Different Types of Fiber Cable: Selecting the Best for Your Network


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Fiber optic cables are manufactured to meet optical, mechanical, or environmental performance specifications, and are telecommunication cable assemblies that utilize one or more optical fibers in a sheathing as the transmission medium and can be used individually or in groups.

Due to the rise of optical communication, more and more optical cable products have entered the market. So, what are the common types of fiber cable?

1. Fiber cable types by transmission performance, distance, and use: It can be divided into long-distance optical cable, local optical cable, submarine optical cable, and user optical cable.

Fiber cable types Structure Performance requirements Application
User optical cable Unitube,


High density, wide bandwidth, low/medium loss. Computer network, FTTH (fiber-to-the-home)
Local optical cable Unitube,

Ribbon, stranded loose tube

Low loss, wide bandwidth Within the city
Long-distance optical cable Intercity, long distance
Submarine optical cable Stranded loose tube Low loss, wide bandwidth, high mechanical performance, high reliability Underwater

Fiber optic cable

2. Fiber cable types by light transmission mode: It can be divided into multi-mode optical cable, and single-mode optical cable. Single-mode fiber cable is used for long-distance signal transmission; multi-mode fiber cable is mainly used for short-distance fiber-optic communication.

3. Fiber cable types by structure: It can be divided into stranded loose tube cable, slotted core fiber cable, unitube cable, and ribbon cable.

Structure Structural features Performance characteristics Laying method
Stranded loose tube cable


Optical fibers are twisted around a central strength member The fiber is easy to manufacture, has good mechanical and environmental performance, and small fiber count Direct burial, pipeline, overhead, and underwater laying
Slotted core fiber cable


Fiber is placed in the slotted core The optical fiber is complicated to manufacture, has good protection performance, good pressure measurement strength, compact structure, small cable diameter, and large fibers counts Pipeline laying
Unitube cable


Fiber is placed in the center tube The structure is simple, the manufacturing process is the simplest, the cost is low, and the fibers count is flexible, but the  fibers count in the cable should not be too much Overhead laying
Ribbon cable


Fiber is placed in a ribbon fiber unit in a tube or slotted core The most space-efficient fiber optic cable that can accommodate a large number of fibers Direct burial and pipeline laying

structure fiber cable

4. Fiber cable types by fiber core count: It can be divided into 1-core fiber optic cable, 2-core fiber optic cable, 4-core fiber optic cable, 6-core fiber optic cable, 8-core fiber optic cable, 12-core fiber optic cable and 24-core fiber optic cable, etc. The optical fiber count is mainly related to the device interface connected by the optical fiber and the communication mode of the device. Generally speaking, the number of optical cores in the optical fiber is the total number of device interfaces multiplied by 2, plus 10% to 20% of the spare number. If the communication method of the device includes serial communication and device multiplexing, the number of cores can be reduced.

5. Fiber cable types by laying method: It can be divided into pipeline optical cables, direct buried optical cables, overhead optical cables, and underwater optical cables.

The main difference between pipeline optical cables, direct buried optical cables, overhead optical cables, and underwater optical cables is the laying method, and the performance of the optical cable is different correspondingly.

  • Overhead optical cable: Overhead optical cable is an optical cable used for hanging on poles. The overhead optical cable laying method can use the original overhead open line pole road, save construction costs and shorten the construction period. Aerial optical cables are required to be able to adapt to various natural environments, and are suitable for areas with flat terrain and fewer undulations.
  • Directly buried optical cable: When laying directly buried in the ground, the requirements for lateral pressure are relatively strict. This optical cable has steel tape or steel wire armor on the outside, and is directly buried in the ground, which requires the performance of resisting external mechanical damage and preventing soil corrosion performance.
  • Pipeline optical cable: It is laid in the pipeline, commonly used for outdoor optical cable in the access network or customer premises network. Pipe laying is generally in urban areas, there is no special requirement for the jacket of the optical cable, and no armoring is required. Before pipe laying, the length of the laying section and the position of the connection point must be selected.
  • Underwater optical cable: It is laid on the seabed, generally used to establish telecommunication or power transmission between countries or regions. Submarine optical cables are laid in extremely complex marine environments. It has multiple layers of armor and is required to have excellent tensile strength, water pressure resistance, corrosion resistance, resistance to hydrogen loss, and other properties.


6. Fiber cable types by the configuration method of the strength members: It can be divided into central strengthening member optical cables (such as stranded loose tube optical cable, slotted core fiber cable, etc.), scattered strengthening member optical cables (such as reinforced optical cables on both sides of the bundled tube and flat optical cables), and sheath strengthening member optical cables (such as bundled steel wire armored optical cable) and PE outer sheath plus a certain amount of thin steel wire composite outer sheath optical cable.

7. Fiber cable types by the properties of the jacket material: Fiber optic cables can be divided into PE polyethylene jacket ordinary optical cables, PVC jacket flame retardant optical cables and nylon anti-rodent-optical cables, etc.

Jacket Material Benefits of Jacket Material
PE (Polyethylene) PE has excellent properties of moisture and weather resistance, and has good electrical properties over a wide temperature range. It’s also abrasion resistant. So PE is the standard jacket material for outdoor fiber optic cables.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride ) PVC is usually low-cost, flexible, fairly rugged, and a flame/oil-resistant material, so it can be formulated to function in a variety of environments and applications. In other words, it can be used as the jacket material for both indoor and outdoor cables.
PVDF (Polyvinyl Difluoride) PVDF is used for plenum cables because it has better fire-retardant properties than PE and produces little smoke.
LSZH (Low Smoke Zero Halogen) LSZH jacket is free of halogenated materials which can be transformed into toxic and corrosive matte during combustion. LSZH materials are used to make a special cable called LSZH cable, which is a good choice for inner installations. But it is the most expensive jacket material.
Plenum It is one of the main components to form OFNFP-grade optical fiber cables. It has high flame retardancy and does not generate toxic or corrosive gases at extremely high temperatures. Fiber optic cables with Plenum materials are the first choice for wiring in air return pressurization systems used in ventilation ducts or air handling equipment.
Riser It is one of the main components of the OFN-grade optical fiber cable. The flame retardant performance is weaker than that of the Plenum material. At the same time, it has no toxic gas and corrosive gas. Therefore, the OFNR grade optical fiber cable with riser material is usually used in building trunk lines and horizontal cables.


8. Fiber cable types by transmission conductor and medium condition: Fiber optical cables can be divided into metal-free optical cables, ordinary optical cables, and integrated optical cables. Metal-free optical cables are mainly used in areas with strong electromagnetic influence and frequent lightning, and integrated optical cables are mainly used in railway dedicated network communication lines.

9. Fiber cable types by use environment: It can be divided into outdoor optical cable, indoor optical cable, submarine optical cable, etc.

  • Outdoor optical cable: It is used for outdoor direct burial, pipeline, channel, tunnel, overhead and underwater laying. The outer packaging is thick and has some mechanical and environmental characteristics such as pressure resistance, corrosion resistance and tensile strength.
  • Flexible fiber optic cable: A removable fiber optic cable with excellent flexural properties. It has small outer diameter, good flexibility, is easy to bend, is suitable for indoor or small space occasions, and is often used in optical connectors, FTTH, sensing and other fields.
  • Indoor optical cable: It is suitable for indoor deployment. Indoor optical cable has good bending resistance, fire resistance and flame retardant, strong flexibility, suitable for communication equipment in buildings with short transmission distances.
  • Submarine optical cable: It is for transoceanic laying. No need to dig tunnels or support with brackets, submarine optical cable has characteristics of low investment, and fast construction. Also, it performs little interference from the natural environment and human activities, has good confidentiality, security, and stability, and are mostly used for long-distance international transmission.
  • Special optical cables: In addition to the above categories, there are optical cables for special purposes, such as hybrid cables, tactical optical cables, anti-rodent optical cables, etc.

10. Fiber cable types by emerging optical cables: The emergence of new optical cable materials has also promoted the improvement of optical cable structure, such as the use of dry water blocking materials, nanomaterials, flame retardant materials, etc., which have significantly improved the performance of optical cables. In recent years, emerging optical cables such as ecological optical cables, nanotechnology optical cables, and micro-optical cables have emerged.

  • Ecological optical cable: It is mainly from the perspective of environmental protection, to solve the problem of non-environmentally friendly materials in optical cables, such as PVC burning will release toxic gases, and lead in optical cable stabilizers. Ecological optical cables are mainly used indoors, buildings and homes. At present, some companies have produced new materials for ecological optical cables, such as halogen-free flame-retardant plastics.
  • Nanotechnology optical cables: Nanotechnology optical cables use nanomaterials, such as nanofiber coatings, nanofiber ointments, polyethylene for nanosheathing, nano-PBT for optical fiber sheathing, etc., utilizing many excellent properties of nanomaterials, such as improving mechanical shock resistance of optical cables.
  • Micro optical cable: The micro optical cable is mainly used to cooperate with the installation and construction system of air pressure or water pressure. Various micro optical cable structures have been designed and used. There is a certain coefficient between the optical cable and the pipe. The weight of the optical cable should be accurate and have a certain hardness. In order to meet the needs of the future access network, the micro-optical cable and automatic installation method are specially integrated into the wiring system in the customer premises network and wiring in the intelligent pipeline of the intelligent building.


Bonelinks is OEM/ODM fiber cables products and solutions supplier, dedicated to providing customers with reliable and quality optic products. We provide different types of fiber cable, which are widely used in FTTH fiber-to-the-home, 4G/5G mobile communications, data centers, high-density communications and other fields. If you cannot find a product that you need or if you are looking for something special, contact us as we might already have the solution.

Echo Huang

Echo Huang is an expert wordsmith and marketing professional at Bonelinks with more than 8 years of experience in high technology businesses – fiber optics, IoT, and telecommunication. She is very glad to share industry knowledge and communicate with others.

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