OM5 Fibre is here, so what now?


For years now we have become used to fibre optics in our networks for both home broadband and work networks, so now is a great time to evaluate what systems are out there and where we should go from here.

What do you know?

Many of you will be used to Singlemode and Multimode fibre types so we won’t spend any time on this subject except to say that all you really need to know is that Singlemode is good for very long distances.

We are going to be covering Multimode, which is usually being used in networks in office-based settings.

OM5 is the most recent commercially available iteration of Fibre Optic Networking, meaning that before this there was OM1 though to OM4. Just like progression from Cat 5e to Cat 6 which most people will be familiar with, fibre optics are relatively simple to understand in terms of technological progression.

Let’s look at the speeds OM Fibres will run to:

Fibre Type

Core Diameter

1Gb Ethernet

10Gb Ethernet

40Gb Ethernet

100Gb Ethernet

OM1 Multimode

62.5/125

275 Meters

33 Meters

Not Supported

Not Supported

OM2 Multimode

50/125

82 Meters

82 Meters

Not Supported

Not Supported

OM3 Multimode

50/125

300 Meters

300 Meters

100 Meters

100 Meters

OM4 Multimode

50/125

400 Meters

400 Meters

150 Meters

150 Meters

OM5 Multimode

50/125

400 Meters

400 Meters

150 Meters

150 Meters

From the above table we can see there are clear differences from OM1 through to OM5 in terms of speed and lengths you can run to.

For the purpose of this discussion, we will largely ignore OM1 as it’s no longer used apart from legacy networks and is being commercially phased out. This is partly due to lower speeds and the simple fact that is not compatible with future OM versions whereas all other OM versions being 50/125 will all work in a compatible environment, albeit working to the lowest mode speed when in missed environments.

Let us focus on OM2 and onwards.

The Need for Speed

One question we must address is what speed do you really need? Well, the answer is depending on the type of system you have. For example, a typical office network will be connecting users to the main server and usually working off software and data services typically using similar data to spreadsheets. After all, it’s not like each user will constantly be running online videos and livestreaming.

If we take the lowest typical network environment, most users will need 500Kbps – 2.0Mbps (megabits per second) speed of OM2 running at 10Gb which would be enough for 10,000Mbps, so you can see the sheer amount of data this is.

Another way to look at this is if each user on the network was streaming video at a typical rate of 5Mbps it still nowhere near the capacity of OM2.

OM5

So why even go to OM5?

As you can imagine it’s not just about what we need right now it’s about what you may need in the future. Fibre has always been a big investment so it’s not something you want to have to replace anytime soon. Another important factor is often fibre is the backbone of networks carrying the mass of the network traffic and needs to be super reliable.

Finally, the main reason for OM5 is progress… why not. For example, if we used the analogy of not needing to improve what we have cars would never have been designed to go any faster than 70Mph. Thinking about networks like this helps to understand the need for progression.

Electronics

What place does Fibre Optics have in electronics?

Up to now we have mostly been focusing on the idea that fibre is for computer networks. When we look at how fast the cost of fibre has come down over recent years, however, we can see that using fibre in electrics can be a reality.

We know that fibre is ultra-reliable and can handle massive amounts of data. If you are designing a product that has these qualities, then fibre may be something you want to consider by replacing copper Ethernet inputs with fibre.

When we consider the first concept for fibre was the use of audio devices such as radios and other such devices it’s easy to see how we can get back to the principles that fibre was based on.

Here are just a few benefits of fibre over copper:

  • Very low power consumption
  • No EMC Noise Suppression required
  • Not susceptible to corrosion
  • Light weight and slim
  • Most Fibre comes in LSZH as standard
  • Long distance is no problem

While for many prices will still be a barrier to entry – as we must acknowledge the cost of the electronics that convert data into light and back again is the highest part of the costs involved – we must remember that prices are coming down year on year.

With this in mind, if you are designing for the future, you can consider fibre as an investment for the future and just perhaps show that your devices are truly future proof. How exciting is the idea that fibre optics could in time become a standard for all electronics?

Nick Locke, Nicab Ltd





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