New Dimensions in Fiber Optics

The magic formula for more, faster and more cost-effective data transmission with optical fibers is transporting more light in more channels in the smallest possible cross section. Multicore fibers could do that. But don’t get excited too soon!


Innovation in the micrometer range

Fiber optics is advancing into new dimensions. After years of research, it is foreseeable that new types of fibers will be introduced to the market that carries multiple beams of light spatially separated within their body.

Diagram of a multicore fiber with four cores. The small off-center marking serves as an orientation aid to identify the channels. Source:

These are multicore fibers (MCF).

They will enable the highest possible density of fiber optic data transmission and connectivity. The distance between the four or more cores or transmission channels is only a few micrometers. Each channel can transfer as much information as a conventional singlemode fiber.

This would be pretty useful for applications such as data center interconnects, campus networks, Internet exchange, metro networks, and 5G. With multicore fibers, much more data could be transported in existing infrastructures.

The revolutionary multicore fibers are currently still too expensive for wide-ranging use. Another obstacle: As yet there are no connectors, apart from prototypes.

Precise installation required

It is obvious that MCF connectors need to be more precise than conventional fiber optic connectivity. The fibers must be aligned in the ferrules so that all light-bearing cores meet exactly on the end faces. Off-center marking would be the orientation aid for identifying the channels and aligning the fibers (see graphic).

All of this places high demands on the assembly and testing processes. Splicing between multicore fibers is possible, but requires special equipment that enables rotational alignment.

Another challenge: There will inevitably be many interfaces at which the new multicore fibers must be coupled with the conventional single-core fibers. The fiber optic industry is experimenting and developing solutions. Today, we see multicore fibers as one of the technologies of the future. R&M will remain on the ball and expects connectivity to be ready for series production within a few years.


PRIME-Ribbon distribution module from R&M: high density of fibers on a flexible panel.


High-density today

In the near future, multicore fibers will open up a new dimension in high-density fiber optic data transmission. However, data centers already need more and more high density in order to handle data traffic.

At present, high-count fiber cables with 3,456 ribbon fibers represent the ultimate in compression in fiber optic data transmission. They contain 30 to 40 % more optical fibers with the same overall diameter as single fiber cables.

On the distribution platform side, there is a lot of support for the ribbon fiber solution. Suppliers such as R&M have launched pre-terminated panels with ribbon fiber cable fan-outs.

I recommend our PRIME-Ribbon distribution module. It can also be used flexibly in existing PRIME infrastructures. This makes it easy to decide to opt for high-count fiber cables in the coming years and to watch what the future of MCF brings calmly.




 Fujairah FZ Fujairah 4442 ,Dubai

     United Arab Emirates

[email protected]


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