Fiber Optic Splitters: An Overview and Product Options

fiber optic splitters

Need a fiber optic splitter for your fiber network application? We can help.

At FIBERONE, we offer a variety of optical splitters that are built to last, manufactured in the United States, and available for quick delivery to meet your project needs. This includes:

Our technical experts are standing by, ready to consult on your needs and ensure that you order the right product – not something that doesn’t fit. When you order fiber products from FIBERONE, you’ll never need to make a return.

To get the right splitter, talk to a fiber product expert today.

 

 

If you want to learn more about fiber optic splitters, keep reading.

On this page, we’ll provide an overview of fiber optic splitters through answers to common questions, including:

By the end, you should have a general understanding of how this product works – and be ready to take the next step in using it for your network applications.

Ready? Keep reading to get an overview of fiber optic splitters.

 

What is a fiber optic splitter?

Let’s start with the basics.

First things first: Fiber networks use thin strands of glass arranged in bundles called optical cables to transmit light signals over long distances. Light travels by bouncing off the walls of the cable repeatedly, until it eventually arrives at a destination where the signal is translated back into data and output for use by applications.

Fiber optic splitters are devices that take light from a single fiber and split it into one or more different fibers.

For instance, a 1×4 split configuration would take a single light beam and split it into four separate light beams to be transmitted through four individual fiber cables, as illustrated in this graphic from Thorlabs.

 

How does a fiber optic splitter work?

Fiber optic splitters in PON (passive optical networks) are passive devices. This means that they don’t generate power or require power to function – nor do they require any electronic components.

They separate light using common materials (like quartz substrate, stainless steel, fiber, etc.) to create multiple light streams. FBT splitters function through multiple stretched fibers that form a double cone to control the splitting ratio. PLC splitters function through a three-layer design comprised of a substrate, a waveguide, and a lid. (More on this distinction later.)

To make things simple: Light enters the splitter, and the splitter passively separates the light into different beams using non-electronic components, then outputs distinct beams into new fibers.

 

What applications are fiber optic splitters used for?

Fiber optic splitters are critical components in today’s fiber networks. They’re commonly used to connect a central office to terminal equipment and, eventually, to end users in FTTX applications.

As Corning puts it, “These devices enable more effective monitoring and management of optical networks.”

There are two key benefits to the use of splitters:

Splitters make networks more scalable.

As Optigo writes, “splitting fiber makes the network flexible and expandable, so the network can grow over time without using up ports or running lots more lines of fiber.”

Without splitters, networks would require individual lines for each end-user connection – something that would be difficult to sustain both at a technical level and in terms of the raw costs involved. Splitters allow networks to grow and to serve more users more efficiently.

Splitters increase redundancy.

In addition to making networks more scalable, splitters also play a role in making networks more dependable. Specifically, 2:N splitters (splitters with two inputs) are typically deployed in a ring configuration to increase physical network redundancy.

 

What are the different types of fiber optic splitters?

As you’ve probably realized, there are many variations of fiber optic splitters, distinguished along a variety of categorical lines. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common.

FBT versus PLC optical splitters

One of the key variations in splitters comes down to technology: FBT versus PLC.

FBT stands for fused biconical taper. This is the more traditional type of splitter, made (as mentioned above) by welding several fibers together from the side of the fiber. Fused fibers are delicate, so they’re guarded by a glass tube made of epoxy and silica powder, then a steel tube that’s sealed by silicon.

FBT splitters support operating wavelengths of 850nm, 1310nm, and 1550nm. They have a maximum split ratio of 1:32 (meaning one input can be split into a maximum of 32 fibers). Notably, FBT splitters are more cost-efficient than PLC splitters because they’re manufactured using more affordable materials.

PLC stands for planar lightwave circuit. As mentioned previously, this technology uses a micro-optical element comprised of a substrate, a waveguide, and a lid.

PLC splitters are somewhat more versatile than FBT splitters and can support a range of operating wavelengths between 1260nm and 1650nm. They have higher spectral uniformity, and losses aren’t sensitive to wavelength. However, they tend to be more expensive than FBT splitters, especially for higher split ratios, because manufacturing requires non-traditional materials and is fairly complex.

Single-mode versus multimode optical splitters

Single-mode optical splitters are designed to work with single-mode optical fiber, while multimode optical splitters are designed to work with multimode optical fiber.

The next questions, obviously, are: What’s single-mode fiber and what’s multimode fiber?

Single-mode fiber has only a single wavelength of light in the fiber core, meaning that there is no overlap or interference between different wavelengths of light. This makes long-distance data transfer easier and more effective. Single-mode fiber also has a higher bandwidth.

Multimode fiber, on the other hand, lets multiple modes of light pass through it so that more types of data can be transmitted. It has a core with a larger diameter. This type of fiber is commonly used in short-distance, premise-based applications.

Splitters play essentially the same role for both types of fibers – just make sure to order single-mode or multimode based on the fiber you’re using.

Inputs and outputs

Finally, splitters are differentiated by split ratios, which refer to the inputs and outputs connected to a fiber optic splitter. These are usually represented as XxY, where X is the number of inputs and Y is the number of outputs connected to the splitter.

There are a range of common splitter input/output configurations, but some of the more common are:

  • 1×1
  • 1×2
  • 1×4
  • 1×8
  • 1×16
  • 1×32
  • 1×64
  • 2×1
  • 2×2

As Fiber Optics Share notes, different configurations can be created using either a centralized approach (with a single stage splitter performing all necessary splits) or using a cascaded approach (where multiple splitters are used to create multiple outputs).

Here’s the centralized approach:

And here’s the cascaded approach:

 

How much do fiber optic splitters cost?

Given the broad array of fiber optic splitter configurations we’ve just reviewed, you’ll probably be unsurprised to hear that the answer to this question is – it depends.

At the low end of the cost spectrum, you can purchase a Tebru 1×4 PLC fiber splitter online from Walmart for $5.68 (although, admittedly, this splitter is recommended primarily for home wiring and isn’t really meant for commercial PON applications).

UMLink offers a 1×2 multimode FBT splitter for around $40. On the higher end of things, Fibertronics offers a 1×32 PLC fiber optic splitter for $235.

Again, the price varies depending on your requirements.

However, it’s worth noting that, as in most areas, you tend to get what you pay for – and, as Ray Barnes and Dave Eckell argue in Cabling Installation and Maintenance, saving a few bucks by purchasing a low-quality splitter can have big costs in terms of network stability.

As an individual line item, a low- quality splitter will look attractive to a procurement officer or even a project manager looking to control costs. However, the splitter cost is between 3 to 5 percent of the total installed cost of the network. This means in order to save 1 to 2 percent of the total cost of the project, the long-term reliability of the network is placed at risk… Our testing has shown that optical splitters are more sensitive to failures than typical LAN optical components like connectors and optical cabling.

The bottom line: Optical splitter costs vary, but you’re better off paying for quality than you are going with something cheap that will cost you later.

 

Where to order fiber optic splitters

With quality in mind, let’s look at a few of the manufacturers and outlets that are worth considering when it comes time to order fiber optic splitters.

1. FIBERONE

At FIBERONE, we’ve never had a product returned for failure. We manufacture all components in the United States – which means that we ensure high quality and are able to quickly meet your delivery schedule with rapid shipping.

We’re also highly consultative – meaning that you’ll never need to worry that you’re ordering a component that won’t fit.

If you’re looking for a fiber optic splitter, get in touch with our friendly technicians and they’ll help you to select the right one for your needs.

2. Corning

Corning is another trusted brand in the fiber optics industry. They’ve been manufacturing fiber products since 1970, with a focus on product quality. Here’s how they put it on their about page:

“Corning has been continually innovating to increase the speed and capacity of optical fiber networks, while providing innovations that make deployment easier and more cost effective.”

While they aren’t as consultative as our team at FIBERONE, they’re a worthwhile option for trustworthy fiber products.

3. Fiber Instrument Sales

Finally, Fiber Instrument Sales is another US-based fiber product company. Here’s how they explain their story on their about page:

“Fiber Instrument Sales, Inc. (FIS) was founded in 1985 to fulfill the growing need in the communications industry for fiber optic cables and connectivity equipment.”

They have a fairly extensive catalog of components, and also offer services like training, rentals, and calibration.

 

How to choose the right fiber optic splitter

If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance you’re looking to order a fiber optic splitter for your fiber project and you’re wondering how to choose the right one.

The bad news is that it’s not uncommon for technicians to order a certain component, only to discover that another variation of the component is needed.

Ordering incorrect parts can slow down network timelines – so, if you need to purchase a fiber optic splitter, it’s crucial that the device you order fits your application.

The best way to make sure of that is to consult with the manufacturers to ensure that the product you’re considering will fit your needs.

Our technical experts can help. As noted above, at FIBERONE, we offer a variety of fiber optic splitters, including:

  • Single mode optical splitters (1×2) – We offer FBT optical splitters available in a wide range of split ratios and a variety of jackets. See the product details here.
  • Multimode optical splitters (1×2) – We offer FBT splitters available in a wide range of split ratios and 250um and 900um jackets. See the product details here.

If you’re not sure which variation will best meet your needs, get in touch with us.

We help network engineers and technicians to access the quality fiber products they need, quickly and with full confidence in performance. We’ll make sure that you order the right fiber optic splitter so that your installation goes according to plan – and you never need to make a return.

Talk to a technical expert today to order the right fiber optic splitter for your application.