Optical Fiber Communications


Fiber Optics 
Fiber optics uses light to send information
(data).  More formally, fiber optics is the branch of optical technology concerned with the transmission of radiant power (light energy) through fibers.  Light frequencies used in fiber optic systems are 100,000 to 400,000 GHz.

Brief History of Fiber Optics
experimented with an apparatus he called a photophone.  The photophone was a device constructed from mirrors and selenium detectors that transmitted sound waves over a beam of light.

In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell

In 1930, John Logie Baird, an English scientist and Clarence W. Hansell, an American scientist, was granted patents for scanning and transmitting television images through uncoated cables.

In 1951, Abraham C.S. van Heel of Holland and Harold H. Hopkins and Narinder S. Kapany of England experimented with light transmission through bundles of fibers. Their studies led to the development of the flexible fiberscope, which used extensively in the medical field.

In 1956, Kapany coined the termed ³fiber optics´.


In 1958, Charles H. Townes, an American, and Arthur L. Schawlow, a Canadian, wrote a paper describing how it was possible to use stimulated emission for amplifying light waves (laser) as well as microwaves (maser).

In 1960, Theodore H. Maiman, a scientist built the first optical maser.

In 1967, Charles K. Kao and George A. Bockham proposed using cladded fiber cables.



To convert an electrical input signal to an
optical signal  To send the optical signal over an optical fiber  To convert the optical signal back to an electrical signal


Fiber Optic Data Link
Optical Transmitter


A/D Interface

Voltage-tocurrent Converter



Source-tofiber interface

Optical Fiber

Fiber-tolight detector interface



Current-tocurrent converter

A/D Interface


Optical Receiver

Fiber Optic Cable 
The cable consists of one or more glass fibers,
which act as waveguides for the optical signal. Fiber optic cable is similar to electrical cable in its construction, but provides special protection for the optical fiber within. For systems requiring transmission over distances of many kilometers, or where two or more fiber optic cables must be joined together, an optical splice is commonly used.

The Optical Receiver 
The receiver converts the optical signal
back into a replica of the original electrical signal. The detector of the optical signal is either a PIN-type photodiode or PINavalancheavalanche-type photodiode.


The Optical Transmitter 
The transmitter converts an electrical
analog or digital signal into a corresponding optical signal. The source of the optical signal can be either a light emitting diode, or a solid- state laser soliddiode. The most popular wavelengths of operation for optical transmitters are 850, 1300, or 1550 nanometers

Types of Optical Fiber
1. Plastic core and cladding 2. Glass core with plastic cladding (PCS) 3. Glass core and glass cladding (SCS)


Modes of Propagation 
Single mode ± there is only one path for
light to take down the cable

Multimode ± if there is more than one


Index Profiles
A graphical representation of the value of the refractive index across the fiber  

StepStep-index fiber ± it has a central core with a uniform refractive index. The core is surrounded by an outside cladding with a uniform refractive index less than that of the central core GradeGrade-index fiber ± has no cladding, and the refractive index of the core is nonuniform; it is highest at the center and decreases gradually toward the outer edge

Optical Fiber Configuration
SingleStep1. Single-Mode Step-Index Fiber ± has a central core that is sufficiently small so that there is essentially one path that light takes as it propagates down the cable Multimode Step-Index Fiber ± similar to the singleStepsinglemode configuration except that the core is much larger. larger. This type of fiber has a large light-to-fiber light-toaperture, and consequently, allows more light to enter the cable. cable. Multimode Graded-Index ± it is characterized by a Gradedcentral core that has a refractive index that is nonnonuniform. uniform. Light is propagated down this type of fiber through refraction. refraction.



SingleSingle-Mode Step-Index Fiber StepAdvantages:  There is minimum dispersion. Because all rays propagating down the fiber take approximately the same path, they take approximately the same amount of time to travel down the cable.  Because of the high accuracy in reproducing transmitted pulses at the receive end, larger bandwidths and higher information transmission rates are possible with single- mode step-index fibers singlestepthan with other types of fiber. Disadvantages:  Because the central core is very small, it is difficult to couple light into and out of this type of fiber. The source-to-fiber aperture is the source-tosmallest of all the fiber types.  A highly directive light source such as laser is required.  It is expensive and difficult to manufacture.

Multimode Step-Index Fiber StepAdvantages:  Inexpensive and easy to manufacture.  It is easy to couple light into and out; they have a relatively high large source-to-fiber aperture. source-toDisadvantages:  Light rays take many different paths down the fiber, which results in large differences in their propagation times. Because of this, rays traveling down this type of fiber have a tendency to spread out.  The bandwidth and rate of information transfer possible with this type of cable are less than the other types.

Single Mode Step Index

Index Profile

Multimode Step Index

Multimode Graded Index



Acceptance Angle & Acceptance Cone 
The acceptance angle (or the acceptance
cone half angle) defines the maximum angle in which external light rays may strike the air/fiber interface and still propagate down the fiber with a response that is no greater than 10 dB down from the peak value. Rotating the acceptance value. angle around the fiber axis describes the acceptance cone of the fiber input. input.

Maximum Acceptance Angle =

Optical Fiber Acceptance Cone Acceptance Angle


Numerical Aperture
For a step-index fiber: And NA = Sin (Acceptance Angle) NA =

For a Graded-Index: NA = sin (Critical Angle) The acceptance angle of a fiber is expressed in terms of numerical aperture. The numerical aperture (NA) is defined as the sine of one half of the acceptance angle of the fiber. It is a figure of merit that is used to describe the light-gathering or light-collecting ability of the optical fiber. The larger the magnitude of NA, the greater the amount of light accepted by the fiber from the external light source. Typical NA values are 0.1 to 0.4 which correspond to acceptance angles of 11 degrees to 46 degrees. Optical fibers will only transmit light that enters at an angle that is equal to or less than the 26 acceptance angle for the particular fiber.

Attenuation in Optical Fibers

L = the length of fiber in kilometers Therefore the unit of attenuation is expressed as dB/km


Losses in the Optical Fiber 
Absorption Losses  Material or Rayleigh Scattering Losses  Chromatic or Wavelength Dispersion  Radiation Losses  Modal Dispersion  Coupling Losses


Absorption Losses
to power dissipation in copper cables; impurities in the fiber absorb the light and convert it to heat.  Absorption in optical fibers is explained by three factors: 
Imperfections in the atomic structure of the fiber material  The intrinsic or basic fiber-material properties  The extrinsic (presence of impurities) fiber-material properties

Absorption loss in an optical fiber is analogous

Essentially, there are three factors that
contribute to the absorption losses in optical fibers: 
ultraviolet absorption,  infrared absorption,  ion resonance absorption.


Ultraviolet Absorption 
Is caused by valence electrons in the silica
material from which fibers are manufactured.  Light ionizes the valence electrons into conduction. The ionization is equivalent to a loss in the total light field and, consequently contributes to the transmission losses of the fiber.

Infrared Absorption 
Is a result of photons of light that are
absorbed by the atoms of the glass core molecules.  The absorbed photons are converted to random mechanical vibrations typical of heating.


Ion Resonance Absorption 
Is caused by OH- ions in the material. OH The source of the OH- ions is water OHmolecules that have been trapped in the glass during the manufacturing process.  Ion absorption is also caused by iron, copper, and chromium molecules.


Material or Rayleigh Scattering Losses
submicroscopic irregularities developed in the fiber during the manufacturing process.  When light rays are propagating down a fiber strike one of these impurities, they are diffracted.  Diffraction causes the light to disperse or spread out in many directions. Some of the diffracted light continues down the fiber and some of it escapes through the cladding.  The light rays that escape represent a loss in the light power. This is called Rayleigh scattering loss.

This type of losses in the fiber is caused by

Chromatic or Wavelength Dispersion
that emits light spontaneously such as the LED.  Each wavelength within the composite light signal travels at a different velocity. Thus arriving at the receiver end at different times.  This results in a distorted signal; the distortion is called chromatic distortion. distortion.  Chromatic distortion can be eliminated by using monochromatic light sources such as the injection laser diode (ILD).

Chromatic dispersion is caused by light sources

Radiation Losses 
Radiation losses are caused by small bends and
kinks in the fiber.  Essentially, there are two types of bends: 
Microbends and constant-radius bends. constant Microbending occurs as a result of differences in the thermal
contraction rates between the core and cladding material. A microbend represents a discontinuity in the fiber where Rayleigh scattering can occur. 

Constant-radius bends occur where fibers are bent Constantduring handling or installation.


Modal Dispersion
caused by the difference in the propagation times of light rays that take different paths down a fiber.  Obviously, modal dispersion can occur only in multimode fibers. It can be reduced considerably by using graded-index fibers gradedand almost entirely eliminated by singlesinglemode step-index fibers. step37 

Modal dispersion or pulse spreading is

Coupling Losses 
Coupling losses can occur in any of the
following three types of optical junctions: light source-to-fiber connections, fiber-tosource-tofiber-tofiber connections, and fiber-tofiber-tophotodetector connections. Junction losses are most often caused by one of the following alignment problems: lateral misalignment, gap misalignment, angular misalignment, and imperfect surface finishes.

Coupling Losses
Loss Loss

Axial displacement Loss

Angular displacement Loss

Gap displacement Surface Finish



Light Sources 
There are two devices commonly used to
generate light for fiber optic communications systems: light-emitting lightdiodes (LEDs) and injection laser diodes (ILDs). Both devices have advantages and disadvantages and the selection of one device over the other is determined by system economic and performance requirements.

LightLight-Emitting Diode (LED) 
Simply a P-N junction diode P Made from a semiconductor material such
as aluminum-gallium arsenide (AlGaAs) or aluminumgallium-arsenidegallium-arsenide-phosphide (GaAsP)  Emits light by spontaneous emission: light is emitted as a result of the recombination of electrons and holes


LightLight-Emitting Diode (LED) 
The simplest LED structures are homojunction,
epitaxially grown, or single-diffused devices. single Epitaxially grown LEDs are generally constructed of silicon-doped gallium arsenide. A silicontypical wavelength of light emitted is 940 nm, and a typical output power is approximately 3 mW at 100 mA of forward current.  Planar diffused (homojunction) LEDs output approximately 500 microwatts at a wavelength of 900 nm.

LightLight-Emitting Diode (LED) 
The primary disadvantage of homojunction
LEDs is the nondirectionality of their light emission, which makes them a poor choice as a light source for fiber optic systems.  The planar heterojunction LED is quite similar to the epitaxially grown LED except that the geometry is designed such that the forward current is concentrated to a very small area of the active layer.

LightLight-Emitting Diode (LED)
Advantages of heterojunction LED over the homojunction type:  The increase in current density generates a more brilliant light spot.  The smaller emitting area makes it easier to couple its emitted light into a fiber.  The small effective area has a smaller capacitance, which allows the planar heterojunction LED to be used at higher speeds.

LightLight-Emitting Diode (LED)
Light Emission

n-t e s str te

-e it xi l l er

n-e it xi l l er

Homoj nction LED str ct re: silicon-dopedgallium arsenide

Pl n r heteroj nction LED


The Burrus etched-well LED etched For the more practical application
such as telecommunications, data rates in excess of 100 Mbps are required. The Burrus etched-well etchedLED emits light in many directions. The etched well helps concentrate the emitted light to a very small area. These devices are more efficient than the standard surface emitters and they allow more power to be coupled into the optical fiber, but they are also more difficult to manufacture and more expensive.

Emitted light rays


EdgeEdge-Emitting Diode 
These LEDs emit a more directional light
pattern than do the surface-emitting LEDs. surfaceThe light is emitted from an active stripe and forms an elliptical beam. SurfaceSurfaceemitting LEDs are more commonly used than edge emitters because they emit more light. However, the coupling losses with surface emitters are greater and they have narrower bandwidths.

Injection Laser Diode (ILD)
Advantages of ILDs:  Because ILDs have a more direct radiation pattern, it is easier to couple their light into an optical fiber. This reduces the coupling losses and allows smaller fibers to be used.  The radiant output power from an ILD is greater than that for an LED. A typical output power for an ILD is 5 mW (7 dBm) and 0.5 mW (-3 dBm) for LEDs. This allows ILDs (to provide a higher drive power and to be used for systems that operate over longer distances.  ILDs can be used at higher bit rates than can LEDs.  ILDs generate monochromatic light, which reduces chromatic or wavelength dispersion.

Injection Laser Diode (ILD)
Disadvantages of ILDs:  ILDs are typically on the order of 10 times more expensive than LEDs.  Because ILDs operate at higher powers, they typically have a much shorter lifetime than LEDs.  ILDs are more temperature dependent than LEDs.

Light Detectors 
There are two devices that are commonly
used to detect light energy in fiber optic communications receivers: PIN (p-type(p-typeintrinsicintrinsic-n-type) diodes and APD (avalanche photodiodes).


PIN Diode 


Avalanche Photodiode 


Basic Cable Design 
The two basic cable designs are the looseloosetube cable and tight-buffered cable tight( either a single fiber or a multi-fiber). multi Loose-tube cable, used in the majority of Looseoutsideoutside-plant installations in North America, and tight-buffered cable, tightprimarily used inside buildings.


Basic Cable Design
loose The modular design of loose-tube cables typically holds up to 12 fibers per buffer tube with a maximum per cable fiber count of more than 200 fibers. Loose-tube cables can be allfibers. Loosealldielectric or optionally armored. The modular armored. bufferbuffer-tube design permits easy drop-off of dropgroups of fibers at intermediate points, without interfering with other protected buffer tubes being routed to other locations. The loose-tube locations. loosedesign also helps in the identification and administration of fibers in the system. system.

Basic Cable Design
as pigtails, patch cords and jumpers to terminate loose-tube cables directly into looseoptoelectronics transmitters, receivers and other active and passive components.  Multi-fiber tight-buffered cables also are Multitightavailable and are used primarily for alternative routing and handling flexibility and ease within buildings.

Singletight Single-fiber tight-buffered cables are used

LooseLoose-Tube Cable
and protect optical fibers. A gel filling compound impedes water penetration. Excess fiber length (relative to buffer tube length) insulates fibers from stresses of installation and environmental loading. Buffer tubes are stranded around a dielectric or steel central member, which serves as an anti-buckling element. anti The cable core, typically surrounded by aramid yarn, is the primary tensile strength member. The outer polyethylene jacket is extruded over the core. If armoring is required, a corrugated steel tape is formed around a single jacketed cable with an additional jacket extruded over the armor. Coated FiberOuter JacketSteel Tape Armor Inner Jacket Aramid Strength MemberBinderInterstitial FillingCentral Member  (Steel Wire or Dielectric) Interstitial FillingLoose Tube Cable  Loose-tube cables typically are used for outside-plant installation in Looseoutsideaerial, duct and direct-buried applications. direct57

loosecolor In a loose-tube cable design, color-coded plastic buffer tubes house

Loose Tube Cable
Outer Jacket Steel Tape Armor Interstitial Filling Inner Jacket Central Member (Steel Wire or Dielectric) Interstitial Filling Binder Coated Fiber

Aramid Strength Member

Loose Tube Cable


TightTight-Buffered Cable 
With tight-buffered cable designs, the buffering material tightis in direct contact with the fiber. This design is suited for "jumper cables" which connect outside plant cables to terminal equipment, and also for linking various devices in a premises network.  Multi-fiber, tight-buffered cables often are used for intraMultitightintrabuilding, risers, general building and plenum applications.  The tight-buffered design provides a rugged cable tightstructure to protect individual fibers during handling, routing and cable connection. Yarn strength members keep the tensile load away from the fiber.  As with loose-tube cables, optical specifications for tightloosetightbuffered cables also should include the maximum performance of all fibers over the operating temperature range and life of the cable. Averages should not be 59 acceptable.

TightTight-Buffered Cable
PVC Jacket (Non-Plenum) or Fluoride Co-Polymer Jacket (Plenum)

Aramid Strength Member

Glass Fiber Fiber Coating Thermoplastic Overcoating Buffer or

Tight-buffered Cable


Optical Fiber Connectors 
Optical connectors are the means by which fiber optic
cable is usually connected to peripheral equipment and to other fibers. These connectors are similar to their electrical counterparts in function and outward appearance but are actually high precision devices. In operation, the connector centers the small fiber so that its light gathering core lies directly over and in line with the light source (or other fiber) to tolerances of a few ten thousandths of an inch. Since the core size of common 50 micron fiber is only 0.002 inches, the need for such extreme tolerances is obvious.  There are many different types of optical connectors in use today. The SMA connector, which was first developed before the invention of single-mode fiber, was singlethe most popular type of connector until recently.

Fiber Connectors


Optical Splices
together, there are other methods that result in much lower loss splices. Two of the most common and popular are the mechanical splice and the fusion splice. Both are capable of splice losses in the range of 0.15 dB (3%) to 0.1 dB (2%).  In a mechanical splice, the ends of two pieces of fiber are cleaned and stripped, then carefully butted together and aligned using a mechanical assembly. A gel is used at the point of contact to reduce light reflection and keep the splice loss at a minimum. The ends of the fiber are held together by friction or compression, and the splice assembly features a locking mechanism so that the fibers remained aligned.  A fusion splice, by contrast, involves actually melting (fusing) together the ends of two pieces of fiber. The result is a continuous fiber without a break. Fusion splices require special expensive splicing equipment but can be performed very quickly, so the cost becomes reasonable if done in quantity. As fusion splices are fragile, mechanical devices are usually employed to protect them.

While optical connectors can be used to connect fiber optic cables

Designing Optical Fiber Systems
The following step-by-step procedure should be followed when step-bydesigning any system. 

Determine the correct optical transmitter and receiver combination    

based upon the signal to be transmitted (Analog, Digital, Audio, Video, RS-232, RS-422, RS-485, etc.). RSRSRSDetermine the operating power available (AC, DC, etc.). Determine the special modifications (if any) necessary (Impedances, Bandwidths, Special Connectors, Special Fiber Size, etc.). Calculate the total optical loss (in dB) in the system by adding the cable loss, splice loss, and connector loss. These parameters should be available from the manufacturer of the electronics and fiber. Compare the loss figure obtained with the allowable optical loss budget of the receiver. Be certain to add a safety margin factor of at least 3 dB to the entire system. Check that the fiber bandwidth is adequate to pass the signal desired. 64

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Breakout Cable Interconnect Cable Loose Tube Cable Low Smoke ± Zero Halogen Cable LXE Light Guide Express Entry Cable Light Pack Cable Indoor/Outdoor Loose Tube Cable Tactical/Military Cable TEMPEST Cable Description

Breakout Cable
construction to insure EMI immunity.  These cables are obtainable in a wide range of fiber counts and can be used for routing within buildings, in riser shafts, and under computer room floors.  The Breakout design enables the individual routing, or "fanning", of individual fibers for termination and maintenance.  In addition to the standard duty 2.4 mm subunit design, a 2.9 mm heavy duty and a 2.0 mm light duty design are also available.

Breakout cables are designed with all-dielectric

Interconnect Cable 
Cable for interconnecting equipment is available in    
singlesingle-mode and multimode fiber sizes and its all dielectric construction provides EMI immunity . Available in one- and two-fiber designs, these cables onetwoare optimized for ease of connectorization and use as "jumpers" for intra-building distribution. intraIts small diameter and bend radius provide easy installation in constrained areas. This cable can be ordered for plenum or riser environments. Products include single fiber cable, two-fiber Zipcord, and two-fiber DIB Cable. Uncabled fiber, coated only with a thermoplastic buffer, is also available for pigtail applications with inside equipment.

Loose Tube Cable 
Loose tube cables are for general purpose
outdoor use.  The loose tube design provides stable and highly reliable transmission parameters for a variety of applications.  The design also permits significant improvements in the density of fibers contained in a given cable diameter while allowing flexibility to suit many system designs.  These cables are suitable for outdoor duct, aerial, and direct buried installations, and for indoor use when installed in accordance with NEC Article 770.


Different fiber types available within a cable     
(hybrid construction). Lowest losses at long distances, for use in duct aerial, and direct buried applications. Wide range of fiber counts (up to 216). Available with single--mode and multimode fiber singletypes. All dielectric or steel central member. Loose Tube Cable is also available with armored construction for added protection.

Low Smoke ± Zero Halogen Cable 
Halex-RTM is a low smoke, zero halogen fiber
optic cable, designed to replace standard polyethylene jacketed fiber optic cables in environments where public safety is of great concern.  In addition to having low smoke properties, Halex-R cable meets the NEC requirements for risers, passes all U.S. flame requirements for UL 1666 and UL 1581, and is OFNR listed up to 156 fibers.

LXE Light Guide Express Entry Cable
designed with the loop distribution market in mind, where express entry (accessing fibers in the middle of a cable span) is a common practice.  The LXE sheath system achieves a 600 pound (2670 N) tensile rating through the use of linearly applied strength members placed 180 degrees opposite each other.  High density polyethylene (HDPE) is used for the cable jacket to provide both faster installation, through a lower coefficient of friction, and optimum cable core protection in hostile environments. 

The LXE (Lightguide Express Entry) sheath system is


Strength members in cable sheath (not in
cable core).  Non-metallic cable core.


Light Pack Cable
together with color coded yarn binders.  Cable can hold up to 144 fibers and still maintain a large clearance in the core tube.  A water-blocking compound, specifically designed for LIGHTPACK Cable, adds extra flexibility, protects the fiber and virtually eliminates microbending losses.  Lightpack cable is compact size, rugged design, contains a high density polyethylene sheath and has a high strength-to-weight ratio.

Lightpack Cable consists of fiber "bundles" held

Indoor/Outdoor Loose Tube Cable
designed for installation both outdoors and indoors in areas required by the (NEC) to be riser rated Type OFNR. They meet or exceed Article 770 of the NEC and UL Subject 1666 (Type OFNR). They also meet CSA C22.2 No. 232-M1988 Type OFN-FT4.  All of the RLT products utilize a proprietary ChromaTek 3 jacketing system that is designed for resistance to moisture, sunlight and flame for use both indoors and outdoors. These cables are loose tube, gel-filled constructions for excellent resistance to moisture. They are available with single--mode or multimode fibers with singleup to a maximum of 72 fibers.

The RLT Series of loose tube fiber optic cables is

Indoor/Outdoor Loose Tube Cable
eliminate the need for a separate point of demarcation, i.e., splicing to a riser rated cable within 50 feet of the point where the outdoor cable enters the building as required by the NEC. These cables may be run through risers directly to a convenient network hub or splicing closet for interconnection to the electro-optical hardware electroor other horizontal distribution cables as desired.  No extra splice or termination hardware is required at the entrance to the facility, and cable management is made easier by the use of just one cable. This installation ease is especially useful in Campus type installations where buildings are interconnected with outdoor fiber optic cables.

Because these outdoor cables are riser rated, they

Tactical/Military Cable 
Tactical cable utilizes a tight buffer configuration
in an all dielectric construction.  The tight buffer design offers increased ruggedness, ease of handling and connectorization.  The absence of metallic components decreases the possibility of detection and minimizes system problems associated with electromagnetic interference.

ruggedized connectors.  Lightweight and flexible: no anti--buckling antielements required.  Available in connectorized cable assemblies.  Available with 50, 62.5 and 100 micron multimode fibers, as well as single--mode single-and radiation--hardened fibers. radiation77 

Proven compatibility with existing

TEMPEST Cable Description 
For use where secure communications are a major
consideration, and Tempest requirements must be met. The Tempest rated cable is available in a variety of cable constructions.  Tempest relates to government requirements for shielding communications equipment and environments.  One common application is the use of fiber optic cable in conjunction with RF shielded enclosures. These enclosures have been specially constructed to suppress the emission of RF signals, and must meet the Transient ElectroElectro-magnet, Pulse Emanation Standard (TEMPEST).


For a system to be TEMPEST qualified, it must
be tested in accordance with MIL-STD-285, and MILit must also meet the requirements stated in NSA 65-6. All elements of the system, individually and combined, must meet the TEMPEST standard.  In the case of fiber optics, the "system" consists of the cable (which is dielectric and non-conductive), and the tube through which the cable passes.

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