Single-mode optical fiber
Encyclopedia
In fiber-optic communication
Fiber-optic communication
Fiber-optic communication is a method of transmitting information from one place to another by sending pulses of light through an optical fiber. The light forms an electromagnetic carrier wave that is modulated to carry information...

, a single-mode optical fiber (SMF) (monomode optical fiber, single-mode optical waveguide, or unimode fiber) is an optical fiber
Optical fiber
An optical fiber is a flexible, transparent fiber made of a pure glass not much wider than a human hair. It functions as a waveguide, or "light pipe", to transmit light between the two ends of the fiber. The field of applied science and engineering concerned with the design and application of...

designed to carry only a single ray of light
Ray (optics)
In optics, a ray is an idealized narrow beam of light. Rays are used to model the propagation of light through an optical system, by dividing the real light field up into discrete rays that can be computationally propagated through the system by the techniques of ray tracing. This allows even very...

(mode). Modes are the possible solutions of the Helmholtz equation
Helmholtz equation
The Helmholtz equation, named for Hermann von Helmholtz, is the elliptic partial differential equation\nabla^2 A + k^2 A = 0where ∇2 is the Laplacian, k is the wavenumber, and A is the amplitude.-Motivation and uses:...

for waves, which is obtained by combining Maxwell's equations
Maxwell's equations
Maxwell's equations are a set of partial differential equations that, together with the Lorentz force law, form the foundation of classical electrodynamics, classical optics, and electric circuits. These fields in turn underlie modern electrical and communications technologies.Maxwell's equations...

and the boundary conditions. These modes define the way the wave travels through space, i.e. how the wave is distributed in space. Waves can have the same mode but have different frequencies. This is the case in single-mode fibers, where we can have waves with different frequencies, but of the same mode, which means that they are distributed in space in the same way, and that gives us a single ray of light. Although the ray travels parallel to the length of the fiber, it is often called transverse mode
Transverse mode
A transverse mode of a beam of electromagnetic radiation is a particular electromagnetic field pattern of radiation measured in a plane perpendicular to the propagation direction of the beam...

since its electromagnetic
Electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space...

vibrations occur perpendicular (transverse) to the length of the fiber. The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

was awarded to Charles K. Kao
Charles K. Kao
The Honorable Sir Charles Kuen Kao, GBM, KBE, FRS, FREng is a pioneer in the development and use of fiber optics in telecommunications...

for his theoretical work on the single-mode optical fiber.

## Characteristics

Like multi-mode optical fiber
Multi-mode optical fiber
Multi-mode optical fiber is a type of optical fiber mostly used for communication over short distances, such as within a building or on a campus...

s, single mode fibers do exhibit modal dispersion
Modal dispersion
Modal dispersion is a distortion mechanism occurring in multimode fibers and other waveguides, in which the signal is spread in time because the propagation velocity of the optical signal is not the same for all modes...

resulting from multiple spatial modes but with narrower modal dispersion. Single mode fibers are therefore better at retaining the fidelity of each light pulse over longer distances than multi-mode fibers. For these reasons, single-mode fibers can have a higher bandwidth
Bandwidth (computing)
In computer networking and computer science, bandwidth, network bandwidth, data bandwidth, or digital bandwidth is a measure of available or consumed data communication resources expressed in bits/second or multiples of it .Note that in textbooks on wireless communications, modem data transmission,...

than multi-mode fibers. Equipment for single mode fiber is more expensive than equipment for multi-mode optical fiber, but the single mode fiber itself is usually cheaper in bulk.

A typical single mode optical fiber has a core diameter between 8 and 10 µm and a cladding diameter of 125 µm. There are a number of special types of single-mode optical fiber which have been chemically or physically altered to give special properties, such as dispersion-shifted fiber and nonzero dispersion-shifted fiber. Data rates are limited by polarization mode dispersion
Polarization mode dispersion
Polarization mode dispersion is a form of modal dispersion where two different polarizations of light in a waveguide, which normally travel at the same speed, travel at different speeds due to random imperfections and asymmetries, causing random spreading of optical pulses...

and chromatic dispersion. In 2005, data rates of up to 10 gigabits per second were possible at distances of over 80 km (50 mi) with commercially available transceivers (Xenpak
XENPAK
XENPAK is a Multisource Agreement , instigated by Agilent Technologies and Agere Systems, that defines a fiber-optic or wired transceiver module which conforms to the 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 802.3 working group...

). By using optical amplifier
Optical amplifier
An optical amplifier is a device that amplifies an optical signal directly, without the need to first convert it to an electrical signal. An optical amplifier may be thought of as a laser without an optical cavity, or one in which feedback from the cavity is suppressed...

s and dispersion-compensating devices, state-of-the-art DWDM optical systems can span thousands of kilometers at 10 Gbit/s, and several hundred kilometers at 40 Gbit/s.

The lowest-order bounds mode is ascertained for the wavelength of interest by solving Maxwell's equations
Maxwell's equations
Maxwell's equations are a set of partial differential equations that, together with the Lorentz force law, form the foundation of classical electrodynamics, classical optics, and electric circuits. These fields in turn underlie modern electrical and communications technologies.Maxwell's equations...

for the boundary conditions imposed by the fiber, which are determined by the core diameter and the refractive indices of the core and cladding
Cladding is one or more layers of material of lower refractive index, in intimate contact with a core material of higher refractive index. The cladding causes light to be confined to the core of the fiber by total internal reflection at the boundary between the two. Light propagation in the...

. The solution of Maxwell's equations for the lowest order bound mode will permit a pair of orthogonally polarized fields in the fiber, and this is the usual case in a communication fiber.

In step-index guides, single-mode operation occurs when the normalized frequency, V, is less or equal than 2.405. For power
Power (physics)
In physics, power is the rate at which energy is transferred, used, or transformed. For example, the rate at which a light bulb transforms electrical energy into heat and light is measured in watts—the more wattage, the more power, or equivalently the more electrical energy is used per unit...

-law profiles, single-mode operation occurs for a normalized frequency, V, less than approximately,
where g is the profile parameter.

In practice, the orthogonal polarizations may not be associated with degenerate modes.

Optical fiber connectors are used to join optical fibers where a connect/disconnect capability is required. The basic connector unit is a connector assembly. A connector assembly consists of an adapter and two connector plugs.
Due to the sophisticated polishing and tuning procedures that may be incorporated into optical connector manufacturing, connectors are generally assembled onto optical fiber in a supplier’s manufacturing facility. However, the assembly and
polishing operations involved can be performed in the field, for example to make cross-connect jumpers to size.

Optical fiber connectors are used in telephone company central offices, at installations on customer premises, and in outside plant applications. Their uses include:
- Making the connection between equipment and the telephone plant in the
central office
- Connecting fibers to remote and outside plant electronics such as Optical Network Units (ONUs) and Digital Loop Carrier (DLC) systems
- Optical cross connects in the central office
- Patching panels in the outside plant to provide architectural flexibility and to interconnect fibers belonging to different service providers
- Connecting couplers, splitters, and Wavelength Division Multiplexers (WDMs) to optical fibers
- Connecting optical test equipment to fibers for testing and maintenance.

Outside plant applications may involve locating connectors underground in subsurface enclosures that may be subject to flooding, on outdoor walls, or on utility poles. The closures that enclose them may be hermetic, or may be “free-breathing.” Hermetic closures will prevent subjection of the connectors within to temperature swings unless they are breached. Free-breathing enclosures will subject them to temperature and humidity swings, and possibly to condensation and biological action from airborne bacteria, insects, etc. Connectors in the underground plant may be subjected to groundwater immersion if the closures containing them are breached or improperly assembled.

The latest industry requirements for optical fiber connectors are in Telcordia GR-326, Generic Requirements for Singlemode Optical Connectors and Jumper Assemblies.

A multi-fiber optical connector is designed to simultaneously join multiple optical fibers together, with each optical fiber being joined to only one other optical fiber.

The last part of the definition is included so as not to confuse multi-fiber connectors with a branching component, such as a coupler. The latter joins one optical fiber to two or more other optical fibers.

Multi-fiber optical connectors are designed to be used wherever quick and/or repetitive connects and disconnects of a group of fibers are needed. Applications include telecommunications companies’ Central Offices (COs), installations on customer premises, and Outside Plant (OSP) applications.

The multi-fiber optical connector can be used in the creation of a low-cost switch for use in fiber optical testing. Another application is in cables delivered to a user with pre-terminated multi-fiber jumpers. This would reduce the need for field splicing, which could greatly reduce the amount of hours necessary for placing an optical fiber cable in a telecommunications network. This, in turn, would result in savings for the installer of such cable.

Industry requirements for multi-fiber optical connectors are covered in GR-1435, Generic Requirements for Multi-Fiber Optical Connectors.