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Fiber: What’s the Difference: Single-mode Cabling Cost vs. Multimode Cabling Cost

Published by Cablesys on Feb 2nd 2018


SMF and MMF cabling have been amongst popular discussion lately. Which is more cost effective? Typically, single-mode cable is considerably cheaper than multimode, but the remaining components needed to complete the single mode system are more expensive. This post will identify the different component costs of single mode and multimode fiber optics.

Network Pricing

Single-mode fibers are preferred when executing long-distance applications. These long-distance applications require transceivers with a compact spot-size and thinner spectral width with lasers that can function at longer wavelengths. The rise in cost comes into play when the transceiver’s characteristics are combined with the necessity for higher-precision alignment and tighter connector tolerances to smaller core diameters. Overall, this causes higher transceiver prices, and ultimately a steeper price tag for single-mode fiber systems as a whole.

VSCEL based transceivers optimized for multi-fiber use are often times easier to manufacture for array devices and are cheaper than single-mode transceivers. Although multi fiber lanes and multi-transceiver arrays are costly, there is still an abundant savings compared to the employment of single-mode technology which utilizes single and/or multichannel performance opposed to simplex-duplex integration. By using the multimode fiber system, it provides the lowest system cost and a precise upgrade pathway to 100G for standard-based premise applications utilizing parallel-optic based interconnects.

Set Up Price

Generally, single-mode fiber is more affordable than multimode. The cost of single-mode fiber is reduced by half when constructing a 1G fiber optic network, in hopes of it becoming 10 G or faster ultimately, while the cost of OM3 or OM4 multimode increases roughly 35% for SFPs. Although single-mode systems are more costly, that does not compare to the labor costs of repairing the multimode system being remarkably greater, particularly if they were formatted as OM1—OM2—OM3—OM4. But, if you are open to considering second-hand ex-fiber channel SFPs, the price of single-mode 1G is nearly free. If you require and can afford 10G short connections, the economics still support multimode. Nevertheless, it is wisdom to keep close watch on the economics, because history implies that the price premium will soon decrease for single-mode fiber optics.

Cost of Transceiver

Multi-mode transceivers are virtually two to three times more affordable than single mode transceivers. Below is a table that displays this. As you review the table, it is evident that the higher the bandwidth, the pricier it is.

Speed Transceiver Transceiver Description Price Price Difference
1G Single-mode SFP Cisco GLC-LH-SMD Compatible 1000BASE-LX/LH SFP 1310nm 10km DOM Transceiver USD $7.00 USD $1.00
Multimode SFP Cisco GLC-SX-MMD Compatible 1000BASE-SX SFP 850nm 550m DOM Transceiver USD $6.00
10G Single-mode SFP+ Cisco SFP-10G-LR Compatible 10GBASE-LR SFP+ 1310nm 10km DOM Transceiver USD $34.00 USD $18.00
Multimode SFP+ Cisco SFP-10G-SR Compatible 10GBASE-SR SFP+ 850nm 300m DOM Transceiver USD $16.00
40G Single-mode QSFP+ Cisco QSFP-40G-LR4 Compatible 40GBASE-LR4 and OTU3 QSFP+ 1310nm 10km LC DOM Transceiver USD $340.00 USD $285.00
Multimode QSFP+ Cisco QSFP-40G-SR4 Compatible 40GBASE-SR4 QSFP+ 850nm 150m MTP/MPO DOM Transceiver USD $55.00
100G Single-mode QSFP28 QSFP28 Cisco QSFP-100G-LR4-S 100GBASE-LR4 1310nm 10km Compatible Transceiver USD $2800.00 USD $2400.00
Multimode QSFP28 QSFP28 Cisco QSFP-100G-SR4-S Compatible 100GBASE-SR4 850nm 100m Transceiver USD $400.00



This post has shown the generic, surface level differences between the single-mode and multimode fiber optic systems from three points of view. Each system type contains its own characteristics. For example, single-mode is more effective for wide-range data applications and extensively used in carrier networks, PONs, and MANs. Contrastingly, multimode fiber systems are more suitable for shorter-distance operations and are diversely used in enterprise data centers and for LANs. Both systems are beneficial, but each company should choose the one that fits their needs and budget best.