An optical fiber connector joins optical fibers, and enables quicker connection and disconnection than splicing. The connectors mechanically couple and align the cores of fibers so light can pass. Better connectors lose very little light due to reflection or misalignment of the fibers. In all, about 100 different types of fiber optic connectors have been introduced to the market.
Optical fiber connectors are used to join optical fibers where a connect/disconnect capability is required. Due to the polishing and tuning procedures that may be incorporated into optical connector manufacturing, connectors are often assembled onto optical fiber in a supplier's manufacturing facility. However, the assembly and polishing operations involved can be performed in the field, for example, to terminate long runs at a patch panel.
Optical fiber connectors are used in telephone exchanges, for customer premises wiring, and in outside plant applications to connect equipment and fiber-optic cables, or to cross-connect cables.
Most optical fiber connectors are spring-loaded, so the fiber faces are pressed together when the connectors are mated. The resulting glass-to-glass or plastic-to-plastic contact eliminates signal losses that would be caused by an air gap between the joined fibers.
Performance of optical fiber connectors can be quantified by insertion loss and return loss. Measurements of these parameters are now defined in IEC standard 61753-1. The standard gives five grades for insertion loss from A (best) to D (worst), and M for multimode. The other parameter is return loss, with grades from 1 (best) to 5 (worst).
A variety of optical fiber connectors are available, but SC and LC connectors are the most common types of connectors on the market. Typical connectors are rated for 500–1,000 mating cycles. The main differences among types of connectors are dimensions and methods of mechanical coupling. Generally, organizations will standardize on one kind of connector, depending on what equipment they commonly use.
In many data center applications, small (e.g., LC) and multi-fiber (e.g., MTP/MPO) connectors have replaced larger, older styles (e.g., SC), allowing more fiber ports per unit of rack space.
Outside plant applications may require connectors be located underground, or on outdoor walls or utility poles. In such settings, protective enclosures are often used, and fall into two broad categories: hermetic (sealed) and free-breathing. Hermetic cases prevent entry of moisture and air but, lacking ventilation, can become hot if exposed to sunlight or other sources of heat. Free-breathing enclosures, on the other hand, allow ventilation, but can also admit moisture, insects and airborne contaminants. Selection of the correct housing depends on the cable and connector type, the location, and environmental factors.
Many types of optical connector have been developed at different times, and for different purposes. Many of them are summarized in the tables below.
|Short name||Long name||Coupling type||Screw thread||Ferrule diameter||Standard||Applications and notes||Image|
|Avio (Avim)||Aviation Intermediate Maintenance||Screw||Aerospace and avionics|
|ADT-UNI||Screw||2.5 mm||Measurement equipment|
|CS||Corning/Senko||Latch, push-pull||—||1.25 mm||Listed in SFF-8024|
|DMI||Diamond Micro Interface||Latch, separate||—||2.5 mm||Printed circuit boards|
|LSH or E-2000 ||Latch, push-pull, integral dust cap||—||2.5 mm||IEC 61754-15||Telecom, DWDM systems|
||Latch, push-pull||—||IEC 1754-8||Telecom and CATV networks|
|ELIO||Bayonet||—||2.5 mm||ABS1379||PC or UPC|
|ESCON||Enterprise Systems Connection||Latch, integral shroud||—||2.5 mm||IBM mainframe computers and peripherals|
|F07||2.5 mm||Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS)||LAN, audio systems; for 200 μm fibers, simple field termination possible, mates with ST connectors|
|F-3000||Latch, integral light- and dust-cap||—||1.25 mm||IEC 61754-20||Fiber To The Home (LC compatible)|
|FC||Ferrule Connector or
|Screw||M8×0.75||2.5 mm||IEC 61754-13||Datacom, telecom, measurement equipment, single-mode lasers|
|Fibergate||Latch, integral dust-cap||—||1.25 mm||Backplane connector|
|Latch||—||2.5 mm||Building wiring, wall outlets|
Little Connector, or
|Latch||—||1.25 mm||IEC 61754-20||High-density connections, SFP and SFP+ transceivers, XFP transceivers. Duplex LC is comparable in size to RJ-45.|
|Luxcis||1.25 mm||ARINC 801||PC (straight physical contact) or APC (angled physical contact) configurations|
|LX-5||Latch, integral light- and dust-cap||—||IEC 61754-23||High-density connections; rarely used|
|M12-FO||Screw||M16||2.5 mm||EN 61754-27, ISO/IEC 61754-27||Machine, process and plant engineering. IP-67 dust and water resistant|
||Multiple-fiber Push-On/Pull-off||Snap, push-pull, gendered||—||2.5×6.4 mm||IEC-61754-7; EIA/TIA-604-5 (FOCIS 5)||SM or MM multi-fiber ribbon. Same ferrule as MT, but more easily reconnectable. Used for indoor cabling and device interconnections. MTP is a brand name for an improved connector, which intermates with MPO.|
|MT||Mechanical Transfer||Latch, gendered||—||2.5×6.4 mm||Pre-terminated cable assemblies; outdoor applications|
|MT-RJ||Mechanical Transfer Registered Jack or
Media Termination - recommended jack
|Latch, gendered||—||2.45×4.4 mm||IEC 61754-18||Duplex multimode connections|
|MU||Miniature unit||Latch, push-pull||—||1.25 mm||IEC 61754-6||Common in Japan|
square connector or
|Latch, push-pull||—||2.5 mm||IEC 61754-4||Datacom and telecom (most widely deployed); GPON; EPON; GBIC; MADI|
||Latch, push-pull||—||2.5 mm||IEC 61754-4||Datacom and telecom; GPON; EPON; GBIC|
||Sub Miniature A||Screw, optionally keyed||1/4"-36 UNS 2B||3.17 mm||IEC 60874-2||Industrial lasers, optical spectrometers, military; telecom multimode|
||Sub Miniature A||Screw||1/4"-36 UNS 2B||Stepped; 0.118 to 0.089 in
3.0 to 2.3 mm, typ.
|IEC 60874-2||Industrial lasers, military; telecom multimode|
|SMC||Sub Miniature C||Snap||—||2.5 mm|
||Straight Tip[I] or
Bayonet Fiber Optic Connector
|Bayonet||—||2.5 mm||IEC 61754-2||Datacom|
|TOSLINK||Toshiba Link||Snap-fit||—||Most commonly, JIS F05||Digital audio|
||Volition Fiber||Latch||—||None, V-grooves as guidance||Datacom|
|1053 HDTV||Broadcast connector interface||Push-pull coupling||—||1.25 mm ceramic||Audio & data (broadcasting)|
|V-PIN||V-System||Snap-fit, push-pull||—||Industrial and electric utility networking; multimode 200 μm, 400 μm, 1 mm, 2.2 mm fibers|
|Short name||Long form||Coupling type||Screw thread||Ferrule diameter||Standard||Typical applications|
|D4 (NEC)||Screw||2.0 mm||Japanese telecom in the 1970s and 1980s|
|DIN (LSA)||Screw||IEC 61754-3||Telecom in Germany in 1990s, measurement equipment|
|OptoClip II||Snap (push-pull coupling)||—||None - bare fiber used||Proprietary Huber & Suhner||Datacom and telecom, last made in 2005|
Modern connectors typically use a physical contact polish on the fiber and ferrule end. This is a slightly convex surface with the apex of the curve accurately centered on the fiber, so that when the connectors are mated the fiber cores come into direct contact with one another. Some manufacturers have several grades of polish quality, for example a regular FC connector may be designated FC/PC (for physical contact), while FC/SPC and FC/UPC may denote super and ultra polish qualities, respectively. Higher grades of polish give less insertion loss and lower back reflection.
Many connectors are available with the fiber end face polished at an angle to prevent light that reflects from the interface from traveling back up the fiber. Because of the angle, the reflected light does not stay in the fiber core but instead leaks out into the cladding. Angle-polished connectors should only be mated to other angle-polished connectors. The APC angle is normally 8 degrees, however, SC/APC also exists as 9 degrees in some countries. Mating to a non-angle polished connector causes very high insertion loss. Generally angle-polished connectors have higher insertion loss than good quality straight physical contact ones. "Ultra" quality connectors may achieve comparable back reflection to an angled connector when connected, but an angled connection maintains low back reflection even when the output end of the fiber is disconnected.
Angle-polished connections are distinguished visibly by the use of a green strain relief boot, or a green connector body. The parts are typically identified by adding "/APC" (angled physical contact) to the name. For example, an angled FC connector may be designated FC/APC, or merely FCA. Non-angled versions may be denoted FC/PC or with specialized designations such as FC/UPC or FCU to denote an "ultra" quality polish on the fiber end face. Two different versions of FC/APC exist: FC/APC-N (NTT) and FC/APC-R (Reduced). An FC/APC-N connector key will not fit into a FC/APC-R adapter key slot.
Field-mountable optical fiber connectors are used to join optical fiber jumper cables that contain one single-mode fiber. Field-mountable optical fiber connectors are used for field restoration work and to eliminate the need to stock jumper cords of various sizes.
These assemblies can be separated into two major categories: single-jointed connector assemblies and multiple-jointed connector assemblies. According to Telcordia GR-1081, a single-jointed connector assembly is a connector assembly where there is only one spot where two different fibers are joined together. This is the situation generally found when connector assemblies are made from factory-assembled optical fiber connector plugs. A multiple-jointed connector assembly is a connector assembly where there is more than one closely spaced connection joining different fibers together. An example of a multiple-jointed connector assembly is a connector assembly that uses the stub-fiber type of connector plug.
Features of good connector design:
Glass fiber optic connector performance is affected both by the connector and by the glass fiber. Concentricity tolerances affect the fiber, fiber core, and connector body. The core optical index of refraction is also subject to variations. Stress in the polished fiber can cause excess return loss. The fiber can slide along its length in the connector. The shape of the connector tip may be incorrectly profiled during polishing. The connector manufacturer has little control over these factors, so in-service performance may well be below the manufacturer's specification.
Testing fiber optic connector assemblies falls into two general categories: factory testing and field testing.
Factory testing is sometimes statistical, for example, a process check. A profiling system may be used to ensure the overall polished shape is correct, and a good quality optical microscope to check for blemishes. Insertion loss and return loss performance is checked using specific reference conditions, against a reference-standard single-mode test lead, or using an encircled flux compliant source for multi-mode testing. Testing and rejection (yield) may represent a significant part of the overall manufacturing cost.
Field testing is usually simpler. A special hand-held optical microscope is used to check for dirt or blemishes. A power meter and light source or an optical loss test set (OLTS) is used to test end-to-end loss, and an optical time-domain reflectometer may be used to identify significant point losses or return losses.