For decades, all varieties of cables from coax to ethernet have used electrical signals to transmit signals through metal cores. Modern technology has paved the way for improvements on these age-old cables with fiber optic cabling. These newer cables are made using optical fibers, plastic tubes filled with small pieces of glass. Each piece of glass is used as a tiny mirror to reflect lasers down the cable. Since light (lasers) moves faster than electricity, fiber optic cables can transmit data much faster than older metal-based cables. It is possible to use fiber and Ethernet together so long as you have a media converter, allowing newer technology to upgrade older existing infrastructure.

Each fiber optic cable has a different sized core measured in microns (μm). These cores are made of up optical fibers, also called strands, with each fiber acting like lanes of traffic that send and receive signals. Each fiber can only send or receive a signal, not both at the same time, so they work in pairs. As more fibers are added, more signals can be sent and received through the cable to increase data speeds. The number of strands needed will depend on how heavy network traffic will be.

Along with being faster, fiber optic cables also support greater maximum distances. For example, Ethernet cables have a maximum distance of 328 feet (100 meters). By contrast, fiber optic cables can go for hundreds of meters or even several kilometers. The exact distance does depend on what type of fiber optic cable is being used, single mode or one of the various types of multimode.

To read about the different types of fiber optic connectors, click here.

Single Mode Fiber Optic Cables

Single mode fiber is designed for long-range transmissions. While it can be used short-range, single mode is more commonly used to run lines between facilities in multi-building complexes. Telecommunications companies also use single mode when upgrading networks to fiber internet. Single mode cables are typically color-coded yellow as an industry standard and measure between 8-10 μm.

Single mode fiber is easily identified by its yellow-colored jacket.

These cables are named after their function, sending a single laser (a "mode" of light) down the cable for signal transmission. These signals are transmitted between 1,300 and 1,550 nm, a lightwave frequency that almost puts these lasers in the infrared spectrum. The power needed for the laser will depend on the length of the cable. The longer the cable, the more powerful the laser will need to be to transmit the signal successfully.

Multimode Fiber Optic Cables

Multimode cables are made with thicker cores than single mode cables, typically around 50-60 μm. These larger cores have more space for bouncing lasers down the length of the cable, which increases signal speed. While multimode is faster than single mode, it also has a shorter maximum distance. That being said, multimode can still run for hundreds of meters. This ensures that any and all fiber cables are both faster and longer than Ethernet.

Unlike single mode, multimode cables come in a few different varieties. There is color-coding between the different types of fiber optic cable, though it does contain a bit of overlap. Each cable will also have writing on the outside that should indicate which type of fiber optic rating the cable uses.

  • OM1 cables are colored orange and rated for 1GB data transfer rates. With a maximum distance of 300 meters, OM1 is commonly used for networks within small- to medium-sized buildings.
  • OM2 is color-coded orange and rated for 1GB, just like OM1. The difference is OM2’s maximum distance of 600 meters, twice the length of OM1. This allows OM2 to be used in larger buildings where OM1 comes up short.

An orange fiber optic cable can be OM1 or OM2 (marked on the outside jacket’s writing).

  • OM3 is an upgraded form of OM1 with 10x better data speeds at 10GB. Using an MPO connector, this maximum speed can be increased to 40GB or even 100GB at distances up to 100 meters. With a maximum distance of 300 meters and aqua-colored jackets, OM3 is used for small- to medium-sized environments with high data usage such as call centers and financial institutions.
  • OM4 is color-coded violet and rated for 10GB up to 550 meters. For distances up to 150 meters, the maximum data speed increases to 100GB. OM4 acts as a maximum distance upgrade to OM3, similar to how OM2 upgrades OM1.

Fiber Cables From ShowMeCables

ShowMeCables offers both single mode and multimode fiber optic cables. This includes pre-made patch cables as well as bulk cable for large-scale projects. Patch cables range from 1 to 50 meters (3.28 to 164 feet) in length with custom options available as well. Stock items include all varieties of fiber optic connectors, armored cables, plenum jackets, loopback testers, and more.

Each and every cable is built to federally regulated standards and backed up by warranty. Have questions about fiber optics or any of our other products? You can reach our Sales team at 1-888-519-9505 or