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Every component in a sophisticated system design has to work together in order for the system to work. This is certainly the case in fiber optic data transfer systems, down to the specific connectors used to link each part together. This article will take a look at the most widely used fiber optic cable connectors on the market, along with their advantages and applications.
Purpose of Fiber Optic Cables and Connectors
Fiber optic cables are a type of cable that use light instead of electricity to transmit data. They are composed of thin glass or plastic strands called optical fibers, which serve as the medium to carry the light signals. Fiber optic cables are much faster than traditional copper cables and can carry much more data over much longer distances. These cables are used in telecommunications applications, including internet, cable TV and telephone connections.
Without cable connectors, fiber optic lines couldn't transmit any data. These connectors provide reliable, efficient connections between two fiber optic cables or between a cable and an active device, such as a transmitter, receiver or switch.
Primary Components of Fiber Optic Cable Connectors
The three basic components of a fiber optic cable connector are the ferrule, the connector body and the coupling mechanism. The ferrule's job is to protect and align the bare end of the fiber. It holds the fiber securely in place with adhesive, preventing contamination and ensuring its durability. The connector body is a structure, usually made of plastic or metal, that holds the ferrule and connects to the cable's jacket, providing support and strength. The coupling mechanism keeps the connector in place when it's connected to a device or cable.
Types of Fiber Optic Cable Connectors
SC (Subscriber Connector) Connector
SC connectors use a push-pull latching mechanism for quick and easy plugging and unplugging. SC connectors are the most popular fiber optic connectors used today. They are duplex connectors, meaning they carry two fibers, one for transmitting data and one for receiving data. Their ceramic ferrules are 2.5mm in diameter. SC connectors are widely used in telecom networks, data centers, ISP networks and cable television systems, among other applications.
LC (Lucent Connector) Connector
LC connectors are miniaturized versions of SC connectors. They look similar to SC connectors but have 1.25mm ceramic ferrules. LC connectors are the second-most commonly used fiber optic connectors and were hailed as the modern replacement for the SC connector when they were released. These connectors have the same applications as SC connectors.
ST (Straight Tip) Connector
ST connectors look similar to LC connectors, but they use a bayonet fitment rather than a screw thread. As simplex connectors, ST connectors require two connectors and cables for two-way data transfers. ST connectors feature spring-loaded, twist-lock couplings, allowing simple mating cycles. Like SC connectors, ST connectors have 2.5mm ferrules. ST connectors — considered the industry standard connector in the 1980s and 1990s — are now used mostly in legacy systems as the fiber optic connector industry has shifted toward smaller, more efficient connector types.
FC (Ferrule Connector) Connector
Unlike the SC and LC connectors, which have plastic bodies, the FC connector was the first to use a ceramic ferrule. Its circular screw-type design, which is made from nickel-plated or stainless steel, differentiates it from plastic-bodied SC and LC connectors. FC connectors stand up to high vibrations, which makes them good choices for harsh environmental applications. FC connectors are also used in data communication, telecommunications and measurement equipment. However, SC and LC connectors have become more popular in past years, leading to a decrease in the use of FC connectors.
MPO (Multi-Fiber Push-On) Connector
MPO connectors are fiber connectors with multiple optical fibers. They come in between 4 and 144 fiber configurations and are commonly used in high-speed data centers and telecommunications applications. Having multiple fibers in one connector allows for considerable space savings. MTP connectors are a trademarked version of MPO connectors designed with removable housing, which provides for accessible re-working and re-polishing of the MT ferrule and the ability to change the connector from male to female.
MT-RJ (Mechanical Transfer Registered Jack) Connector
MT-RJ connectors are small, high-density, duplex fiber optic connectors that provide fiber optic speeds to devices like computers, servers, routers and modems. They offer a push-pull mechanism for easy mating cycles. The RJ latch design of these connectors is designed to prevent snagging, ensuring a secure connection. Additionally, the compact MT-RJ interface allows for the same spacing as copper connectors, effectively doubling the number of fiber ports available. As a result, the overall cost per fiber port decreases, making fiber-to-the-desktop solutions more competitive compared to copper alternatives.
Your Connector Partner
While this is not an exhaustive list, it represents the most common fiber optic cable connectors today. Bulgin always makes sure its customers don’t get their wires crossed when it comes to connector selections. Our wide range of fiber connector products and custom capabilities can help you with your next project. Contact us today.