How to Specify Industrial Fiber Optic Cable

By Contributed Article | April 13, 2015

Ensure optimal performance in demanding environments with these tips on how to specify industrial fiber optic cable from Kyle Mrkva of Belden.


Belden Active Optical CablesFiber optic cabling is applicable in any industrial environment where high-speed, high-bandwidth data solutions are needed. It can be used for campus and in-building data backbones to anchor an operation’s Ethernet, and also for point-to-point digital signal transmission. This cabling utilizes ruggedized jackets, often polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or chlorinated polyethylene (CPE), to ensure optimal performance in the face of extreme temperatures; exposure to UV/sunlight, oil, and solvents; and crushing impact.

The Benefits of Fiber Optic Cable

Fiber optic cabling is superior in terms of its high bandwidth, low attenuation, and complete electrical noise immunity, allowing more information to be carried across the network without interruption. Fiber optic cables are also smaller and lighter than copper cables, extremely durable and intrinsically safe, with no risk of spark hazards.

Alternatives to Fiber Optic Cabling

Typical alternatives for connecting data networks with fiber optic cables include copper Ethernet or automation cables. While copper cabling is suitable for the majority of industrial data transmission needs, both alternatives can stimulate potential failure points due to electrical noise, such as electromagnetic interference and radio frequency interference, as well as limit bandwidth capacity and signal transmission distance.

Types of Fiber Optic Cables

Fiber optic cabling can be segmented based on design criteria and installation environment:

  • Loose tube cables lay thinly coated fiber strands into unitized thermoplastic tubes, giving the fiber strands flexibility to move within the tubes and the cable the ability to stand up to outdoor temperatures and harsh environments.
  • Tight buffered cables contain an individual buffer on each fiber stand, allowing for easy handling and quick termination. For common small fiber counts, this design delivers a smaller cable diameter than loose tube cables and is best suited for indoor environments. The most common designs for tight buffered cabling are distribution and breakout.

Single-mode fiber strands are designed to interface with laser optic light sources for distances beyond 300 meters, while multi-mode strands are designed to interface with LED and vertical-cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) light sources for short-distance cabling runs.

Installing Fiber Optic Cables

For industrial installations, it is critical to consider and evaluate the environment. When fiber cabling is running alongside power and a tray-rated 600V control and instrumentation cable – a double-jacketed, heavy duty, all-dielectric cabling design is preferable. If cabling requires extra physical protection or is slated for direct burial, steel corrugated or aluminum interlock armor can be applied to protect cabling from the elements, such as jagged rock or rodent chew-through.

Author Kyle Mrkva is the product line manager at Belden.

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