Out With The Old, In With The New: Fiber

From: A New Life for Old Fibers: Upgrading your fiber optic cable plant

As time goes on and innovation occurs the need to keep up with faster speeds, higher data transmissions, and more bandwidth is a must. Many networks around the world still rely on older types of fiber cabling. In this blog you can find out how upgrading isn’t that much of a hassle.

Differences between Single-Mode and Multi-Mode Fiber - Vitex
Image derived from: https://vitextech.com/differences-single-mode-multi-mode-fiber/

When considering upgrading fiber in a network you must know what type it is. Upgrading Single Mode and Multi Mode fiber types are different in many ways. You also have to consider if the fiber you have currently installed is 62.5 μm, 50 μm, OM3, or OM4. Each of these will create challenges when you upgrade your fiber network.

Single-mode vs. Multi-mode Fiber - Here's What You Need To Know
Image Derived From: https://1000gig.com/single-mode-vs-multi-mode-fiber/; Pictured is a

Single mode fiber is pretty simple when it comes to upgrading. Upgrading can be as easy as buying the better, faster hardware to replace with the older hardware. Now this isn’t always the case as Jim Hayes, the author, explains:

Fortunately, lots of older fiber is capable of upgrading to faster networks and WDM, but it may need testing to ensure it will work, especially if the links are over 20 km and upgrades are to 10 gigabits (Gb) and above. This testing, which we call “fiber characterization,” involves screening for chromatic dispersion and polarization mode dispersion for higher speeds and testing spectral attenuation for compatibility with WDM.”

Now Fiber Characterization is not that cheap and you will probably need a special company to do something like this. But doing these tests will still result in a cheaper cost instead of doing a full upgrade. Most fibers that are decades old still have the capability of being able to take advantage of higher speeds. This is a good viable option before trying to do a full scale upgrade.

2m, ST to ST, Duplex, Multimode 62.5 Fiber Optic Patch Cable | Fibertronics
Image Derived From: https://fibertronics.com/2m-st-to-st-duplex-multimode-625-fiber-optic-patch-cable

When it comes to multimode fiber, upgrading is not really a walk in the park. With multimode fiber there are different types which all have differing specifications. This is similar to how ethernet has there own types i.e. CAT5, CAT5e, CAT6 which are the most known types. Multimode is similar in a way having 62.5 μm (OM1), 50 μm (OM2), OM3, OM4, and a newer standard OM5. With each standard having more bandwidth to cover larger areas at a time.

Upgrading without having to install brand new fiber can be a process. The first thing you must do is figuring out which type of fiber do you have and knowing the lengths of each which you could find out by looking at the information printed on the cable or using a tester. You should also test the fiber for loss. You do not want to have fiber that cannot reach new speeds because of debris. There is one more step with multimode that you must consider which Hayes describes in his article:

Up to 10 Gbps, links require only two fibers: one for transmission in each direction. For 40- and 100-Gb networks, multimode fiber requires parallel optics with channels of 10 or 25 Gbps to reach the higher speeds. You need eight fibers for 40 Gb and eight or 20 fibers for 100 Gb. Therefore, the next step is to determine if you have enough dark fibers to allow using that cable for the proposed network. If not, new fiber will be required, and I suggest you seriously evaluate using single-mode fiber to ensure you won’t have to replace it for many years.”

So, if there is one thing when upgrading fiber, single mode is much more easier compared to multi mode, in terms of trying not to break the bank to install brand new fiber.

Check out the article which inspired this blog: https://www.ecmag.com/section/integrated-systems/new-life-old-fibers-upgrading-your-fiber-optic-cable-plant

Author: Jim Hayes