Multimode Fiber Types: OM1 vs OM2 vs OM3 vs OM4 vs OM5

Multimode Fiber Types: OM1 vs OM2 vs OM3 vs OM4 vs OM5
Multimode Fiber Types: OM1 vs OM2 vs OM3 vs OM4 vs OM5


In the realm of high-speed network installations, the selection of fiber type is a critical decision point, with each offering unique capabilities and limitations. This article aims to provide a comprehensive comparison between different types of multimode fibers – OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4, and OM5. With a multitude of options to choose from, understanding the fundamental differences and the specific applications each type is best suited for can seem overwhelming. In particular, OM3 fiber, due to its distinct characteristics, will be a focal point of our discussion. Throughout this article, we will shed light on these complexities, equipping you with the knowledge to make an informed selection for your network installation needs.

What is Multimode Fiber?

Multimode fiber is a type of optical fiber primarily used for communication over short distances, such as within a building or on a campus. Unlike single-mode fibers, which support just one propagation mode, multimode fibers can propagate multiple modes or light paths simultaneously, hence its name.

Distinguishing Characteristics of Multimode Fiber

Distinct from single-mode fibers, multimode fibers have a larger core diameter, typically around 50 or 62.5 micrometers, which allows multiple light modes to be propagated and limits the maximum length of a transmission link due to modal dispersion. The specific characteristics, such as transmission speed and distance, vary among different types of multimode fibers. For instance, the OM3 fiber, a type of multimode fiber optimized for laser-based equipment, provides a significant increase in bandwidth, enabling longer link lengths and higher speeds, making it a popular choice for high-speed network installations.

OM1 Fiber

OM1 fiber, characterized by a 62.5/125µm core/cladding diameter, is designed for LED-based equipment. With a maximum speed of 1 Gbit/s, it has a limited range of only about 275 meters at this speed, making it suitable mostly for small networks.

Specifications and Performance of OM1 Fiber

OM1 fiber offers 200/500 of overfilled launch (OFL) bandwidth at 850/1300nm. Despite its limited bandwidth, it is cost-effective and widely used in short-distance applications such as within buildings or campuses.

OM2 Fiber

OM2 fiber, which has a smaller 50/125µm core/cladding diameter, is also designed to work with LED sources. It can support speeds up to 1 Gbit/s with ranges up to 550 meters, making it more flexible than OM1.

Specifications and Performance of OM2 Fiber

OM2 fiber has an OFL bandwidth of 500/500 at 850/1300nm. It provides better performance than OM1, especially over longer distances, due to its higher bandwidth.

OM3 Fiber

OM3 fiber is an improved version of multimode fiber optimized for laser-based equipment. Its 50/125µm core/cladding diameter allows for more efficient signal transmission.

Specifications and Performance of OM3 Fiber

OM3 fiber offers an impressive 2000 effective modal bandwidth (EMB), enabling longer link lengths and higher data transmission rates. This makes it ideal for 10 Gbit/s applications over distances up to 300 meters.

OM4 Fiber

OM4 fiber, like OM3, is laser-optimized. However, it offers even higher performance, with a maximum range of about 550 meters at 10 Gbit/s.

Specifications and Performance of OM4 Fiber

OM4 fiber has an EMB of 4700 at 850nm. This significant increase in bandwidth allows 10 Gbit/s links over greater distances, making it a popular choice for larger networks and data centers.

OM5 Fiber

OM5 fiber, the latest iteration, is designed to support short wavelength division multiplexing (SWDM). This means it can simultaneously transmit multiple signals over the same fiber at different wavelengths.

Specifications and Performance of OM5 Fiber

OM5 fiber offers an EMB of 4700 at 850nm and supports SWDM, which enables multiple signals to be sent over a single fiber. This significantly increases the overall network capacity, making OM5 fiber suitable for high-speed, high-volume applications such as in data centers.

Differences between OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4, and OM5

Sure, let’s dive into the differences between OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4, and OM5 fiber optic cables in terms of mode bandwidth, distance, and speed, as well as application compatibility.

1. Mode Bandwidth:

  • OM1: Has a core size of 62.5 micrometers and offers a modal bandwidth of 200 MHz-km at 850nm.
  • OM2: With a smaller core size of 50 micrometers, OM2 provides an increased modal bandwidth of 500 MHz-km at 850nm.
  • OM3: OM3 also has a core size of 50 micrometers but offers a significantly higher modal bandwidth of 2000 MHz-km at 850nm, making it suitable for higher-speed transmissions.
  • OM4: Like OM3, OM4 has a 50-micrometer core size, but its modal bandwidth is even greater, reaching 4700 MHz-km at 850nm.
  • OM5: The newest addition to the family, OM5, matches OM3 and OM4 with a 50-micrometer core size and offers a modal bandwidth of 4700 MHz-km at both 850nm and 953nm. This dual-wavelength capability sets OM5 apart from its predecessors.

2. Distance and Speed:

  • OM1 & OM2: Suitable for relatively short-distance applications, OM1 and OM2 can support Gigabit Ethernet at lengths up to 275m and 550m, respectively.
  • OM3: OM3 supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet at lengths up to 300m, providing a significant step-up from OM1 and OM2.
  • OM4: OM4 can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet at lengths up to 550m, almost doubling the capacity of OM3.
  • OM5: OM5 supports SWDM (Short Wavelength Division Multiplexing), which allows for increased speeds and distances. It can support 40 Gigabit and 100 Gigabit Ethernet at lengths up to 150m and 100m, respectively.

3. Application Compatibility:

  • OM1 & OM2: These are largely considered legacy grades, used in systems that do not require high data rates.
  • OM3 & OM4: These grades are typically used in data centers and storage area networks (SANs) where higher data rates are required.
  • OM5: As the newest grade, OM5 is designed to support emerging applications like SWDM, making it a future-proof solution for high-speed, high-bandwidth environments.

In conclusion, while all these types of multimode fiber optic cables have their place, the choice between them depends on your specific application requirements, including the necessary data rates, transmission distances, and future-proofing considerations.

Fiber TypeCore Size (Micrometers)Modal Bandwidth at 850nm (MHz-km)Modal Bandwidth at 953nm (MHz-km)Maximum Distance for Gigabit EthernetMaximum Distance for 10 Gigabit EthernetMaximum Distance for 40/100 Gigabit EthernetTypical Use
OM162.5200N/AUp to 275mN/AN/ALegacy systems
OM250500N/AUp to 550mN/AN/ALegacy systems
OM3502000N/AN/AUp to 300mN/AData centers, SANs
OM4504700N/AN/AUp to 550mN/AData centers, SANs
OM55047004700N/AN/AUp to 150m (40G), Up to 100m (100G)High-speed, high-bandwidth environments

Multimode Fiber Connectors: Introduction to Fiber Connectors

Fiber connectors play a vital role in coupling and aligning the fiber cores to allow light signals to pass from one connected device to another. They are an essential component in fiber optic networks, acting as the primary point of optical contact. Their design and structure can significantly impact the performance, reliability, and longevity of the fiber optic system.

Types of Multimode Fiber Connectors

There are several types of multimode fiber connectors, each with distinct features and applications:

  1. LC Connector: The LC (Lucent Connector) is a common choice for use with recent high-density applications. Its small form factor makes it ideal for densely populated network systems, such as data centers.
  2. SC Connector: The SC (Subscriber Connector) is a robust, cost-effective connector with excellent performance. It’s widely used in network environments needing high-speed data transmission.
  3. ST Connector: The ST (Straight Tip) connector was one of the first connectors to be broadly implemented in fiber optic networking systems. It’s known for its reliability and ease of insertion/removal.
  4. MTP/MPO Connector: The MTP/MPO (Multi-fiber Termination Push-on/Pull-off) connector is designed for high-density applications, supporting multiple fibers in a single connector, making it ideal for multi-fiber connections like OM3 and OM4.

Selecting the right multimode fiber connector is a key step in ensuring the success of your network installation, contributing to the overall system’s efficiency, performance, and future-proofing capabilities.

Single Mode and Multimode Fiber Differences

Both types of fibers carry communication signals, yet they do so in different ways, and each has its own unique applications, advantages, and disadvantages.

Let’s break down these differences in a comparative table for easy understanding:

FeatureSingle Mode FiberMultimode Fiber
Core Diameter8 to 10 micrometers50 to 62.5 micrometers
Mode of PropagationSingle path of light known as a modeMultiple paths (modes) of light
BandwidthHigh bandwidth capacityLower bandwidth capacity compared to single mode
DistanceSuitable for long-distance transmission (up to 100 km)Suitable for short-distance transmission (up to 2 km)
CostMore expensive due to precision required in productionLess expensive
Light SourceUses laser lightUses LED light

Single Mode Fiber (SMF) is designed to carry only a single ray of light (mode). This lack of interference can allow it to carry signals at much higher speeds over longer distances. SMFs are typically used in long-haul network connections, such as those used by internet service providers, cable TV networks, and university campuses.

On the other hand, Multimode Fiber (MMF) is designed to carry multiple light rays (modes) simultaneously. Each mode reflects off the fiber wall, creating multiple pathways for the signal. This design allows MMFs to carry a high volume of data over short distances, making them ideal for data and audio/visual applications in local-area networks (LANs), storage area networks (SANs), and within data centers.

Remember, selecting the right fiber type for your application is crucial. It’s not just about cost but also about meeting the bandwidth and distance requirements of your specific network design.


In conclusion, when it comes to selecting the right multimode fiber for your network installation, understanding the differences and applications of each type is paramount. OM3 fiber and other multimode fibers offer unique advantages designed to meet varying bandwidth and distance requirements. While cost is an important factor, prioritizing your specific network design requirements will ensure that you choose the most efficient and capable fiber for your needs. Remember, a well-informed decision today will aid in future-proofing your network for tomorrow’s technological advancements.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the different types of multimode fiber?

A: The different types of multimode fiber are OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4, and OM5.

Q: What is the difference between OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4, and OM5 multimode fiber?

A: The main difference between these multimode fiber types is their bandwidth and distance capabilities. OM1 has a bandwidth of 200 MHz/km, OM2 has a bandwidth of 500 MHz/km, OM3 has a bandwidth of 2000 MHz/km, OM4 has a bandwidth of 4700 MHz/km, and OM5 has a bandwidth of 28000 MHz/km.

Q: Can OM5 multimode fiber be used with OM3 or OM4 multimode fiber?

A: Yes, OM5 multimode fiber is compatible with OM3 and OM4 multimode fiber. They can be used together in the same network.

Q: What is OM5 multimode fiber?

A: OM5 multimode fiber is the newest type of multimode fiber. It is designed to support both short wavelength division multiplexing (SWDM) and traditional multimode applications. It has a wideband multimode fiber (WBMMF) specification that supports multiple wavelengths over a single fiber.

Q: What is the difference between multimode fiber and single-mode fiber?

A: The main difference between multimode fiber and single-mode fiber is the way light travels through the fiber. Multimode fiber allows multiple modes of light to travel through the core of the fiber, while single-mode fiber only allows a single mode of light to travel through the core. This results in different bandwidth and distance capabilities.

Q: Are OM2 and OM3 multimode fibers compatible with each other?

A: Yes, OM2 and OM3 multimode fibers are compatible with each other. They can be used together in the same network.

Q: Is OM4 multimode fiber compatible with OM3 multimode fiber?

A: Yes, OM4 multimode fiber is entirely backward compatible with OM3 multimode fiber. You can use OM4 fiber with OM3 fiber without any issues.

Q: What color is the jacket of OM5 multimode fiber?

A: The jacket of OM5 multimode fiber is usually lime green in color.

Q: Can I use an OM3 fiber patch cord with an OM4 multimode fiber?

A: Yes, you can use an OM3 fiber patch cord with an OM4 multimode fiber. They are compatible with each other and can be used interchangeably.

Q: What light source is commonly used with multimode fiber?

A: Multimode fiber is commonly used with LED (light-emitting diode) light sources. LED light sources are cost-effective and have a longer lifespan compared to laser light sources.

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