Tight-Buffered Cable vs. Loose-Tube Gel-Filled Fiber Cables

Fiber Optic Cable manufacturers typically specialize in a particular construction, either Tight-Buffered or Loose-Tube. There is a stereotype about Tight-Buffered construction that says it cannot be installed in outdoor applications; that Loose-Tube Gel-Filled Fiber is the only way to ensure water-blocking properties. Now, it is true that Loose-Tube Fiber is much less expensive than Tight-Buffered Fiber in Outside Plant (OSP) applications. In addition, Loose-Tube constructions can hold many more fibers versus Tight-Buffer using a similar Outside Diameter Cable. But, there are some limitations here. First of all, Loose-Tube OSP can only be used outdoors. If you want to route into a building, you must terminate in a junction box, and transition to Indoor Fiber (Riser or Plenum). This makes OSP fiber primarily for long haul (ring) applications that are prevalent in City or Telcom installs. 

When we look at Industrial Fiber Installations such as Petrochemical, Utility, Food and Beverage and Water, these are more LAN applications. These applications require reliability, stability, building to building and in many cases clean installs. So, if we compare Loose-Tube Constructions versus Tight-Buffered for Indoor/Outdoor applications, the pricing becomes much more comparable. Don’t forget, with Loose-Tube constructions, you need to use a Breakout Kit to build up the OD of the Fiber before you terminate. Also, you must clean the Loose Tube fiber of all its Gel. The Gel is not fire resistant, and can cause termination complications if not totally clean.  The Gel can actually leach into your cabinets and settle on high tech equipment. Both of these issues add to the overall cost of using Loose-Tube Fiber. 

Here is a comparison chart put together by Optical Cable Corporation (OCC) that outlines the advantages of Tight-Buffered Fiber:


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