Brief Introduction to Ribbon Fiber Optic Cable

In order to meet the increasing system bandwidth needs, local area network (LAN) campus and building backbones, as well as data center backbones, are migrating to higher cabled fiber counts. Ribbon fiber optic cables can offer the highest fiber density relative to cable size, maximize utilization of pathway and spaces and facilitate ease of termination, which makes them an ideal solution for the need. This post mainly focuses on the benefits and applications of ribbon fiber optic cable.

Ribbon Fiber Optic Cable Design

Ribbon fiber optic cable is a type of cable widely deployed in campus, building and data center backbone applications where high fiber counts are required. There are 8 fibers, 12 fibers, 24 fibers and other higher fiber counts available on the market. At present the 12-fiber ribbons are readily accessible and identifiable with ribbon identification numbers and TIA-598 compliant fiber color coding, which make it prevalent in today’s networks. Usually there are two kinds of outer jacket of ribbon fiber optic cables: non-flame-retardant and formulated flame-retardant. The former is often used in outside plant applications, while the latter is typically used for indoor applications. Here is an example of ribbon fiber optic cable construction.

ribbon fiber optic cable

Benefits of Ribbon Fiber Optic Cable

As we all know, stranded loose-tube and ribbon fiber optic cables are staples of the outside plant applications. Both of them perform well in harsh outdoor environments, and both are available in a multitude of configurations, including: all-dielectric, armored, aerial self-supporting, etc. However, when compared to stranded loose-tube cable designs, the ribbon fiber design offers robust performance equivalent to the stranded loose-tube cable, and provides the maximum fiber density relative to cable diameter. The chief distinction between these cables is the manner in which the individual fibers themselves are packaged and managed within the cable. A ribbon fiber cable has the individual fibers precisely bonded together in a matrix that might encompass as few as four or as many as 24 fibers. In contrast, a loose-tube cable has between 2 to 24 individual fibers housed in multiple buffer tubes with each fiber detached from the other.

ribbon fiber optic cable vs loose tube cable

It’s the special ribbon fiber design that makes ribbon fiber optic cable offer more advantages over loose-tube designs in many applications.

  • Ribbon fiber optic cable can be prepped and spliced much more rapidly than loose tube cables. That’s means less installation time, less installation labor cost and significantly less emergency restoration time.
  • Ribbon fiber optic cables enable a smaller footprint in splice closures and telecommunications room fiber management.
  • Ribbon cables offer greater packing density in higher fiber counts which enables more efficient use of limited duct space.
  • Ribbon cables are typically very cost competitive in counts above 96 fibers.
Ribbon Fiber Optic Cable Application

Although there are various fiber counts available with ribbon fiber optic cable, the 12-fiber ribbon cables are the most commonly used ones. With the introduction of innovations such as ribbon splitting tools and field-installable 12-fiber array connectors, 12-fiber ribbons are easily terminated with simplex and duplex connectors such as LC or SC connectors or with the MTP connector. The MTP connector is a 12-fiber push/pull optical connector with a footprint similar to the common simplex connector. Many users like to apply MTP connectors to ensure the highest quality connector insertion loss and return loss performance and to expedite the cable installation.

In order to illustrate how ribbon fiber optic cables are deployed, here take the termination of MTP connectorized ribbon cable with patch panel as an example.

The termination is normally used in an interconnect application where a harness assembly is used on the front of the patch panel. We know the MTP fiber cable has 12-fiber MTP connector on one end of the cable and simplex or duplex style connectors on the other end. Just like the picture below shows.


Except for the application noted above, ribbon fiber optic cables also can be used in both interconnect and cross-connect applications where an MTP connector module cassette is used. And they can be applied to pathways and spaces.


Ribbon fiber optic cables deliver high fiber density in the most compact cable package possible. And they also maximize the number of fibers that can be deployed in a limited space while streamlining fiber termination. At the same time they can save time and money with easy mass fusion splicing. Ribbon fiber cable is now easily obtained using traditional simplex or duplex connectors as well as MTP Connectors, which make them suitable for various applications.

How To Choose Ribbon Fiber

Do you know why it is so costly to install the optical fiber to the home? Bell why reluctant to deploy fiber optic network directly to consumers in a large sacle? This is not the cost of materials. It’s the labor! The introduction of fiber into the subscriber loop has increased the installation of short cable lengths with large number of splices. The cable speeds can be placed, splicing, access, and reconfigure the becomes very important.

So the need for new technologies that promise to reduce the fiber deployment cost are very high. Bell company is anxious in the acquisition of these new technologies and products, in order to reduce their costs and promoting broadband fiber optic network installation.

That is where the high fiber count ribbon cables come to play. These compact, UV bonded epoxy cable is composed of high precision optical fiber, can centralized fusion splicing with minimal losses. These products have been proved to be an excellent platform for deployment of optical fiber to the home.

Massive fusion splicing machine from Japanese companies are a integrated part of this process. These fusion splicers using optical fiber installation technicians 24 fibers splicing in the time and very low couping loss.

Ribbion Fiber Design: The most basic requirement for any fiber optical cable design is to protect the glass fiber from the harsh environment. But for ribbon fiber, there is the other vital requirements: best space efficiency and easy to mass organization fiber fusion splicing and processing. And at the same, they must also be able to keep the optical performance and mechanical reliability.

This means that ribbon fiber optic cable must pack high count of glass fibers, organize fibers precisely for mass fusion splicing, provide individual fiber identification, can be divided into single fibers or subunits, mechanically reliable and can be easily accessed from the end or midspan. These requirements must all be met at the same time which makes the manufacturing of high quality ribbon fibers a tough task.

So fiber optic cable experts concluded that an excellent design. A color coded array of fibers bonded in a line with fiber coating material. Based on this fundamental structure, two designed emerged: edge bonded or encapsulated.

Edge Bonded Design: The Edge bonded design basically bonds the fibers together with only materials in between of each fiber. This design is more popular in the United States. This design is 40% less than the encapsulated design.

Encapsulate Design: In packaging design, bonding material is more than the gaps between the fibers, it encapsulates all the fibers in a rectangular tube look. This design is more used in Japan.

Ribbon Fiber Mass Fusion Splicing

The time saving for ribbon fiber mass fusion splicing are so big that sometimes in the field individual fibers are ribbonlized to make mass fusion splicings. However, the success of mass ribbon fiber splicing relies critically on the fiber geometry, the ribbon and the mass fusion splicer. High quality and consistent mass fusion splices can only be produced with ribbons that are made from fibers having stringent geometric tolerances. These high quality fibers and ribbons are already commercially available. And they make the fiber deployment in FTTH projects a joy for the installers.