What is the differences between multimode and singlemode fibre?

Data centre networks are under pressure to evolve to provide higher capacity. This applies to virtually all types of networks. Over the last few years, many use more fibre optic cables and transceivers to the point that fibre optics is now the default choice.  Clearly the trend is to higher-speed fibre optics.


The design of data centres with higher capacity and optimal cost is evolving. One of the hot topics is what type of fibre to deploy: multimode or singlemode. The fashionable answer is to deploy singlemode cabling, the kind that long-haul telecom and transoceanic networks use. 


Yet in data centres, singlemode cabling is only recently making a significant entry. While singlemode systems are great for long distance networks, they have traditionally been expensive and power-thirsty when compared to multimode, the workhorse of data centre networks. Some network operators advocate that singlemode is destined to replace multimode due to its superior bandwidth.  But many operators prefer an analytic versus trendy approach.

There is a significant demand for longer distance support in larger hyperscale data centres, which is not generally the case for enterprise data centres. Singlemode is better at longer distances, and if the cost can be trimmed, then perhaps it is a good choice for larger data centres with a need for much higher capacities. On the other hand, if multimode can also deliver higher capacity with acceptable distance support and competitive costs, then there are reasons to continue with it.

A typical considerations list for data centre networks looks a bit like this:

Support for the distances and connections

  • Some need 500m and some need less than 100m
  • Some need point-to-point cabling with few connections, while others want the reconfiguration benefits that a structured cabling approach delivers


  • Some need 400G or more and others are happy with 10G
  • All agree that more capacity will be required in the future

Supply risk

  • Some are okay with limited supply scenarios
  • Others need the supply assurance of standards-based solutions


  • Some have multi-generational evolution objectives
  • Others have a more limited upgrade expectancy before replacement


  • Everyone wants low cost
  • The issue here is how to measure the true cost of the various options over time


Source: www.commscope.com

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