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A short history of Multimode Fiber (MMF)

A short history of Multimode Fiber (MMF)

5 July 2017 | Reading Time: 2 minutes

With the capability to meet both the data rate and distance demands of most LAN networks today, Multimode Fiber (MMF) plays a core role in modern fiber infrastructure.

As global telecommunications infrastructure demands are continually advancing (growth estimates for the fiber optic market alone are expected to be worth $3.72 billion by 2022), developing a strong infrastructural understanding is clearly beneficial for business growth.

So what can we learn about MMF specifically? Where did it begin and how has it evolved from the early 1980’s up until multimode fiber today?

Early 1980s

  • MMF – Multimode Fiber first deployed in telecoms networks.

Late 1980s

  • MMF first used in public networks
  • MMF used in Enterprise networks, supporting applications such as private telephone switches (PBX’s), data multiplexers, and LANs


  • Ethernet and fiber applications grow. Multimode fiber becomes the main media for backbone and other deployments which require reach beyond the capability of copper twisted pair cabling.
  • Data rates surpass 100Mb/s – 850nm VCSEL becomes more cost viable than LED sources.
  • This sparks a conversion of MMF core diameter from 62.5 µm (OM1 cabling) to 50 µm (OM2 cabling).

Late 1990s

  • The gigabit era dawns and limitations with the bandwidth measurement techniques become clear.
  • Bandwidth characterization via a newly standardized differential mode delay (DMD) measurement advances. This employs many different laser launches to extract a minimum laser bandwidth.
  • Fiber passing the new measurement became known as laser-optimized multimode fiber (LOMMF).
  • The first LOMMF offers a bandwidth of at least 2000 MHz*km at 850 nm – known as OM3

Late 2000’s

  • OM4 arrives, offering at least 4700 MHz*km in anticipation of 25 Gb/s per lane applications.

Multimode Fiber Today

  • OM3 and OM4 are the primary fiber media for Ethernet and Fibre Channel applications
  • Parallel MMF applications are standardized within Ethernet and Fibre Channel at rates > = 40 Gb/s using at least 4 pairs of fibers
  • 40G-BiDi emerges as the first use of multiple wavelengths between 850 nm and 950 nm to re-enable single pair transmission
  • WBMMF (WideBand MultiMode Fiber) is standardized to extend the capability of VCSEL-based Short-WDM transceivers
  • 40G-SWDM4 and 100G-SWDM4 transceivers are defined by multisource agreements backed by the SWDM Alliance
  • WBMMF becomes recognized as OM5 in structured cabling standards globally
  • OM5 is a recognized media in emerging Ethernet and Fibre Channel standards at rates of 50G, 64G, 100G, 200G, 400G.

For more information on the ever increasing market for fiber communication and best courses to stay ahead of demand, read more in our eBook: Understand the Passive Infrastructure that Underpins Your Network.

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