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Multi-mode optical fiber
A stripped multi-mode fiber
Multi-mode optical fiber is a type of optical fiber mostly used for communication over short distances, such as within a building or on a campus. Typical multi-mode links have data rates of 10 Mbit/s to 10 Gbit/s over link lengths of up to 600 meters (2000 feet). Multi-mode fiber has a fairly large core diameter that enables multiple light modes to be propagated and limits the maximum length of a transmission link because of modal dispersion.
The equipment used for communications over multi-mode optical fiber is less expensive than that for single-mode optical fiber. Typical transmission speed and distance limits are 100 Mbit/s for distances up to 2 km (100BASE-FX), 1 Gbit/s up to 1000 m, and 10 Gbit/s up to 550 m.
Because of its high capacity and reliability, multi-mode optical fiber generally is used for backbone applications in buildings. An increasing number of users are taking the benefits of fiber closer to the user by running fiber to the desktop or to the zone. Standards-compliant architectures such as Centralized Cabling and fiber to the telecom enclosure offer users the ability to leverage the distance capabilities of fiber by centralizing electronics in telecommunications rooms, rather than having active electronics on each floor.
Comparison with single-mode fiber
The main difference between multi-mode and single-mode optical fiber is that the former has much larger core diameter, typically 50–100 micrometers; much larger than the wavelength of the light carried in it. Because of the large core and also the possibility of large numerical aperture, multi-mode fiber has higher "light-gathering" capacity than single-mode fiber. In practical terms, the larger core size simplifies connections and also allows the use of lower-cost electronics such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) which operate at the 850 nm and 1300 nm wavelength (single-mode fibers used in telecommunications typically operate at 1310 or 1550 nm ). However, compared to single-mode fibers, the multi-mode fiber bandwidth–distance product limit is lower. Because multi-mode fiber has a larger core-size than single-mode fiber, it supports more than one propagation mode; hence it is limited by modal dispersion, while single mode is not.
The LED light sources sometimes used with multi-mode fiber produce a range of wavelengths and these each propagate at different speeds. This chromatic dispersion is another limit to the useful length for multi-mode fiber optic cable. In contrast, the lasers used to drive single-mode fibers produce coherent light of a single wavelength. Because of the modal dispersion, multi-mode fiber has higher pulse spreading rates than single mode fiber, limiting multi-mode fiber’s information transmission capacity.