consistency in connector quality and performance.
  3. Plug-and-play: Field termination and splicing take a significant amount of time, whereas factory-terminated cables can be quickly and easily plugged in, reducing installation time.
  4. Durability: Factory-terminated cables are less likely to be damaged during installation, compared to field-terminated connectors and spliced connectors, which can be affected by dust, moisture, and other environmental factors.
  5. Cost-effectiveness: Factory-terminated cables are typically less expensive in the long run, as they do not require the additional tools and equipment necessary for field termination and splicing.
  6. Q.C. Testing: Factory-terminated cables typically have been through testing and Quality control, this ensure the installation of an optic link will be of high quality and performance.


In the fiber optic industry, both factory terminations and field terminations have their place. Without the ability to terminate connections in the field, cost and often more importantly time would increase. Factory terminations are more consistent, reliable and save time in the field, meaning overall they are more cost-efficient. But, as in all industries, there are often unknowns leading up to a job and emergencies certainly happen where technicians need to be able to improvise. 

At Megladonwe have deployed millions of fiber assemblies worldwide since 2000, and both our processes and our products have proven to provide customers in any application with the quality and cost-effectiveness needed for successful fiber installations. Whether your project requires factory terminations or field terminations, contact us today to see the Megladon difference for yourself. 

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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.