Fiber optic cable jacket colors can make it fast and simple to recognize exactly which type of cable you are dealing with. For example, the color yellow clearly identifies a single mode cable, while orange indicates multimode. This seems easy enough, but when 10-Gigabit Ethernet and 50-micron, laser-optimized multimode cable technologies began emerging, a need arose to differentiate new grades of cable from the old.
In response to this, Lucent Technologies developed a new jacket color, aqua, to set its new 10Gb/s laser-optimized 50-micron optical fiber cable apart from older 50 and 62.5- micron multimode fiber cabling. Identification problem solved? Unfortunately not. Some companies were quick to get onboard with Lucent’s aqua jacket concept; however, not all manufacturers have transitioned to this specific color-identification system. As a result, aqua is also at times used for 50-micron fiber cabling that differs from TIA standards in performance and distance capabilities.
Even though it can be hard to distinguish exactly what your cable’s fiber performance is simply by its aqua-colored jacket, there are still ways to tell what you’re dealing with. For instance, according to the TIA-598-C standard, colored-jacket cables are used almost exclusively in intra-building applications, and certain cable jacket colors specify the varying degrees of fire resistance.
The TIA-598-C color standard does not include outdoor cables, due to the fact that most cables for use outside contain a black carbon component in their jackets, which provides protection from solar radiation and other harsh elements. TIA-598-C covers the jacket-color standards only for cables containing a single type of fiber. For cables that contain more than one type of fiber, color alone is not enough; printed identification on the jacket is necessary to identify the fiber types.
According to TIA-598-C, aqua jacketing should only be used on multimode, laser-optimized fiber optic cable that is internationally classified as OM3 grade. The TIA-492AAAC-A standard defines OM3 cables as being 850-nm and having an EMB of 2000/500 MHz*km, with the ability to support 10 Gb/s Ethernet for 300 meters, or Gigabit Ethernet up to 1000 meters. However, when TIA-598-C began employing aqua as the color to identify a cable’s compliance with TIA-49AAAC-A requirements, not everyone in the industry decided to adhere to the same standard. Some manufacturers have chosen, without support from TIA, to use aqua covering on sub-OM3, 950 MHz*km EMB cable.
Although there is a risk of purchasing aqua-jacketed cabling only to find out that it is substandard, some manufacturers’ cables actually exceed OM3 standards! What this all comes down to is not assuming that all cables with aqua jackets are of the same caliber. Making educated purchases -- by doing product-standard research and receiving clarification from your vendors -- is the best way to ensure that you end up with just the right fiber optic cable for your application!