SMF Patch Cable vs. MMF Patch Cable

Nowadays, high data rate transfer is the most significant task to be accomplished by network designers. As a reliable and dependable approach to increase bandwidth and improve network performance, fiber patch cord is becoming increasingly popular among consumers. Fiber optic patch cords, also called fiber patch cables, fiber optic jumpers, comprise of a fiber patch connector as well as an optical fiber cable.

A fiber patch cord can be divided into the single-mode fiber (SMF) patch cable and multi-mode fiber (MMF) patch cable according to fiber type. This blog puts emphasis on the differences between SMF and MMF from several aspects. To understand these differences is helpful for your fiber optic patch cords selection.

Single-Path Versus Multiple Paths

As for the core of the matter, whose main difference lies in the size of their cables, a typical SMF has a core of 8 to 10 microns. In single-mode cables, light travels towards the center of the core in a single wavelength. This leads to faster speeds and longer distances of SMF than MMF. On the other hand, MMF takes multiple paths and has a larger core diameter, typically 50–100 micrometers and larger wavelength of light than single-mode ones. Therefore, the capacity of MMF to gather light is larger than the SMF, and more signals are transmitted by MMF.

Short Distance vs. Long Distance

SMF is more suitable for transmitting data over longer distances and used for network connections and scientific research in large areas since they have only one wavelength path which makes the light more focused, just as discussed now. Typical applications of SMF include college campuses and cable TV networks.

As far as multi-mode cables are concerned, MMF is used for distances of 500m or less. Although MMFs can’t reach longer distance, they still play important roles in many applications. For example, LED sources, when used with multi-mode cables, can produce different wavelengths which transmit at their own speeds.

Single-mode Transceivers vs Multimode Transceivers

When talking about SMF and MMF, it’s necessary to talk about their related fiber optic transceivers: single-mode transceivers and multi-mode transceivers. Fiber patch cables are used in combination with fiber optic transceivers to achieve short or long distances. SMF, when used with single-mode transceivers, then long distances can be realized. Listed below are several commonly-used single-mode transceivers: 1000BASE-LX, 1000BASE-ZX,10GBASE-LR, etc.

Similarly, MMF-related multi-mode transceivers include 1000BASE-SX, 10BASE-LRM, and so on. Among 1000BASE-SX transceivers, Cisco GLC-SX-MM and GLC-SX-MM-RGD are widely used due to their high performance. Fiberstore compatible Cisco GLC-SX-MM and GLC-SX-MM-RGD can offer the same functions as Cisco transceiver modules. As for 10GBASE-LRM transceivers, Cisco SFP-10G-LRM is popular among users. Fiberstore compatible Cisco SFP-10G-LRM is designed to operate at a nominal wavelength of 1310nm over MMF.


Color and Cost Discussion

Looking from outside, SMF is generally yellow with a blue connector; while the MMF, on the whole, looks in orange with a cream or black connector.

Considering the budget, SMF itself is more expensive than MMF. But judging from typical transmission speed and distance, each type has its advantages and disadvantages. When you select fiber patch cords, quality and performance make up for much larger percent.


After these differences have been made, maybe you know better how to choose SMF or MMF for your applications. A series of SMFs and MMFs are available in Fiberstore. Besides, the related fiber optic transceivers just mentioned above, (Cisco GLC-SX-MM, GLC-SX-MM-RGD, Cisco SFP-10G-LRM) can also be found. In a word, you can find various kinds of fiber optic jumpers and transceivers in Fiberstore.


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