What is OM5 Fiber and How it Roles in Data Center

OM5 fiber, with its unique capabilities to support SWDM and its backward compatibility with existing technologies, presents a compelling case for its adoption in future data center infrastructure.
What is OM5 Fiber and How it Roles in Data Center
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OM5 fiber, the latest addition to the optical modal (OM) fiber family, is a promising solution to meet the escalating demands of data centers.

Developed to support Shortwave Wavelength Division Multiplexing (SWDM). OM5 fiber boasts enhanced capabilities and compatibility with existing technologies.

1. Understanding OM5 Fiber

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) established a task force in October 2014 to create the TIA-492AAAE standard for Wideband Multimode Fiber (WB MMF), which supports SWDM transmission. Completed in June 2016, and later supplemented by the IEC WB MMF standard in 2017, this standard laid the groundwork for OM5 fiber.

The SWDM Multisource Agreement (MSA) has formed an industry alliance to define optical specifications and promote SWDM standards usage in data centers and campus networks. The group has announced the first two related standards. Defining the optical specifications for four-wavelength SWDM to transmit 40Gb/s and 100Gb/s Ethernet signals. (“40 GE SWDM4” and “100 GE SWDM4”).

SWDM4 OVER OM5 WBMMF

OM5 fiber support at least four low-cost wavelengths in the 850-950nm range. This ability reduces the number of parallel fibers needed for emerging SWDM applications by a factor of four. It means only two fibers are required to support 40Gb/s and 100Gb/s network transmission.

As a result, OM5 enables higher network speed transmissions while using fewer fibers. OM5 fiber is easily distinguishable by its lime green outer jacket.

2. Is OM5 Fiber Necessary in Data Centers?

Pros

  1. OM5 fiber is at least as good as OM4 in supporting all traditional applications, boasting the same geometric shape as OM3/OM4 with a 50µm core and 125µm cladding. This makes it fully backward compatible and interoperable with these fibers.
  2. OM5’s design supports at least four low-cost wavelengths in the 850-950nm range, optimizing support for emerging SWDM applications. This effectively reduces the number of parallel fibers by at least four times. Supporting continuous transmission of 40Gb/s and 100Gb/s with just two fibers.
  3. In reality, for multimode applications based on IEEE standards (including 40GBase-SR4, 100GBase-SR10), OM5’s maximum transmission distance is the same as OM4. Tests with 40G SWDM4 optical modules showed that 40G SWDM4 can reach 400 meters on OM4 fiber. While on OM5 fiber, this module’s transmission distance can reach 500 meters.

Cons

  1. For multimode fiber cabling, the cost of OM5 cabling is 50% higher than OM4 due to the higher unit cost of OM5.
  2. All IEEE standards for the next-generation 100G/200G/400G Ethernet are applicable to both single-mode and multimode fibers. However, in most cases, the next-generation Ethernet is more inclined to single-mode fibers. As multimode fibers are more suitable for installation bases of future standard cabling, allowing customers to easily upgrade to higher rates. Also, the next-generation Ethernet’s IEEE standards will not use SWDM technology.
OM5 fiber
OM5 fiber
OM3 OM4 fiber
OM3/OM4 fiber

3. Fibconet’s Recommendation on Fiber Selection

Given that OM1 and OM2 fibers are gradually phasing out due to their inability to support high-rate communication. OM3 and OM4 remain the most widely used multimode fibers.

For new data center cabling, we recommend using OM4 fiber. However, if budget is not a concern, or if there are high interconnection speed requirements between devices, OM5 fiber can be a great choice.

Currently, single-mode fibers are still widely used in other telecommunication rooms for device interconnection, excluding data centers.

While single-mode fibers are cheaper than multimode fibers, the modules for the same rate are approximately twice the price for single-mode.

Therefore, using multimode fibers for interconnection within core rooms could result in considerable savings. If you need more fiber solution supports, contact us!

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