The Quick Guide to Fiber Patch Panels

Looking for fiber patch panels? We can help.

At FIBERONE, we manufacture a range of fiber patch panels to fit a variety of network needs. This includes:

Every one of our fiber patch panels is manufactured in the United States to strict quality standards and are available to be shipped quickly according to your project timelines. Our fiber product experts are standing by to consult on any questions you have.

Order a fiber patch panel from FIBERONE today and we’ll get you the right equipment quickly – and you’ll never need to make a return.

 
 

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for – or if you simply want to learn more about fiber patch panels – keep reading.

On the rest of this page, we’ll provide answers to commonly asked questions about fiber patch panels, so that you can have a high-level understanding of what these networks components are used for and what you can expect when using them.

We’ll cover topics like:

By the end, you should have a general understanding of fiber patch panels – and potentially be ready to order the right type for your network needs.

Ready to learn more about fiber patch panels? Read on.
 

What is a fiber patch panel?

To begin, let’s review what a fiber patch panel is.

As we’ve written before, 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 patch panels are connectivity points for interconnecting network fiber cables to fiber optic adapter plates which are used for network connectivity.

These connectivity points may be in a rack along with other network products where signals originate, or even in remote customer premise locations. Often (but not always) housed in a wiring closet, they usually take the form of metal enclosures. They’re designed to hold adapter panels and splice trays, with space to spare for fiber storage.

For example, here’s a picture of our 12-port rack mount splice & patch panel.

And here’s our 24-port wall mount patch panel.

While the specs on these two pieces of equipment vary significantly, they both (like all patch panels) serve as hubs for fiber connection.
 

What are common components of a fiber patch panel?

As you can tell from the pictures above, the devices that network technicians call fiber patch panels are built from a variety of components. These commonly include:

  • The housing (or enclosure). This is the structure that everything fits inside. It’s typically wall- or rack-mounted and is often made of metal.
  • Coupler panels. Panels hold the connector adapters (or couplers).
  • Connecter adapters.
  • Splice tray. If a pigtail approach is taken, fiber patch panels include a splice tray. If a field termination approach is taken, a splice tray won’t be needed.

Different variations of fiber patch panels include different combinations of these components. (We’ll delve into the different types of fiber patch panels shortly.)
 

What are fiber patch panels used for?

Fiber patch panels are passive devices that help with fiber cable management.

The alternative to using a patch panel is to run fibers at a greater length – perhaps directly all the way from switches to endpoints. This makes cables more difficult to keep track of and more difficult to move. For example, if a server needed to be put on a different subnet, you would probably need to do a bit of construction work to rearrange the entire length of the cable.

However, with patch panels, adjusting cable connections is much easier. Ports are all in one place and patch cords are shorter, so network adjustments can be managed much more efficiently.
 

What’s the difference between a fiber patch panel and a switch?

While fiber patch panels and fiber network switches may look a bit similar with their rows of ports, they serve markedly different functions.

As we’ve just noted, fiber patch panels are passive connection hubs that are used primarily for cable management. They make fiber networks easier to work with, but they don’t play any active role in passing data through the network.

Network switches, on the other hand, actively filter and route data – they take incoming data and determine where to send it to. In essence, they connect clients into a network.

It would be possible to construct a fiber network without using any patch panels (although it would definitely be unideal and the network would be tedious to manage). It would not be possible to construct a fiber network without a switch.
 

How do you install a fiber patch panel?

With the function of patch panels clarified, a logical next question is, how are they installed?

The answer, unfortunately, is that it depends.

As we’ll cover shortly, there are many different types of fiber patch panels, and the process for installation varies depending on the type of path panel that’s being installed.

However, here’s a very generalized installation process that should give you an idea of what you’ll need to do:

  1. Select the ideal location for the patch panel.

You should plan this out in as much detail as possible.

If you’re installing the panel in a rack, for example, you’ll want to make sure it’s positioned so that cables can be easily run to it. When adopting ground outlet, cables typically run into the rack from the bottom, so you’d want to mount the patch panel on the lower part of the rack. When adopting bridge outlet, cables come in through the top, so you’d want to mount the patch panel on the upper part of the rack.

  1. Map out connections to the ports.

Determine which switch port should be connected to which patch panel port.

  1. Mount the patch panel.

Once you know where the patch panel should be mounted and have mapped out the connections that will be run to it, go ahead and mount it.

  1. Run cables from the patch panel to the switch port.

Once the patch panel is mounted, you can run the cables from the patch panel to the switch port as you’d mapped out.

  1. Organize the cables.

Finally, you should organize cables to make future adjustments easier. This typically includes bundling them and labeling each cable with the same tag on both ends.

Again, this is a very high-level overview of the installation process. If you have questions about installing a specific fiber patch panel, it’s best to follow manufacturing guidelines – and, if necessary, to consult with product experts.

At FIBERONE, we provide responsive customer support for any installation questions, as well as access to robust educational materials for specific fiber products.
 

What are the different types of fiber patch panels?

As mentioned above, fiber patch panels come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are some of the most common factors that influence the configurations you’ll see.

Different locations

One of the key factors in distinguishing types of patch panels is the location the panel is designed for.

Rack mount fiber patch panels

Rack mount fiber patch panels are designed, obviously, for inclusion in an equipment rack. Flat patch panels are most commonly 19” or 23” between the two vertical posts.

Panels may occupy multiple rack units. They commonly use a splice tray to organize splice modules.

Wall mount fiber patch panels

Wall mount fiber patch panels vary a bit more because they aren’t built to standard rack specifications. These patch panels are typically used in remote locations such a wiring closets or similar customer premise applications.

Outdoor fiber patch panels

Outdoor fiber patch panels are built to be weatherproof and will carry a NEMA rating to represent how protected they are from elements. They’re usually installed on walls or poles.

Different numbers of ports

Another key factor is the number of ports on the patch panel. Fiber patch panels tend to have a number of ports that is some multiple of twelve. Common configurations include 12-port patch panels, 24-port patch panels, 48-port models, 72-port models, all the way up to 288-port models – and there are patch panels that go beyond that, too.

Pigtail or field termination

Patch panels can be supplied with fiber pigtails that feed into a splice tray for fusion splicing. Factory polished connectors on the other end provide a high-quality connection required for most applications.

Field termination connectors can be used in some applications. These are generally used with multimode fiber as the data rates are much lower and the tolerances for fiber loss are much higher. We would not recommend using field terminations for single mode fiber, except for temporary use such as emergency restoration kits.

Standard or high density

Finally, fiber patch panels are available for both standard (10G) and high-density (40/100G) network configurations. Higher density fiber patch panels obviously take up more rack space. Note that our innovative U-Series line of products use about 1/3 the rack space of traditional LGX style products.
 

How much do fiber patch panels cost?

If you’re considering purchasing a fiber patch panel, you’re probably wondering what a standard price is – and you’ll probably be unsurprised to find that the cost varies a good deal depending on the configuration you’re looking for.

But in general, you may be looking at well over $100 for a 12F patch panel to well over $1,000 for higher density fiber patch panels.
 

How to choose the right fiber patch panel

If you are looking to order a fiber patch panel, there are a number of things to consider:

  • What is the fiber count?
  • Do you need to plan for expansion (add more fiber in the future)?
  • Connector types
  • Will you implement splicing within or possibly have it provided with a stub cable (which would be spliced at a point near the patch panel)?

Careful planning will help eliminate incorrect parts.

It’s not uncommon for technicians to order a certain fiber patch panel, only to discover that another variation is needed. There is a wide variety of configurations available, after all.

Ordering incorrect parts can slow down network timelines – so, if you need to purchase a fiber patch panel, 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 patch panels, including:

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 patch panel for your application.