Plastic Optical Fiber (POF) Pros and Cons

April 26, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

In our previous blog posts, we’ve explored many of the advantages of fiber optic cables. From faster speeds, greater bandwidth, immunity to EMI/RFI and better performance in harsh environments, fiber has a lot of advantages over traditional copper cabling. We’ve also compared multimode fiber vs. single-mode fiber. But what about plastic optical fiber (POF)? Here, we’ll explore the good and the bad of POF and how it can work for you.

 

Plastic Optical Fiber is a large core, step-index optical fiber that can deliver data rates of up to 1 Gbps. POF is an ideal choice for networks with infrastructure runs of up to 80 meters connecting to switches and/or wall plates. Because it’s made of plastic, POF is more durable and is easily installed in minutes with fewer tools and less training.  It is also priced more competitively, which makes it a more attractive option for desktop LAN connections and low-speed short links.

 

POF will support the higher bandwidth demands projected for the average user in the coming years. It is also well-suited for developing new applications that require higher bandwidth, including IPTV and Triple Play services. It can be used in businesses, homes, student housing, apartments and condos. As a matter of fact, the IEEE recently specified the 802.3bv standard for plastic optical fiber. This standard will allow POF to provide Gigabit Ethernet support for applications such as automotive, industrial and home networks.

 

With a typical diameter of 1 mm, POF is about 100 times larger than glass optical fiber, which could be a downfall, but the large size allows it to easily couple a large amount of light from sources and connectors that don’t have to have high precision. This makes termination simple and cuts connector costs by an average of 10-20% compared to glass fibers.

 

POF is ideal for short-range communication networks and plays an important role in military communication networks. It is also safer than glass optical fiber because it uses a harmless green or red light that is easy visible to the eye. Though plastic optical fibers can’t withstand the extreme high-temperatures that glass optical fiber can, they do provide added durability and flexibility for use in data communications, industrial environments and military applications.

 

The list of cons is short: slower data-rates, shorter distances.  

 

POF has a lengthy list of pros. Here’s an overview:

 

·       Lower cost

·       Easier to install

·       Less infrastructure support required

·       50% less power than copper

·       80% less carbon dioxide than copper

·       High-performance data transfer

·       Resists EMI/RFI and crosstalk interference

·       Lightweight and durable

·       Waterproof, moisture-proof and magnetic-free

·       LEED-certified

·       Future 802.3bv standard (1Gbps speeds)

 

5 Things You Need to Know About Shielded Ethernet Cables

August 18, 2016 at 8:00 AM

 

Shielded Ethernet cables are widely used, so you may know what they are. You may even be familiar with some of the advantages and disadvantages of using them. But if you want to dig a little deeper into the world of shielded Ethernet cables, here are 5 things you need to know.

 

1. A single-shielded Ethernet cable has the lightest available shield but still weighs 12% more on average than an unshielded cable. A double-shielded Ethernet cable weighs as much as 30% more than the unshielded version. This additional weight may not be a big deal if you are only running a few shorter cables, but if your network is using dozens or hundreds of shielded cables, the combined weight could be enough to damage a rack, cable ladder or other cable management infrastructure. 

 

2. Double-shielded cables  have both a foil and braid shield and can better protect data from EMI/RFI and alien crosstalk (AXT). This protection results in higher transmission speeds and fewer data transmission errors.

 

 

3. High-flex industrial cables are shielded and built for continuous or high-flex applications, and also employ special jacket materials to solve common industrial Ethernet problems. They are designed for environments where ordinary patch cables fail. These cables will not breakdown when exposed to oil based lubricants, making them ideal for robotic control systems on the factory floor.

 

4. Shielded IP67-rated and IP68-rated Ethernet cables use a hood around the male connector that can screw onto the barrel of a female jack for protection against moisture and dust. Shielding the cables and connectors ensures better performance and higher data transmission rates.  IP67 and IP68-rated cables are also protected from liquid immersion, giving them another layer of protection.

 

5. Shielded Ethernet cables provide maximum performance even in high EMI/RFI environments.   Category 6 shielded cables are designed to handle today's hi-speed Gigabit Ethernet applications. Category 6a cable assemblies offer true 10 Gigabit Ethernet speeds at frequencies up to 500 MHz, making them ideal for high speed computing applications often found in data centers. Both Cat6 and Cat6a shielded cables are designed to outperform with super speeds and shielding protecting your data from interference.

 

Video Blog: How to Make Your Own Shielded Ethernet Cable

May 19, 2016 at 8:00 AM

 

If your application requires extra protection from electromagnetic or radio interference, shielded cable may be the perfect solution.  When installing cabling or network devices in close proximity to machines, motors, power cables, fluorescent lights or other electronics that produce high electromagnetic or radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI), shielding will protect the data from EMI/RFI, increase transmission speeds and reduce data transmission errors.  A shielded Ethernet cable also protects from alien cross talk (AXT), caused by other cables and nearby connected devices.

 

If you do require shielded Ethernet cables you can either buy pre-assembled cables or you can build your own. We have created a helpful video to assist you if you decide to go the DIY route.

 

Our instructional video demonstrates an easy life hack to make your own shielded Ethernet cable. With just 4 items and 3 short minutes, our simple steps will show you how to build your own shielded Ethernet cable. Go ahead, bring out your inner MacGyver – you know you want to.

 

For more information on shielded cables, read our blog Who Needs Shielded Cables Anyway.

 


Who Needs Shielded Cables Anyway?

September 10, 2015 at 8:00 AM

 

To shield or not to shield, that is the question.  Deciding to use a shielded cable versus an unshielded cable is largely based on your application. Below we detail some factors to take into consideration to determine whether you need shielded cabling or not.

Shielded

The electrical environment surrounding your installation area is a significant factor to consider. If your network devices or cabling will be in close proximity to machines, motors, power cables, fluorescent lights or other electronics that output high electromagnetic or radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI), shielding will protect your data from electromagnetic interference. And protection from EMI results in higher transmission speeds and fewer data transmission errors. 

 

A shielded cable is also better than an unshielded cable at protecting from alien crosstalk (AXT).  Alien crosstalk is crosstalk caused by other cables and sometimes connected devices situated close to the cable of interest.

 

 

Every component within a shielded system must be seamless, as well as properly installed and maintained in order to completely reduce the affects of electromagnetic and radio interference. Shielded cables and systems also require good grounding.  An improperly grounded system can cause emission and interference issues. 

 

Unshielded

If your application does not involve cabling being located near EMI or RFI emitting devices then in many cases unshielded cabling is the way to go. Unshielded cabling is lightweight and flexible while also being versatile, reliable and inexpensive. In many IT applications and office networks unshielded cabling is used.


One thing to consider however is that if you are supporting higher data rates in your Enterprise or SMB network such as 10 Gbps and 40 Gbps over copper, shielded cable will greatly reduce or eliminate alien crosstalk (AXT) that will degrade network performance. This is not a problem with lower speed 10/100/1000 over Cat5e and Cat6 cables but is something to note when using Cat6a cabling at higher speeds.

 

So the cable type you choose is dependent upon your networks location and the technology you are employing e.g. 10BASE-T.  The best plan of attack is to thoroughly evaluate your installation site and technical requirements of the network to spec in the right cable for the job.

 

Check out our wide selection of shielded and unshielded cable assemblies and bulk cable.

 

© L-com, Inc. All Rights Reserved. L-com, Inc., 50 High Street, West Mill, Third Floor, Suite 30, MA 01845