Comparing Multimode and Single-Mode Fiber Optic Cables

single-mode fiber optic cables

Multimode and single-mode fiber optic cables are useful for specific tasks.

While both multimode and single-mode fiber optic cables use the same basic principles, each has distinct advantages and disadvantages that make them suited for particular situations. It is essential to know when to use each cable when configuring your new fiber-optic network. The critical differences between multimode and single-mode fiber optic cables are below; read on to learn which cables may be right for your network. 

Single-Mode Fiber Optic Cables

Single-mode fiber optic cables are designed to carry a single beam of light, which is a “mode.” These cables use lasers operating at 1310 to 1550 nm wavelength as a light source and are typically used in long-distance telecommunication applications. Single-core cables can also be used as sources of decorative illumination, as they can project light in specific patterns. The core diameter is only 8.5μm and are much smaller than the multimode cables. 


  • Single-mode fiber optic transmissions are faster than multimode over long distances because fewer switches or routers are needed mid-span.
  • Virtually unlimited bandwidth capacity
  • Capable of transmitting data at up to 40Gb over hundreds of kilometers with little integrity loss
  • Over greater distances, such as thousands of kilometers, this cable can send data at speeds of up to 10Gb
  • Single-mode cable and connectors are generally less expensive than multimode.
  • DWDM technology allows the C-Band (1530 to 1565 nm wavelengths) to be divided into up to 192 discreet channels per fiber pair. Each channel can carry 100 Gbps.  That translates into 19.2 Tbps (TeraBits per Second)


  • Single-mode solutions are often more expensive to deploy and operate since laser-based equipment generate more heat.
  • The lasers required are costly and can be used with only one cable at a time
  • The dependency on lasers means that single-mode cables are less versatile and more limited in their applications

Multimode Fiber Optic Cables

Multimode fiber optic cables have thicker core diameters (typically 50µm) than single-mode cables.. These thicker fibers allow the cable to carry light of various modes at 850 to 1300nm wavelengths. They can use an inexpensive light-emitting diode as a light source. Laser Optimized Multimode Fiber (LOMMF) can also make use of a Vertical Cavity Surface-emitting Laser (VCSEL). Multimode cables are most often used in a single building and data and A/V applications in LANs, because of their ability to carry multiple modes of light, and because the cables can use less expensive  light sources. The most commonly installed multimode fibers installed today are LOMMF OM3 and OM4. 


  • Multimode cables are less expensive to operate, install, and maintain
  • High speed and high bandwidth over short distances
  • Allow several mode optical signals to be transmitted at once


  • Multimode cables are more limited in both speed and distance
  • The maximum speed of an OM4 multimode cable is 100G depending on distance, and only up to a distance of 400 to 550 meters. For OM3 fiber the maximum distance is 300 meters. At 2 kilometers, it is only capable of transmitting 100Mbit. 

Get in Touch with FiberPlus

FiberPlus has been providing data communication solutions for over 25 years in the Mid Atlantic Region for a number of different markets. What began as a cable installation company for Local Area Networks has grown into a leading provider of innovative technology solutions improving the way our customers communicate and keeping them secure. Our solutions now include:

  •     Structured Cabling (Fiberoptic, Copper and Coax for inside and outside plant networks)
  •     Electronic Security Systems (Access Control & CCTV Solutions)
  •     Wireless Access Point installations
  •     Public Safety DAS – Emergency Call Stations
  •     Audio/Video Services (Intercoms and Display Monitors)
  •     Support Services
  •     Specialty Systems
  •     Design/Build Services

FiberPlus promises the communities in which we serve that we will continue to expand and evolve as new technology is introduced within the telecommunications industry.

Have any questions? Interested in one of our services? Call FiberPlus today 800-394-3301, email us at, or visit our contact page.  Our offices are located in the Washington, DC metro area, Richmond, VA, and Columbus, OH.  In Pennsylvania, please call Pennsylvania Networks, Inc. at 814-259-3999.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 19th, 2019 at 3:00 pm . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.