What is a Fiber Optic Pigtail, and What Is It Used For?
Written by Ben Hamlitsch, trueFIBER Fiber Technical Specialist, RCDD, FOI
A fiber optic pigtail is a type of fiber optic cable with only one end that has a factory-terminated connector and the other end exposed as bare fiber. A fiber optic pigtail is typically used for field termination with a mechanical or fusion splicer. When compared to field-installed rapid termination or epoxy and polish connections, pre-terminated optical pigtails with connectors save time while providing improved performance and reliability.
The manner in which fiber optic cables are connected to the system is critical to the network's success. Optical signals can travel across the fiber optic network with minimal attenuation and return loss if done correctly. Fiber optic pigtails are an excellent technique to link optical fibers, and they are employed in a high percentage of single-mode applications. This topic covers the fundamentals of fiber optic pigtails, such as pigtail connection types, fiber pigtail specifications, and fiber optic pigtail splicing techniques.
Fiber Pigtail Specifications
A fiber optic pigtail is a fiber optic cable with one end terminated with a factory-installed connector and the other end unterminated. As a result, the connector side can be connected to equipment, while the other side is fused in the case of fusion splicing and a mechanical connection in the case of mechanical splicing optical fiber cables. Fiber-optic pigtails are used to connect fiber-optic cables using fusion or mechanical splicing. High-quality pigtail cables, combined with proper fusion splicing techniques, provide the highest performance for fiber optic cable terminations. Fiber optic pigtails are commonly encountered in fiber optic management equipment such as an ODF (optical distribution frame), a fiber terminal box, and a distribution box.
What Is the Difference Between a Fiber Pigtail and a Fiber Patch Cord?
Only one end of a fiber optic pigtail has a fiber connector inserted, leaving the other end empty. A fiber patch cord is terminated with fiber optic connectors on both ends. Patch cord fibers are often jacketed; however, fiber pigtail cables are typically unjacketed since they are spliced and protected in a fiber splice tray. Furthermore, patch cord fiber can be divided into two parts to create two pigtails. Some installers prefer to do this to save the hassle of testing pigtail cables in the field—they simply test the performance of a fiber patch cord before cutting it in half to make two fiber pigtails.
Types of Fiber Optic Pigtails
There are several types of fiber optic pigtails available: pigtail connector types include LC fiber pigtails, SC fiber pigtails, and ST fiber pigtails, among others. There are two types of fiber optic pigtails: singlemode fiber optic pigtails and multimode fiber optic pigtails. In terms of fiber count, 6 and 12 fiber optic pigtails are available on the market.
Types of Fiber
Singlemode (colored yellow) and multimode (colored aqua or violet) fiber optic pigtails are available. Multimode fiber optic pigtails are made of 62.5/125 micron or 50/125-micron bulk multimode fiber cables that are terminated at one end with multimode fiber optic connectors. Fiber optic pigtails for 10G multimode fiber cables (OM3 or OM4) are also available. Typically, the jacket color of 10G OM3 and OM4 fiber optic pigtails is aqua. Singlemode fiber pigtail cables are made of 9/125 micron singlemode fiber cable and are terminated at one end with single-mode fiber connectors.
Types of Fiber Pigtail Connectors
There are various types of pigtail cable connectors terminated at the end, such as LC fiber pigtails, SC fiber pigtails, ST fiber pigtails, FC fiber pigtails, MT-RJ fiber pigtails, E2000 fiber pigtails, and so on. Each has its own advantages in diverse applications and systems due to their different architectures and looks. Let's go over some popular ones.
LC Fiber Optic Pigtail: A non-optical disconnect connector with a 1.25mm pre-radiused zirconia or stainless alloy ferrule, the LC pigtail cable connector is cost-effective for usage in high-density CATV, LAN, WAN, test, and measurement applications.
SC Fiber Optic Pigtail: A non-optical disconnect connector with a 2.5mm pre-radiused zirconia or stainless alloy ferrule, the SC pigtail cable connector is cost-effective for usage in FTTX, CATV, LAN, WAN, test, and measurement applications. This connector is most commonly used with internet service providers.
FC Fiber Optic Pigtail: FC fiber pigtails benefit from the metallic body of FC optical connections, which have a screw-type structure and high-accuracy ceramic ferrules. FC fiber optic pigtails and related items are widely used in a variety of applications.
ST Fiber Optic Pigtail: The most common connector for multimode fiber optic LAN applications is the ST pigtail connector. It has a ferrule with an extended 2.5mm diameter composed of ceramic (zirconia), stainless alloy, or plastic. As a result, SC fiber pigtails are commonly used in telecommunications, industry, medical, and sensor applications.
Fiber optic pigtails, like fiber optic patch cords, are classified as UPC or APC. SC/APC pigtail, LC/APC pigtail, and SC/UPC and LC/UPC pigtail are the most widely utilized varieties.
Choosing the Right Fiber Pigtail
When choosing a fiber pigtail, there are several factors to consider, including:
Compatibility: The pigtail must be compatible with the optical components that it will be connecting.
Length: The pigtail must be the correct length to accommodate the distance between the two optical components.
Connector type: The pigtail must have the same connector type as the optical components that it will be connecting.
Other factors: Other factors to consider may include the pigtail's performance specifications, such as its attenuation and bandwidth.
There are a few things to keep in mind when installing fiber pigtails
The Dos and Don'ts of fiber pigtail installation:
- Use the correct tools and procedures.
- Clean the connectors before and after installation.
- Inspect the pigtails for damage before installation.
- Don't overfill splice sleeves when installing them into the splice case.
- Don't bend the pigtails too much—no more than the recommended bend radius.
- Don't expose the pigtails to harsh environments; most pigtails are designed for indoor applications.
Benefits of using a fiber optic pigtail
There are many benefits to using a fiber-optic pigtail, including:
Ease of installation: Pigtails are easy to install and can be used to connect devices quickly and easily.
Versatility: Pigtails are available in a variety of connector types and lengths, making them suitable for a wide range of applications.
Durability: Pigtails are made from high-quality materials and are designed to withstand harsh environments.
Cost-effectiveness: Pigtails are a cost-effective way to connect devices and extend the reach of your network.
Use cases for fiber optic pigtails
Fiber optic pigtails are used in a wide variety of applications, including:
Building fiber optic networks: Pigtails are used to connect various components in fiber optic networks, such as optical transceivers, optical amplifiers, and optical splitters.
Testing and maintenance: Pigtails are used to test and maintain fiber optic networks. They can be used to connect test equipment to the network or to isolate a problem area.
Data centers: Pigtails are used in data centers to connect optical transceivers and patch panels. This enables data centers to handle large amounts of data traffic efficiently and with minimal signal loss.
Telecom networks: Pigtails are used in telecom networks to connect various devices, such as telephones, routers, and switches.
Security systems: Pigtails are used in security systems to connect cameras, sensors, and controllers.
How to choose a fiber optic pigtail
When choosing a fiber optic pigtail, there are a few factors you need to consider, such as:
The type of connector: Pigtails are available with a variety of connector types, such as SC, LC, and ST.
The length of the pigtail: Pigtails are available in a variety of lengths, from a few centimeters to a few meters.
The type of fiber optic cable: Pigtails are available for both singlemode and multimode fiber optic cables.
The environment where the pigtail will be used: Pigtails are available for indoor and outdoor use.
Types of Fiber Pigtail Splicing
Mechanical splicing is a simple alignment device that allows light to enter from one fiber to the other by holding the ends of the two fibers in precise alignment. This method has been around for many years. It continues to be popular because it provides immediate, straightforward termination and requires fewer consumables than traditional epoxy-polished connector methods. Mechanical fusion splicing has a lower initial investment but a higher cost per splice.
Fiber fusion splicing is a technique that uses high temperatures generated by the discharge between electrode rods to fuse optical fibers. Fiber splicing is stronger than mechanical fusion splicing, producing less loss and back reflection because the resulting splice point is virtually seamless. However, this method requires an expensive fiber optic fusion splicer, resulting in a higher initial investment but a lower cost per splice.
To learn more about mechanical splicing and fusion splicing, read our article, Fiber Optic Splicing: Examining the Factors that Affect Splice Performance.
trueFIBER Pigtail Solutions
Fiber optic pigtails are a versatile and cost-effective way to terminate your bare fiber cable as well as connect devices and extend the reach of your network. They are easy to install, available in a variety of connector types and lengths, and made from high-quality materials. Pigtails are used in a wide range of applications, including building fiber optic networks, testing and maintenance, data centers, telecom networks, and security systems. We offer a variety of singlemode pigtails for your application needs.
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