How to Choose Fiber Cables for Your Network Infrastructure

How to Choose Fiber Cables for Your Network Infrastructure

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Choosing the cables for your network infrastructure is one of the most critical, yet often overlooked, choices made by an IT professional. Many view the choice of fiber cables as an afterthought to hardware purchases.  Also, a choice made is often mistakenly based on a simple cost decision using very basic criteria for the purchase - for example, “it needs to have LC connectors and an aqua jacket.” This is an uneducated purchase and all too often leads to catastrophic failure somewhere in the network, which ends up costing the purchasing entity much more than the initial dollars saved.

The following are important criteria for choosing fiber cables for a network infrastructure and the reasons why they are important.
This will allow you to make educated decisions on your purchases.

Low dB Loss Ratings


Choose a fiber cable assembly that has low dB loss ratings. The higher the dB loss, the more likely this fiber cable assembly will cause errors in the network. It is all about signal strength! The better the signal strength, the less chance there is for network errors. Fiber cables with low dB loss offer a better signal strength between transceivers and, therefore, have less chance of network errors, troubleshooting issues and potentially DOWNTIME! Look for a maximum dB loss (sometimes referred to as insertion loss) of 0.15dB for LC connectors and 0.25dB for MTP® or MPO style connectors.








Repeatability is important in choosing fiber cables. Inferior components and termination techniques can be used by manufacturers to reduce manufacturing costs. The result can be a fiber cable that looks identical to another, but has a much higher potential for failure after repeated plug-ins. This is a very dangerous and very frustrating problem because the fiber cable was working, then it is not - so it is often the last thing to be checked!  Ask your provider(s) for documentation on their repeatability testing and information on the components they are using. Quality manufacturers will be constantly testing their assemblies to ensure they work the same on the first plug-in as well as the 500th.








Manageability is often overlooked when purchasing fiber optic cables. Thicker jackets can lead to cable congestion, which leads to potential equipment cooling issues. Not to mention it also just looks bad! Pay attention to overall design when choosing fiber cables and request samples to evaluate the manageability. Also, keep in mind that fiber cables are typically used in higher counts. When evaluating two products next to each other, a smaller diameter may seem insignificant; however, when there are 144 of these bundles together the difference is visibly more dramatic!

Paying attention to these key points can help you distinguish “ cost” from “ overall value.” To reiterate, if you save a few hundred dollars when just evaluating with raw cost, you could end up costing your organization thousands of dollars in troubleshooting man hours - and even more for a catastrophic failure. If you choose wisely you can spend only a little bit more while significantly reducing troubleshooting time and virtually eliminating downtime threats due to cabling malfunction. Also, know that you need not pay huge premiums for quality fiber cables. Do some research and contact multiple suppliers and manufacturers, as there are some high performance fiber cable assemblies to be purchased without paying a premium price!