Single Mode vs. Multimode Fibre Cable: Which one to choose ?

We live in an interconnected world where communication channels or transmission media are the lifeblood of various industries. Fibre optic cables have revolutionized the way we transmit data, and it can be challenging to determine which type of fibre optic cable is best for your fibre cabling system. In this article, we will discuss Optical Fibre Cables and how single-mode and multimode fibre cables differ from each other in terms of core diameter, wavelength, cost, application and more.

What are Optical Fiber Cables?

An optical fibre consists of a wire of glass-like material which carries light from a source at one end of the fibre to a detector at the other end. The data to be transmitted is modulated onto the light beam using frequency modulation techniques. The signals can then be picked up at the receiving end and demodulated. The bandwidth of the medium is potentially very high. There are two main types of Optical Fiber Cables: single mode and multimode. Although both types use the same types of connectors like SC, LC, and ST connectors for termination, the different construction methods make each of them better suited to certain tasks and budgets.

The fibre cable consists of three pieces;

  • the core, the glass or plastic through which the light travels
  • the cladding, which is a covering of the core that reflects light back to the core.
  • Protective coating protects the fibre cable from hostile environments.

Single Mode vs. Multimode Fibre

It is essential to have a basic understanding of each type to understand the differences between single mode and multimode fibre cables.

Single Mode Fibre

Single Mode fibre allows for the transmission of a single ray of light through a narrow core. This fibre type has a smaller core diameter, generally around 9 microns, which enables the light pulse to travel in a straight line over significant distances without dispersing.

MultiMode Fiber

Single Mode fibre allows for the transmission of a single ray of light through a narrow core. This fibre type has a smaller core diameter, generally around 9 microns, which enables the light pulse to travel in a straight line over significant distances without dispersing.

Single Mode Fibre vs. Multimode Fibre: What’s the Difference?

Now that we have a basic understanding of single-mode and multimode fibre cables, let’s delve into their key differences.

1. Core Diameter

The core diameter is the fundamental distinction between single mode and multimode fibre cables. Single mode fibre has a smaller core diameter of around 9 microns, while multimode fibre has a larger core diameter of 50 or 62.5 microns. This distinction affects the way in which light propagates through the fibre, resulting in varying transmission characteristics. The cladding diameter of single-mode and multiple-mode fibre is 125 microns.

2. Wavelength

Single mode and multimode fibres operate with different wavelength ranges. Single mode fibre primarily operates in the 1310nm or 1550nm wavelengths, while multimode fibre commonly operates in the 850nm or 1300nm wavelengths. By using different wavelength ranges, single-mode and multimode fibres cater to diverse applications and transmission requirements.

3. Light Source

Single mode fibres use laser diodes as the light source, whereas multimode fibres often use both laser diodes and light-emitting diodes. The choice of light source impacts the transmission distance, data rates, and overall system performance.

4. Bandwidth

Bandwidth refers to the capacity of a fibre optic cable to carry data. Single-mode fibre offers higher bandwidth capabilities compared to multimode fibre. With its narrower core diameter and lower dispersion, single-mode fibre enables higher data transmission rates and greater bandwidth efficiency.

5. Colour Sheath

Single mode and multimode fibres can be distinguished by their colour sheaths. Single mode fibre cables are typically yellow in colour, while multimode fibre cables often come in orange or aqua colour. The different colours allow easy identification and differentiation between the fibre types during installation and maintenance.

6. Attenuation

Attenuation refers to the signal loss as light traverses through the fibre optic cable. Single Mode fibre has lower attenuation than multimode fibre, allowing for greater distances in signal transmission without the need for signal amplification or regeneration. This lower attenuation makes single-mode fibre more suitable for long-distance applications.

7. Distance

Single mode fibre is designed for long-haul applications and can transmit data over greater distances compared to multimode fibre. While multimode fibres can support distances of up to several hundred meters, single-mode fibres can transmit signals for tens of kilometres without signal conditioning or regeneration.

8. System Cost

The upfront cost of single mode fibre optic systems tends to be higher than that of multimode systems. Single mode fibre cables, along with the specialized equipment required for their installation and operation, can be more expensive. However, the superior performance and longer transmission distances make single-mode fibre a cost-effective choice for long-term applications.

9. Installation Cost

When it comes to the cost of installation, multimode fibre proves to be less expensive than single mode fibre. The larger core diameter of multimode fibre allows for easier connectivity and alignment, reducing the complexity and labour costs associated with termination and splicing. Therefore, for shorter-distance applications, where the performance advantages of single mode fibre are not required, multimode fibre may be the more economical choice.

10. Application

Choosing between single mode and multimode fibre ultimately depends on the specific application requirements. Single mode fibre is mainly for long-distance applications that require high bandwidth and low loss. They are ideal for telecommunications, backbone networks, and connections between different buildings. On the other hand, Multimode fibre is mainly for shorter-distance applications, such as LANs, data centers, security systems and interconnecting devices within a confined area.

Single mode vs. multimode fibre: Choosing the Right Fiber Optic Cable

Choosing the right fibre optic cable depends on many factors, such as the required transmission distance, bandwidth, performance, and budget. It is crucial to understand the differences and unique characteristics of single-mode and multimode fibre cables to make an informed decision. By being aware of these differences, you may select the best fibre cable with the specific requirements of your application, resulting in the best performance and connectivity.


When choosing between single mode vs. multimode fibre, it is essential to consider the core diameter, wavelength, light source, bandwidth, colour sheath, attenuation, transmission distance, system and installation costs, and the specific application requirements. By understanding the differences and selecting the appropriate fibre optic cable, you can ensure optimal performance, reliability, and efficiency for your communication network.

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