Fiber optic cables provide incredible data speeds and can ensure a new or upgraded system will keep up with network demands for years to come. While the equipment specs are more than good enough to withstand the test of time, it is equally important to build a system that can physically hold up as the years go by. Physical network protection involves using the right tools and equipment to safeguard cables from external forces as well as improper use.

How To Protect Fiber Optic Networks

Raceway, also called conduit, is one of the easiest ways to protect any cable, fiber optic included. These hollow pieces of plastic act like a protective outer shell. They are available as straight sticks as well as various angled pieces for designing networks of any size and shape. Full details regarding raceway options can be seen here.

While raceway is ideal for protecting the main part of the cable, the connectors on the ends will need something a bit different. Typically, equipment using fiber optic cable is put onto a rack or cabinet. Rack mount enclosures are used with those set-ups to protect the ends of the cables connected to the equipment and ensure no one with unauthorized access unplugs anything. Some of these enclosures can also be mounted directly onto walls when no rack/cabinet is available.

Accidentally Damaging Fiber Optic Cables

Innovations in fiber optic technology have made these cables less brittle than they once were. That being said, they are still made using glass. Some fiber cables are armored and less prone to damage under abuse but no cable is indestructible. Like any other cable, fiber optic has a bend radius. This is the largest angle the cable can bend before it starts suffering damage. The bend radius of a cable is roughly 10x its outer diameter. For fiber, this should be around 30mm (1.18”) minimum.

Properly handling cables is about more than just watching the bend radius. When handling a connector at the end of the cable, make sure not to pull or twist it. This can cause internal components to break or even make the connector pop off the end of the cable. Also, make sure not to rub the end of the connector against anything. Those ends are made from glass; scratching or otherwise damaging the glass can affect cable performance. Broken glass at the end of a damaged cable can also cut someone’s skin if improperly handled.

It is important to remember that no how carefully a fiber optic network is protected and handled, sometimes accidents just happen. Pulling new cable can cause something to snag and break. A pole supporting cables could be knocked down by an auto accident. Road maintenance projects could dig in the wrong spot and break through a wire. Some events are outside your control no matter how much safety prep is in place and result in downtime while repairs are made. But while accidents are sometimes unavoidable, there are other environmental factors users can knowingly watch out for.

Fiber Optics and the Environment

Damage can come from the environment around a fiber optic cable. In indoor environments, this is typically not an issue. Fiber optic cables can function in the same environments as any other type of cable (Ethernet, coax, etc) common to offices, businesses, and similar areas. Outdoors can be another issue. Fiber cables are frequently used outside and most, but not all, common fiber cables are built with that in mind. The specs on those cables are made with common outdoor issues in mind, such as exposure to sunlight or moderate rain. More intense conditions like extreme heat, freezing cold, lightning, or other serious environmental hazards can be more than a standard fiber optic cable is built to handle. More durable cables must be used to withstand intense weather conditions.

Fiber Optics and Animals

Another key consideration for outdoor cables comes in both fuzzy and feathered forms: animals. Local wildlife has no issue resting or chewing on wires. The main creatures to watch out for are squirrels. These little guys love to chew through all kinds of cables and fiber is no exception. Squirrels are believed to cause more damage to fiber networks than any other animal. While other rodents such as mice and gophers cause similar issues, no other rodent has created as many widespread fiber problems as the squirrel. But as much damage as they cause, squirrels are far from fiber’s only enemy.

Birds are another threat to fiber, constantly sitting on top of wires. A bird's talons can damage a cable while they grip it, damaging the outer jacket. Sometimes birds sit on wires because that is simply what birds do, but other times they are attracted by another threat to fiber: insects. Termites are known to eat through fiber cables. In Japan, cicadas mistake fiber optic cables for tree branches and try to lay eggs inside. Animal threats are not limited to land either; underwater cables are sometimes attacked by sharks. Sharks can hunt by detecting energy impulses in the biological systems of prey animals. They mistake the energy going through underwater cables for prey, chewing through what they think is food. Anytime a cable is outdoors, make sure to keep the animal kingdom in mind.

Fiber Optic Protection from ShowMeCables

ShowMeCables offers a variety of fiber protection options along with the fiber cable and equipment itself. These options include raceway, wiring duct, rack enclosures, wall enclosures, and more.

Have questions about fiber optic equipment or any of our other products? You can reach our Sales team at 1-888-519-9505 or