Wideband Multimode Fiber – What is it and why does it make sense?

Multimode fiber (MMF) cabling is the workhorse media of local area network (LAN) backbones and data centers because it offers the lowest cost means of transporting high data rates for distances aligned with the needs of these environments. MMF has evolved from being optimized for multi-megabit per second transmission using light emitting diode (LED) light sources to being specialized to support multi-gigabit transmission using 850nm vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) sources. Channel capacity has been multiplied through the use of parallel transmission over multiple strands of fiber. These advances have increased multimode supported data rates by an astounding factor of 40,000 — from 10 Mb/s in the late 1980s to 100 Gb/s in 2010, with 400 Gb/s in development in 2015. Today, these extraordinary rates are created from collections of 25 Gb/s lanes carried on either four or sixteen strands of fiber in each direction.

While parallel transmission is simple and effective, continuation of this trend drives higher cost into the cabling system. Wideband multimode fiber (WBMMF) enhances another means of multiplying data rates via wavelengths to increase the capacity of each fiber by at least a factor of four. This enables at least a four-fold increase in data rate for a given number of fibers (e.g. enabling 1600 Gb/s), or at least a four-fold reduction in the number of fibers for a given data rate (e.g. enabling 100 Gb/s per fiber). Optimized to support wavelengths in the 850 nm to 950 nm range, WBMMF ensures not only more efficient support for future applications to useful distances, but also complete compatibility with legacy applications, making it an ideal universal medium that supports not only the applications of the present, but also those of the future.

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