Using Fiber Optics for Surveillance

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Dec 07, 2011

In using fiber for surveillance applications, there are typically two scenarios that users must address: backbone between two switches and directly to the camera. In this update, we'll address the separate concerns of each, and provide our recommendations.

General Fiber Limitations

In selecting fiber, the fundamental decision that must be made is whether to use multi-mode or single-mode fiber. Multi-mode is more common in indoor applications, as it is less expensive, but has a maximum distance of about 500m for Gigabit Ethernet, or about 2km for 100Mbps speeds. Single-mode, on the other hand, is more expensive, but can transmit tens of kilometers, depending on the hardware used, making it the only choice in some applications. 

In these pricing comparisons, it is not only the cost of cable that is higher, but cost of connectors and equipment, as well, which widens the price gap. For surveillance, single-mode is likely not used, unless connecting cameras in a municipal infrastructure beyond the distances multi-mode can handle. 

Connecting Cameras

When connecting distant cameras, fiber is often the only option. In these cases, the most common way to connect the camera is to use a media converter at each end. This presents two potential challenges:

  • First, unlike UTP, which can supply power over Ethernet, using fiber cable requires power at the remote end. In many locations where cameras are installed, such as on light poles, power is already installed, though may need a transformer to provide correct voltage. As we discussed previously, Berk-Tek also provides the OneReach system, which is essentially a fiber cable with copper power conductors to provide PoE at the far end.
  • Second, and of lesser importance, is what to do at the near end of the fiber run. Some IT-savvy users are averse to installing media converters because they cannot be managed from the same interface as their switches. In these cases, it may be preferable to use a fiber switch instead of a rack of media converters. Generallly speaking, however, this is a more expensive option.

Very few cameras, and none from major manufacturers, offer direct fiber Ethernet connectivity. In typical situations, if media converters are used for cameras, far end units are installed in an enclosure at the pole or other location, sometimes co-located in a power supply enclosure. The near end units are installed in a rack mount kit, which provides a cleaner installation and easier access to cabling. Rack mount chassis also normally share a power supply, reducing the number of outlets required at the rack.

There are a number of common providers of media converters: Transition Networks, GarrettCom, ComNet, and EtherWAN are all oft-used. Users should expect to pay $100-200 for a media converter, or more if an environmentally hardened unit is required.

Connecting Switches

The second application in which fiber is common is connecting two switches in distant locations. Under 100m/290', UTP cabling may be used for backbone between switches without issue. Beyond this, however, fiber is normally used. While media converters may be used, as discussed above, typically they are not, opting for SFP transceivers instead.

Most professional-grade switches today are equipped with SFP (small form-factor pluggable) ports, which accept a small fiber transceiver which takes the place of the media converter. Typically, SFP ports are simply configured as uplink ports (if the switch is managed), and fibers are connected between the two switches. This greatly simplifies installation, since no external hardware is required, and the ports may be configured from the same interface as all other switch ports.

Users should expect to pay $75-150 for a typical SFP module, normally less than a media converter. Modules made for single-mode fiber and specialized applications (such as those used for SONET rings or single fiber applications) will be priced slightly higher, but not used in most instances.

5 reports cite this report:

Network Cable Testing Guide on Oct 02, 2018
Proper cable installation is key to trouble-free surveillance systems. However, testing is often an afterthought, with problems only discovered...
Rugged Open High PoE NVR Examined (Razberi) on Mar 08, 2016
While cameras are routinely rated for use in harsh environments, recorders are typically much more sensitive and vulnerable, requiring extensive...
Network Cabling for Video Surveillance Guide on Oct 30, 2015
In this 14 page guide, we teach the fundamentals of network cabling for video surveillance networks, how they should be installed, and the...
Comprehensive Surveillance Cabling Guide on Dec 17, 2014
Surveillance cabling seems mundane, yet is a critical topic. A system with the best equipment can still be a failure if the network connecting it...
Wireless Access Control Panels on Oct 16, 2014
One company claims they can connect access control panels wirelessly with ranges up to a mile, saving big bucks and thousands of feet of cable...
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Locking Down Network Connections Guide on Apr 23, 2019
Accidents and inside attacks are risks when network connections are not locked down. Security and video surveillance systems should be protected...
Access Control Course Spring 2019 - Last Chance on Apr 19, 2019
 Register for the Spring 2019 Access Control Course----Closed IPVM offers the most comprehensive access control course in the industry. Unlike...
Door Operators Access Control Tutorial on Apr 17, 2019
Doors equipped with door operators, specialty devices that automate opening and closing, tend to be quite complex. The mechanisms needed to...
Axis Supports HD Analog on Apr 15, 2019
In 2017, Axis declared 'Everything is IP': Now, in 2019, Axis has released support for HD analog, with their new encoders.  Why the change?...
Pole Mount Camera Installation Guide on Apr 11, 2019
Poles are a popular but challenging choice for deploying surveillance cameras outdoors. Poles are indispensable for putting cameras at the right...
Spring 2019 IP Networking Course- Register Now on Apr 04, 2019
Register now for the Spring 2019 IP Networking course here. Just $299 for the course. This is the only networking course designed specifically...
Casino Security Consultant Carl Lindgren Interview on Mar 26, 2019
For more than 20 years, Carl Lindgren worked as a casino surveillance pro, while being active (and sometimes outspoken) on various online video...
Large Hospital Security End User Interview on Mar 21, 2019
This large single-state healthcare system consists of many hospitals, and hundreds of health parks, private practices, urgent care facilities, and...
Retired Mercury President Returns As Open Options President on Mar 18, 2019
Open Options experienced major changes in 2018, including being acquired by ACRE and losing its President and General Manager, John Berman who...
Installation Course - REGISTRATION CLOSED on Mar 14, 2019
This is the last chance to register for the March Installation course. CLOSED This is a unique installation course in a market where little...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Verkada Salesman: IPVM "Stuck In A The Stone Age" on Apr 25, 2019
Verkada is 'tackling dinosaurs' and battling those, like IPVM, who are 'stuck in a the stone age'. Verkada's recent sales recruiting promotion...
The HIVIDEO $31 Face Detection DVR Tested on Apr 25, 2019
Face detection in a $31 DVR? That is what "HIVIDEO" (not to be confused with Hikvision, even if the company intends to do that) was promoting at...
Amazon Marketing Pro Installs of Amazon Security Systems on Apr 25, 2019
Is Amazon a threat to conventional providers like ADT, Vivint and Brinks Home Security? Many say no. Now, Amazon is advertising free in-home...
Ex-Integrator Now Growth Strategist Interviewed on Apr 24, 2019
For more than a decade, Scot MacTaggart was a security integrator (at PA-based PSX). In late 2018, he left the industry. He is now a Growth...
19 Facial Recognition Providers Profiled on Apr 23, 2019
IPVM interviewed 19 facial recognition providers at ISC West to understand their claimed accuracy, success and positioning. 9 from China, where...
Locking Down Network Connections Guide on Apr 23, 2019
Accidents and inside attacks are risks when network connections are not locked down. Security and video surveillance systems should be protected...
Hikvision Admits USA Sales Falling on Apr 22, 2019
Hikvision, in a new Chinese financial filing, has admitted that its USA sales are now falling. Less than a year after the US government passed a...
Speco Ultra Intensifier Tested on Apr 22, 2019
While ISC West 2019 named Speco's Ultra Intensifier the best new "Video Surveillance Cameras IP", IPVM testing shows the camera suffers from...
Arecont Favorability Results 2019 on Apr 22, 2019
Arecont's net negativity remained the same in IPVM's 2019 integrator study, though integrator's feeling became relatively more neutral compared to...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact