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Fiber Type and Performance

As fiber becomes more widely deployed in premises applica- 1000 m; however, link lengths greater than about
tions, a system designer should evaluate both multimode and 550 m will require single-mode fiber to provide
single-mode optical fiber to ensure the system meets present 10 Gb/s scalability. Ethernet systems are inclu-
requirements and those of future upgrades. Data rates sively standardized as IEEE 802.3. To date there is
increase as new applications are being created. The system only one copper media solution for 10 Gigabit
designer can allow for bandwidth scalability by installing Ethernet, 10GBASE-CX4, which requires a factory-
optical fiber instead of other media. Use of optical fiber maxi- terminated twin-axial cable for a maximum 15 m
mizes the prospects of ensuring compatibility with all future distance. Twin-axial cable consists of a thick bun-
applications. dle of eight separately shielded twin-axial cable
The purpose of this chapter is to familiarize the reader with
fiber types and performance requirements needed to support Token Ring
local area network (LAN) and storage area network (SAN)
applications commonly used in premises networks and data Token Ring is a ring-based network application
centers and to describe considerations necessary to ensure used for data transmission. It operates at either
bandwidth scalability for future upgrades. 4 Mb/s or 16 Mb/s at the 850 nm operating
wavelength. Token Ring uses a “token” to pass
Applications data between stations. Only the station that has
the token can transmit data. It uses twisted cop-
Six primary network applications are in use today. Each one per pairs (shielded and unshielded) or optical
operates somewhat differently from the others and some are fiber as the transmission medium. Token Ring is
interrelated. The systems are Ethernet, Token Ring, Fiber based on the IEEE 802.5 Standard.
Distributed Data Interface (FDDI), Fibre Channel,
Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), and Synchronous Optical FDDI
Network (SONET). Some of these are designed for data trans-
mission only. Others can carry voice, data and video signals Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) is a dual-
simultaneously despite the huge difference in the transmis- ring (counter-rotating), token-based network
sion rates for these three types of signals. This chapter will application for data and digital video transmis-
cover the transmission requirements for each application. sions. It was designed to accommodate higher
data rates over longer distances with increased
Ethernet reliability over previous applications. It operates
at 100 Mb/s using two rings; one ring for the sig-
Ethernet is used primarily for data transmission. It originally nal and one ring as a backup in case of node or
began as a bus-based application with coaxial cable as the cable failure. It operates at 1300 nm and was
primary bus medium, but fiber replaced coax to extend originally written for 62.5/125 µm multimode
usable distance. Ethernet is now predominantly deployed in fiber, but 50/125 µm multimode fiber can also be
switch networks. Ethernet versions using fiber are 10BASE-F used.
(10 Mb/s), 100BASE-F (100 Mb/s), 100BASE-5 (100 Mb/s),
1000BASE-S (1000 Mb/s), 1000BASE-L (1000 Mb/s), 10GBASE-S Fibre Channel
(10 Gb/s), 10GBASE-L (10 Gb/s), 10GBASE-LX4 (10 Gb/s),
10GBASE-E (10 Gb/s). New intrabuilding fiber installations Fibre Channel is a high-performance serial link
usually operate over multimode fiber at application with data rates of 1 Gb/s, 2 Gb/s,
1000 Mb/s (gigabit) with 850 nm transceivers. With such 4 Gb/s and 10 Gb/s. The standard specifies multi-
installations, scalability to 10 Gb/s should be considered mode fiber and single-mode fiber as the primary
desirable. Campus backbone applications running Gigabit media type. The fiber type recommended
Ethernet over multimode fiber may achieve link lengths up to depends on the desired distance and data rate.

© 2006 Corning Cable Systems 3.1 Design Guide

Fiber Type and Performance

The primary application is for data center SANs over multi- End Equipment
mode fiber operating at 850 nm, such as laser-optimized
50/125 µm multimode fiber. Links between buildings may Span length, application and data rate are the
require single-mode fiber. determining factors in the selection of fiber type
and end equipment. All must be considered in
ATM order to make the best overall selection.
Multimode fiber is appropriate for the majority
Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is designed to allow the of premises applications, as the associated opto-
efficient transmission of data between networks. If a user electronic transmission equipment is usually
multiplexes voice (low-rate), data (medium-rate), and video more economical than that for single-mode sys-
(high-rate) signals over the same system, the system must be tems. Analysis of a specific system design will
capable of handling the signal that requires the highest lead to the selection of the most suitable fiber
information rates (probably video). ATM efficiently uses the type and end equipment, after which detailed
available bandwidth by packaging the inputs from voice, data consideration of the optical parameters for both
and video sources into a series of 53-byte packets (5 bytes for fiber and system is necessary.
addressing, 48 bytes of information) for transmission and
switching at a rate that is compatible with the connecting The following is a discussion of the nature and
network. ATM can operate at different speeds using the same meaning of those optical parameters with which
packet system and automatically adjusts to the network the designer should be familiar.
speed of the addressee. As system requirements change, so
can the data rate to meet those requirements. The data rates Transmitters
range from 52 Mb/s to
2.5 Gb/s. The transmitter is an electronic device that
receives an electrical signal, converts it into a
SONET light signal and launches the signal into a fiber.
The transmitter can be a light emitting diode
Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) is an optical multi- (LED) or a laser. The common characteristics of
plexing hierarchy for the transmission of voice, data and/or these light sources influencing fiber selection are
video over single-mode fiber. SONET uses a base rate of 51.84 center wavelength and spectral width.
Mb/s with higher data rates in multiples of the base rate.
SONET is not a network application in and of itself, but rather LEDs are inexpensive when compared to most
a system for coordinating and integrating different applica- lasers and are primarily used with multimode
tions and networks over wide areas. SONET takes an incom- fiber because they emit light in a broad cone
ing multiplexed signal and reformats it to an electrical signal that can only be captured efficiently by the large
called a Synchronous Transport Signal (STS). The numerical aperture of multimode fiber. LEDs
electrical signal is then converted to an Optical Carrier (OC) have a maximum modulation rate of 300 MHz,
signal. For example, an STS-1 electrical signal would be con- which translates to a 655 Mb/s data rate. For sys-
verted to an OC-1 optical signal. The OC signal has the same tems operating at > 655 Mb/s, lasers must be
rate, format and functions as the STS signal. The SONET sig- used. A typical output power for an LED source is
nal can assume the same format as another application such -12 dBm.
as ATM, Ethernet or FDDI.
Fabry perot (FP) lasers and distributed feedback
Many of the developing high-data-rate applications are bas- (DFB) lasers emit light in a very narrow beam,
ing their transmission criteria on the SONET transmission making them ideal for use with the small
scheme. numerical aperture of single-mode fiber. These
may also be used for multimode systems operat-
ing at 1300 nm.

Design Guide 3.2 © 2006 Corning Cable Systems

Fiber Type and Performance

Vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs) emit light in a

larger spot size than FP or DFB lasers but in a much smaller
beam than an LED. Because their cost is closer to that of an
LED, VCSELs provide the optimum solution for high-bit-rate (Ž
1 Gb/s) 850 nm serial operation over 50/125 µm multimode

Center Wavelength


Optical fiber transmitters are characterized by the wave-

length at which they emit light. The nominal emission wave-
length is called the center wavelength of the transmitter,
although the transmitted signal is actually a collection of
wavelengths around this nominal value. The center wave-
length is primarily a function of the type and configuration of
the materials used to fabricate the transmitter. It is usually
expressed in nanometers (nm). LEDs with center wavelengths
at 850 nm or 1300 nm have been in wide use for many years
and the transmission specifications for multimode fiber are
given at these two wavelengths. Laser transmitters for single-
mode systems operate at center wavelengths of 1310 nm or
1550 nm; thus single-mode fibers carry specifications for Wavelength (nm)
transmission at these two wavelengths. VCSELs operate at a
Figure 3.1 – Spectral Profile Comparison, Laser and LED
center wavelength of 850 nm over multimode fiber. for 850 nm Transmission

Spectral Width

The total power produced by an optical transmitter is not

confined to just the center wavelength. It is distributed over a Maximum

range of wavelengths spread about the center wavelength.

This range is quantified as the spectral width, Dl, measured

in nanometers (nm), and it impacts the overall transmission One-Half
capacity of a fiber optic link (Figure 3.1). Spectral width is usu- Full-Width, Half-Maximum

ally expressed as a full-width, half-maximum (FWHM) value (FWHM) Spectral Width

(Figure 3.2). Transmitter specifications include a specification Wavelength (nm)

for spectral width. For LEDs, typical FWHM values for
Figure 3.2 – Pulse Width of a Light Source Showing Full-Width,
spectral width will be 30-50 nm; while for VCSELs, it would Half-Maximum (FWHM)
typically be 0.2-0.4 nm; and for FP lasers, it would typically be
1-3 nm. Figure 3.3 shows characteristics of a VCSEL.


As with transmitters, each piece of optical fiber transmission

equipment contains a receiver. Nearly all types of receivers
used in optical fiber systems incorporate a photodetector
such as a photodiode to convert the incoming optical signal
back to an electrical signal. The operating wavelength of the

© 2006 Corning Cable Systems 3.3 Design Guide

Fiber Type and Performance

receiver matches that of the transmitter. A receiver designed electrical current. The magnitude of this time
for 1300 nm operation is not suitable for use at 850 nm. depends on the material and design of the pho-
todetector. The longer the response time, the
Data Rate lower the data rate that can be successfully
transmitted. (Figure 3.4).
The data rate is the maximum number of bits per second Another factor is the relationship between the
that can be transmitted and received with a bit error rate size of the photodetector and the response time
(BER) below a certain level. A typical BER is one error in 1012 of that detector. The larger the photodetector,
pulses. the more light from the optical fiber it will cap-
ture, making alignment less critical. A larger pho-
The typical sources used in premises applications are directly todetector has a slower response time, however.
modulated (DM). These sources can be LEDs or lasers, such as The numerical aperture of the receiver should be
a VCSEL. They are called directly modulated because the properly matched to the numerical aperture of
source itself turns on and off. Contrast this to an external the optical fiber to obtain optimal performance.
modulated (EM) laser which is always on and the light is The two main types of receivers are the PIN and
modulated by an external source. EM lasers perform better the avalanche photodetector. The PIN is the most
than DM sources but also cost much more. The performance widely used and economical solution.
of DM sources is suitable for most premises applications.
These lasers are used because they perform adequately and Dynamic Range
cost less. For directly modulated sources, the limiting factors
Bit errors can also occur when too much or too
little light strikes the photodetector. The
response of a photodetector is linear only within
a certain range of power levels. This is called the
dynamic range. Exceeding the linear response
Data Rate

area (dynamic range) for a given photodetector

causes it to generate a non-proportional amount
of electrical current. If the dynamic range is
exceeded, the receiver is saturated. An optical
attenuator can be placed at the receiver in line
with the optical fiber to reduce the amount of
Dl )(
Spectral Width
received light power. The receiver sensitivity
Response Time
Long specifies the minimum power level required. A
typical value would be -17 dBm for 1 Gb/s
Figure 3.4 – Relationship Between Spectral Width,
Response Time and Data Rate Ethernet operation at
850 nm.

are the time required for a light to turn on (rise time) and Operating Wavelength
turn off (fall time) for each pulse. The rise time is typically the
time required for the light output to rise from 10 to 90 per- Operating wavelength is another important
cent of the maximum level. The fall time is the reverse. Often parameter in system design. Multimode fiber is
the rise and fall times are the same; however, the longer of optimized for operation in two windows:
these two quantities is considered the response time. A typi-
cal value might be a few nanoseconds. • 850 nm
• 1300 nm
The receiver also has a rise and fall time that can limit the
data rate. Photodetectors take a finite time to respond to Attenuation is lower at 1300 nm than at 850 nm.
changes in light levels (on and off pulses) and generate an Legacy 62.5/125 µm multimode fiber was opti-

Design Guide 3.4 © 2006 Corning Cable Systems

Fiber Type and Performance

mized with respect to bandwidth at 1300 nm to take advan- specifies mechanical, geometric and optical char-
tage of this lower attenuation. As data rates have increased, acteristics for laser-optimized 50/125 µm multi-
multimode systems are now less likely to be attenuation-lim- mode fiber. The fiber has been fully adopted into
ited and more likely to be bandwidth-limited due to modal TIA/EIA-568-B.3 and IEC-11801.
dispersion. VCSELs which operate at 850 nm have prompted
the development of laser-optimized 50/125 µm multimode Selection of the appropriate multimode fiber
fiber which can extend the achievable distance at high-data- type for a given application should be made on
rates while still taking advantage of the overall lower system the basis of current and anticipated future band-
costs associated with multimode fiber. width and link length requirements. Future link
lengths may increase over those of the initial
Dispersion unshifted single-mode fiber having a low attenua- installation due to cable plant expansions or
tion in the water peak region as specified in ITU-T G.652.D equipment moves, adds or changes. There are
and TIA/EIA-492-CAAB is designed for operation in the 1310 currently multiple bandwidth measures used to
nm and 1550 nm regions; however, there is a tradeoff at each predict multimode fiber system performance.
wavelength region. The attenuation at 1550 nm is generally Until recently, 62.5/125 µm multimode fiber has
lower than that at 1310 nm. The chromatic dispersion, howev- been the dominant fiber type used in LAN instal-
er, is much higher at 1550 nm than at 1310 nm. For premises lations. These legacy multimode systems were
applications, TIA/EIA-568-B.1, Commercial Building designed for use with LED sources which create
Telecommunications Cabling Standard, and IEC 11801, Generic an overfilled launch (OFL) condition. The system
Cabling for Customer Premises, recommend the use of disper- performance of fiber operating with LED sources
sion unshifted single-mode fiber because premises communi- is best characterized by the OFL bandwidth test
cation standards are designed for operation at 1310 nm. The method described in TIA/EIA-455-204. With the
10 Gb/s Ethernet Standard specifies operation at 1310 nm and migration toward higher-data-rate systems oper-
1550 nm with dispersion unshifted single-mode fiber having ating with laser light sources, fiber bandwidth
a low water peak. measurements techniques have evolved and
have been adopted into standards which better
Optical Fiber Specifications characterize system performance under laser
launch conditions. TIA/EIA-455-204 and IEC
There are two major classifications of fiber. In general, multi- 60793-1-41 specify a bandwidth test method
mode fiber is best suited for premises applications, where using restricted mode launch (RML) conditions
links are short and there are many connectors. The higher characteristic of VCSEL sources. This method has
numerical aperture of multimode fiber allows the use of rela- been shown to provide a suitable bandwidth
tively inexpensive LED and VCSEL transmitters. Single-mode measure for systems operating at 1 Gb/s.
fiber is best suited for long distance systems.
For systems operating at data rates greater than
The standard types of multimode fiber in North America are 1 Gb/s, TIA/EIA-455-220 and IEC 60793-1-49 band-
50/125 µm and 62.5/125 µm optical fiber. These fiber types are width test methods are used which include a
recognized by TIA/EIA-568-B.3 and IEC 11801. TIA/EIA-568-B.3 series of small spot size launches (approximately
also recognizes single-mode optical fiber for backbone 5 µm) indexed across the fiber core. Measurements
cabling. TIA/EIA-492AAAA, TIA/EIA-492AAAB, and TIA/EIA- are made of the output pulse time delay and
492CAAB specify mechanical, geometrical and optical charac- mode coupling power of the fiber as a function
teristics for 62.5/125 µm, 50/125 µm and single-mode fibers of radial position (Figure 3.5). These measure-
respectively. ments are referred to as differential mode delay
(DMD) measurements. Data from these measure-
Laser-optimized 50/125 µm multimode fiber is designed for ments can be analyzed by two methods to deter-
850 nm operation at 1 Gb/s and higher. The fiber supports mine whether the fiber meets the effective modal
10 GbE and 10 Gb/s Fibre Channel system operation at bandwidth (EMB) requirement of a specific appli-
850 nm for distances up to 550 meters. TIA/EIA-492-AAAC cation.

© 2006 Corning Cable Systems 3.5 Design Guide

Fiber Type and Performance

mM ultimode Fiber
Multimode Fiber performance, EMB is calculated for 10 actual
laser sources which have been determined to
Core Core of Fiber
of Fiber
represent the performance extremes of 10,000
At each position, the
At sporposition,
each excites a dif-
standards-compliant 10 Gb/s VCSELs. Of these 10
Light Source:
Light Source:
ferent subsets
input of mode a
spot excites sources, the one yielding the lowest EMBc value
The laser The laser is
source is
different subset of
into ainto a
mode groups is taken to represent the minimum expected per-
patch cord, whichpatchis scanned
across the which is core By
By measuring
measuringthe dealy
formance level of all standards-compliant
scanned across the
fiber’s core
delayTx time
versusTposition X
x versus
we can deduce mode ded
X we can
VCSELs, and the EMBc value associated with this
mode delays
delays and
and index index
erros source is therefore referred to as the minimum
calculated EMB or minEMBc.

5 µm The primary advantage of the minEMBc method

Figure 3.5 – Measurement of Differential Mode Delay
over the DMD mask method is that the minEMBc
method guarantees standards-compliant fiber
performance under worst case source/fiber
interactions while providing an actual value of
The first method for translating DMD measurements into an
bandwidth in the scalable units of MHz•km. The
EMB prediction is commonly referred to as the DMD mask
minEMBc value can then be used to calculate bit
approach, where the leading and trailing edges of each pulse
rates and link lengths for systems requiring EMB
are recorded and normalized in power relative to each other.
values other than a minimum
This normalization approach reduces the raw DMD data to
2000 MHz•km.
focus exclusively on time delay, where the overall fiber delay
is calculated as the difference between the times for the
Corning Cable Systems recommends that multi-
slowest trailing edge and the fastest leading edge in units of
mode fiber intended for current or future use at
ps/m. In order for a fiber to be determined as meeting the
data rates Ž 1 Gb/s should be specified according
required minimum value of 2000 MHz•km EMB at 850 nm as
to minEMBc values rather than pass/fail per-
specified for 10 GbE systems in IEEE 802.3ae, the DMD data
formance indicated by the DMD mask method.
must conform to one of six templates or masks and must not
show a DMD measurement greater than 0.25 ps/m for any of
four specified radial offset intervals. It should be noted that
Optical Fiber Distance Capability
this method provides only a pass/fail estimation against the
As previously noted, the best fiber to use for an
2000 MHz•km requirement.
application depends upon a variety of factors
including link length, selection of electronics and
The newer method for predicting EMB from DMD data is
system scalability requirements. Therefore, the
called calculated effective modal bandwidth (EMBc). As men-
maximum distance capability of the fiber for a
tioned, the DMD measurement characterizes a single fiber’s
given application must be considered. Figures 3.6
modal performance in high detail, including both modal time
through 3.10 give detailed indications of the link
delay and coupling as a function of radial position. With
length limitations by fiber type for various appli-
EMBc, the fiber’s performance is then characterized by a
series of representative sources which are chosen to span
across a range of 10,000 standards-compliant 10 Gb/s VCSELs.

Conceptually, this is done by weighting the individual DMD

launches to approximate the radial intensity distribution of
any desired VCSEL. Those weightings are then combined with
the raw DMD data to construct an output pulse for that
fiber/laser combination. The resultant output pulse can then
be used to calculate EMB in units of MHz•km. To ensure field

Design Guide 3.6 © 2006 Corning Cable Systems

Fiber Type and Performance

Fiber Type Recommendations


Corning Cable Systems recommends the use of 50/125 µm

fiber for building backbone, campus backbone, horizontal
cabling, centralized cabling and data centers. This allows the
user to operate at slower speeds initially but to move to
higher-data-rate laser-based systems as bandwidth demands
increase. Depending upon fiber grade selection, this
approach will provide an upgrade path to 1 Gb/s for a dis-
tance of 600 to 1000 m and to 10 Gb/s for distances of at
least 82 to 550 m.

Where fiber is to be added to extend the length or connectiv-

ity of legacy fiber links, the added fiber should be of the
same core size as the legacy fiber, rather than mixing fiber
types. Where partially populated switches are connected to
62.5/125 µm fiber, additional ports may be populated with
50/125 µm fiber.

Application Wavelength (nm) Data Rate Max Distance (m)

Gigabit Ethernet 850 1000 Mb/s 600
Gigabit Ethernet 1300 1000 Mb/s 600
Serial 10 Gigabit Ethernet 850 10 Gb/s 82
CWDM 10 Gigabit Ethernet 1300 10 Gb/s 300
Fibre Channel 850 1 Gb/s 500
Fibre Channel 850 2 Gb/s 300
Fibre Channel 850 4 Gb/s 150
Fibre Channel 850 10 Gb/s 82
FDDI 1300 100 Mb/s 2000
ATM 1300 622 Mb/s 300
Figure 3.6 – Data Rate/Length Capabilities of LANscape® Solutions Cabled Standard 50/125 µm Multimode Optical Fiber

Application Wavelength (nm) Data Rate Max Distance (m)

Gigabit Ethernet 850 1000 Mb/s 1000
Gigabit Ethernet 1300 1000 Mb/s 600
Serial 10 Gigabit Ethernet 850 10 Gb/s 300
CWDM 10 Gigabit Ethernet 1300 10 Gb/s 300
Fibre Channel 850 1 Gb/s 860
Fibre Channel 850 2 Gb/s 500
Fibre Channel 850 4 Gb/s 270
Fibre Channel 850 10 Gb/s 300
FDDI 1300 100 Mb/s 2000
ATM 1300 622 Mb/s 300
Figure 3.7 – Data Rate/Length Capabilities of LANscape Solutions Cabled Laser-Optimized 50/125 µm Multimode -300 Optical Fiber

© 2006 Corning Cable Systems 3.7 Design Guide

Fiber Type and Performance

Application Wavelength (nm) Data Rate Max Distance (m)

Gigabit Ethernet 850 1000 Mb/s 1000
Gigabit Ethernet 1300 1000 Mb/s 600
Serial 10 Gigabit Ethernet 850 10 Gb/s 550
CWDM 10 Gigabit Ethernet 1300 10 Gb/s 300
Fibre Channel 850 1 Gb/s 1130
Fibre Channel 850 2 Gb/s 650
Fibre Channel 850 4 Gb/s 350
Fibre Channel 850 10 Gb/s 550
FDDI 1300 100 Mb/s 2000
ATM 1300 622 Mb/s 300
Figure 3.8 – Data Rate/Length Capabilities of LANscape Solutions Cabled Laser-Optimized 50/125 µm Multimode -550 Optical Fiber

Application Wavelength (nm) Data Rate Max Distance (m)

Gigabit Ethernet 850 1000 Mb/s 300
Gigabit Ethernet 1300 1000 Mb/s 550
Serial 10 Gigabit Ethernet 850 10 Gb/s 33
CWDM 10 Gigabit Ethernet 1300 10 Gb/s 300
Fibre Channel 850 1 Gb/s 300
Fibre Channel 850 2 Gb/s 150
Fibre Channel 850 4 Gb/s 70
Fibre Channel 850 10 Gb/s 33
FDDI 1300 100 Mb/s 2000
ATM 1300 622 Mb/s 300
Figure 3.9 – Data Rate/Length Capabilities of LANscape Solutions Cabled Standard 62.5/125 µm Multimode Optical Fiber

Application Wavelength (nm) Data Rate Max Distance (km)

Gigabit Ethernet 1310 1000 Mb/s 5
Serial 10 Gigabit Ethernet 1310 1000 Mb/s 10
Serial 10 Gigabit Ethernet 1550 10 Gb/s 40
CWDM 10 Gigabit Ethernet 1300 10 Gb/s 10
Fibre Channel 1300 1 Gb/s 10
Fibre Channel 1300 2 Gb/s 10
Fibre Channel 1300 4 Gb/s 10
Fibre Channel 1300 10 Gb/s 10
FDDI 1300 100 Mb/s 40
ATM 1310 622 Mb/s 15
ATM 1310 2.5 Gb/s 40
ATM 1550 2.5 Gb/s 80
Figure 3.10 – Data Rate/Length Capabilities of LANscape® Solutions Cabled Single-Mode Optical Fiber

Design Guide 3.8 © 2006 Corning Cable Systems