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Differences of Multimode Fiber Types


In today's high-speed data transmission requirements, the transmission between data is mostly achieved through optical fiber. One type of fiber is called multimode fiber, which has a larger core diameter and relatively lower manufacturing cost. This is achieved through a unique core and cladding structure that forms the foundation of its functionality. Let's embark on a journey to unravel the intricate details that distinguish various types of Multimode Fiber.

What is Multimode Fiber?

Multimode fiber is a type of optical fiber mostly used for communication over short distances, such as within a building or on a campus. It has a larger core diameter than single-mode fiber, which allows multiple modes or rays of light to be transmitted at the same time, hence the name "multimode". This type of fiber is often used for data and audio/visual applications in local-area networks, and is also used in the backbone infrastructure of many telecommunications networks. The maximum transmission distance for MMF cable is around 550m at the speed of 10Git/s. It can transmit farther at lower data rates, such as going about 2km at 100Mb/s.

Types of Multimode Fiber

OM1 Fiber

Characterized by its orange jacket and a core size of 62.5 µm, OM1 fiber is commonly employed for 100 Megabit Ethernet applications. It utilizes a LED light source and can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet at distances of up to 33 meters.

OM2 Fiber

Similar to OM1, OM2 fiber features an orange jacket and employs a LED light source. However, it has a smaller core size of 50 µm. While it supports up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet at lengths of up to 82 meters, it is more frequently used for 1 Gigabit Ethernet applications.

OM3 Fiber

Distinguished by its aqua-colored jacket, OM3 fiber has a core size of 50 µm and is optimized for laser-based equipment. It supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet at lengths of up to 300 meters. Additionally, OM3 can accommodate 40 Gigabit and 100 Gigabit Ethernet at distances of up to 100 meters, although 10 Gigabit Ethernet remains the most prevalent application.

OM4 Fiber

Sharing the distinctive aqua jacket with OM3, OM4 fiber is entirely compatible with its predecessor. Tailored for VSCEL laser transmission, OM4 allows 10 Gig/s link distances of up to 550 meters, a notable improvement from OM3's 300 meters. Furthermore, it can run 40/100GB up to 150 meters using an MPO connector.

OM5 Fiber

Also recognized as WBMMF (wideband multimode fiber), OM5 is the latest addition to multimode fiber transceiver types and is backward compatible with OM4. Featuring the same core size as OM2, OM3, and OM4, OM5 boasts a distinctive lime green jacket. Specifically designed to support a minimum speed of 28Gbps per channel through the 850-953 nm window, OM5 aims to accommodate at least four WDM channels.

OM1 vs OM2 vs OM3 vs OM4 vs OM5: What’s the Difference?

Core Size and Construction

In the realm of fiber optic cables, the construction and core size play pivotal roles in determining their applications. OM1 fiber, with a core size of 62.5 µm and an identifiable orange jacket, is primarily deployed for 100 Megabit Ethernet applications. In contrast, OM2 fiber, also featuring an orange jacket but with a smaller 50 µm core, finds common usage in 1 Gigabit Ethernet applications.

Modal Dispersion

Understanding modal dispersion is essential for assessing the performance of different fiber optic cables. OM1 fiber exhibits moderate modal dispersion due to its larger core size. Similarly, OM2 fiber displays dispersion characteristics comparable to OM1. In contrast, OM3 fiber, optimized for laser-based systems, showcases reduced modal dispersion, and OM4 fiber demonstrates improved dispersion, particularly in VSCEL laser transmission. OM5 fiber, with characteristics akin to OM4, is designed for wideband multimode applications.

Bandwidth and Data Rates

Bandwidth and data rate capabilities are crucial considerations in the performance of fiber optic cables. OM1 fiber supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet at shorter distances, while OM2 enables 10 Gigabit Ethernet at slightly extended distances compared to OM1. OM3 facilitates 10 Gigabit Ethernet at longer distances and accommodates 40/100 Gigabit Ethernet, and OM4 supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet at increased distances while facilitating enhanced performance for 40/100 Gigabit Ethernet. OM5 fiber is designed to support a minimum speed of 28Gbps per channel through at least four WDM channels, catering to advanced data rate requirements.

Connector Compatibility

A key advantage of OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4, and OM5 fibers lies in their connector compatibility. They seamlessly integrate with a variety of connectors commonly used in fiber optic networks, ensuring versatile connectivity options and flexibility in network design.

Distance Limitations

The transmission distance capabilities of fiber optic cables are crucial for determining their applicability in different scenarios. OM1 fiber is limited to shorter distances, typically reaching up to 33 meters for 10 Gigabit Ethernet. In comparison, OM2 fiber supports longer distances, extending up to 82 meters for 10 Gigabit Ethernet. OM3 fiber offers even more extended transmission distances, reaching up to 300 meters for 10 Gigabit Ethernet. OM4 fiber further extends the reach, supporting distances up to 550 meters for 10 Gigabit Ethernet. OM5 fiber is designed to meet evolving demands, aligning its distance capabilities with industry standards and advanced applications.

Advancements in Multimode Fiber Technology

Multimode fiber technology is undergoing significant advancements, boosting bandwidth, mitigating modal dispersion, ensuring compatibility with emerging technologies, extending distance capabilities, enhancing flexibility, and improving environmental resilience. These innovations position multimode fiber as a versatile and future-ready solution for efficient data transmission in telecommunications.

Challenges in Multimode Fiber Networks

Multimode fiber networks face challenges including modal dispersion affecting signal quality, limited distance reach, bandwidth constraints, compatibility issues with emerging technologies, upgrading existing infrastructure, environmental sensitivity, and cost considerations. Overcoming these hurdles is crucial for ensuring the efficiency, resilience, and widespread adoption of multimode fiber in diverse communication environments. Ongoing research and technological innovations are essential to address these challenges and advance the capabilities of multimode fiber networks for the evolving demands of modern telecommunications.


Multimode fiber is commonly employed for building backbone applications due to its high capacity and reliability. Generally, within the 500-600 meter range, multimode fiber cables remain the most cost-effective option for enterprise and data center use. However, the decision between single mode and multimode fiber patch cords isn't interchangeable. The choice depends on specific application requirements, the distance of transmission needed, and the allocated budget. In essence, the selection should align with the distinct demands and considerations of the intended use case.

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