International Standards and Conformity Assessment for all electrical, electronic and related technologies


Fibre Optic Interconnect and passive components

Fibre optic communications

Fibre Optics is essentially a super highway for the transmission of data through glass (or plastic) fibre using light.


A fibre is a thin strand of glass normally around 125um in diameter - (about the thickness of a human hair) - that is made up of layers of glass / silica of different refractive indices.


In its simplest form the light is guided through the fibre by Total Internal Reflection at the interface between the core and the cladding, where the core has a slightly higher refractive index.


To get the light carrying the signals into the fibre, electrical signals are fed into a laser or light emitting diode (LED) which then fires the light down the fibre. The light is collected at the other end by a detector which reconverts the light back into electrical signals


Compared to a Copper cable, a fibre optic cable has a much higher carrying capacity due to its much greater bandwidth - each fibre can carry 10 million telephone calls. There is less signal degradation so longer transmission distances are possible without signal regeneration. It is smaller in size and lighter in weight, making it easier to handle and it has inherent interference immunity as it is unaffected by electromagnetic interference.


Fibre optics is used throughout all areas of society. Key applications/areas are: biomedical (endoscopes and high power lasers); communications (telecoms and datacomms); the broadcast industry (HDTV and Super Slow Motion); industrial applications (sensing pressure, strain measurement, temperature, part inspection, and process control applications); power delivery (IC cutting, wire bonding, Laser surgery, Dental epoxy cure), plus other areas such as telemetry, intelligent traffic lights, illumination, car & aircraft panels, as well as harsh environments (robotics / space).


It is obviously essential that the glass fibres used in fibre optic transmission can be joined together and that the connectors used will all work together under the required conditions and are interchangeable no matter who supplies them.


To achieve this, CENELEC TC86BXA (the Technical Committee responsible for all fibre optic interconnect, passive and connectorised components) has written European "Product Specifications" mainly for fibre optic connectors and closures/interconnect components but with a few passive components as well.


A Product Specification is a document, which specifies everything that a user needs to know about the product to enable him to purchase the same item from a number of different supplies and to be safe in the knowledge that the performance of that product will meet the same criteria.


Product specifications for a wide range of connectors and components can be found in the following series of documents:

  • EN 50377: Connector sets and interconnect components to be used in optical fibre communication systems - Product specifications
  • EN 50516: Industrial connector sets and interconnects components to be used in optical fibre control and communication systems - Product specifications
  • EN 50378: Passive components to be used in optical fibre communication systems - Product specifications
  • EN 50411: Fibre organisers and closures to be used in optical fibre communication systems - Product specifications

There is also a very important set of test and measurement documents contained in the EN 61300 series, the use of which ensures that all products meet the same criteria.


Contact point: Geert Maes