A Guide to the Most Common Types of Fiber Optic Connectors

Published: 08th June 2012
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Unlike Category-5 network cables, which have a standardized connector setup, fiber optic cables can employ any number of connector schemes in order to make connections with patch panels, switch boxes, and the various network implements that comprise a data system.

Each of the different types of fiber optic connectors offersits own advantages and disadvantages, and has its own specific applications to which it is best suited. Below is a list of some of the most common types of fiber optic connectors, their common uses, and the advantages they can bring to your fiber optic network.

SC

Though there are more varieties of fiber optic connector on the market than can be adequately discussed here, the number of fiber optic connectors you’re likely to encounter in a professional setting are relatively few. SC fiber optic connectors are one of the most common types of connector used for commercial purposes and knowing about them will be essential for anyone working with a fiber optic network.

The one outstanding advantage of SC fiber optic connectors is their snap-in design. This design allows them to connect easily with other network implements. SC connectors have 2.5mm ferules and are well known for their reliable performance. Though they are typically simplex (unidirectional) in nature, SC connectors with duplex (bidirectional) formatting are available as well.

SC connectors have widespread use in recent years, thanks to a welcome reduction in price. Previous to this price reduction, SC connectors were often subbed out for the less expensive, though still technically impressive, ST connector.

ST

ST fiber optic connectors have a 2.5mm ceramic ferrule, much like the SC fiber optic connector. However, whereas SC connectors mate via a snap-in mechanism, ST connectors use a spring-loaded cinch to couple with other network implements.

You’ll typically find ST connectors in older, large-scale multimode networks, such as those found on business or academic campuses. The term “multimode” refers to fiber optic cables that allow multiple propagation paths along which data can pass. ST connectors have been largely superseded on the consumer market by more recent connector schemes, but they can still deliver a satisfying performance to any large-scale network.

FC

Unlike the SC and ST connectors we just discussed, FC fiber optic connectors are typically used with singlemode fiber optic cables—cables that provide one propagation path along which information can travel. Singlemode fiber optic cables are typically used for cabling over longer distances than multimode fiber optic cables. Many datacom and telecom systems employ FC connectors for this purpose.

The FC fiber optic connector has a 2.5mm ceramic ferrule and effects its connections through a screw-type locking mechanism.

LC

With a size only half that of the SC, ST, and FC fiber optic connectors, the LC fiber optic connector is a good choice for cable terminations that need to be effected quickly and with little hassle. LC connectors have a 1.25mm ceramic ferrule and provide reliable performance for singlemode fiber optic cables. Many pieces of communications technology that require high-density connections—such as SFP and XFP transceivers—will employ LC fiber optic connectors.

MT-RJ

The MTRJ connector is a somewhat different beast than the connectors we’ve discussed thus far. The initials MTRJ stand for Mechanical Transfer Registered Jack. MTRJ connectors are designed to mimic the size and shape of the RJ-45 connectors typically found on the ends of Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6 network cables.

With a single, polymer ferrule, MTRJ connectors are capable of making connections only with duplex, multimode fiber optic cables. Many adapters intended to transfer data between a fiber optic network and a conventional, UTP data network, will employ MTRJ connectors because of their relative ease of use.

Toslink

Like the MTRJ connector, the Toslink connector serves a specialized purpose. Earning its name from a concatenation of the words “Toshiba” and “link”, Toslink connectors are one of the few fiber optic connectors intended almost exclusively for the consumer market. Sometimes referred to as “optical audio” connectors, Toslink connectors are designed for carrying digital audio signals between audio sources and loudspeakers, via fiber optic cables.

The original intention of the Toslink connector was to form connections between CD players and home stereo systems. Today, Toslink connectors are used for connecting DVD players, Blu-Ray players, and video game consoles to digital stereo systems.

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