Using Fiber Optics for Surveillance

By: 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

China / US Trade War Impact Splits Industry on Jun 04, 2019
As the trade war continues to heat up, 170+ integrators told us "What impact will the US / PRC China conflict have on the industry?" Respondents...
Access Control Job Walk Guide on May 22, 2019
Significant money can be saved and problems avoided with an access control job walk if you know what to look for and what to ask. By inviting...
LifeSafety Power NetLink Vulnerabilities And Problematic Response on May 20, 2019
'Power supplies' are not devices that many think about when considering vulnerabilities but as more and more devices go 'online', the risks for...
Maglock Selection Guide on May 16, 2019
One of the most misunderstood yet valuable pieces of electrified hardware is the maglock. Few locks are stronger, but myths and confusion surround...
Access Control Request to Exit (RTE) Tutorial on May 13, 2019
For access controlled doors, especially those with maglocks, 'Request to Exit', or 'RTE' devices are required to override electrified locks to...
Dahua ePoE Long Distance UTP / Coax Tested on May 03, 2019
Dahua's Enhanced PoE (ePoE) line is claiming extended video and power transmission over 600m without repeaters, with devices interchangeable via...
Register Now - Fall 2019 IP Networking Course on May 02, 2019
Register for the Fall 2019 IP Networking Course. For early registration save $50 off the course's normal $299 price. This is the only networking...
Subnetting for Video Surveillance on Apr 30, 2019
This guide explains when subnetting is used on security networks, and how it works. We explain how to add or remove IP addresses to your range,...
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...
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...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Sighthound Transforms Into Enterprise AI Provider on Jun 14, 2019
Sighthound is now rapidly expanding its R&D team, building an enterprise AI service. This may come as a surprise given their origins 6 years...
ADT Eliminating Acquired Brands, Unifying Under 'Commercial' Brand on Jun 14, 2019
ADT is eliminating the brands of the many integrators it has acquired over the past few years, including Red Hawk, Aronson Security Group (ASG),...
NSA Director Keynoting Dahua and Hikvision Sponsored Cybersecurity Conference on Jun 13, 2019
The technical director for the NSA’s Cybersecurity Threat Operations Center will be keynoting a physical security cybersecurity conference that is...
Farpointe Data Conekt Mobile Access Reader Tested on Jun 13, 2019
California based Farpointe Data has been a significant OEM supplier of conventional access readers for years to companies including DMP, RS2, DSX,...
Embattled $400 Million China Funded Philippines Surveillance System Proceeds on Jun 13, 2019
An embattled 12,000 camera surveillance system project that will cost ~$400 million will proceed.  The project contract was awarded, had its...
False Verkada 'Unrivaled' Low Light Performance Claim Removed on Jun 12, 2019
Verkada falsely claimed that it delivered 'UNRIVALED LOW LIGHT PERFORMANCE' until IPVM questioned. In fact, Verkada's low light performance is...
Manufacturer Favorability Guide 2019 on Jun 12, 2019
The 259 page PDF guide may be downloaded inside by all IPVM members. It includes our manufacturer favorability rankings and individual...
Camera Course Summer 2019 - Register Now on Jun 12, 2019
Register for the Summer 2019 Camera Course.  This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology...
Favorite Wireless Manufacturers 2019 on Jun 12, 2019
Many wireless options exist for video surveillance but how are integrator's overall favorites? 170 integrators answered the question: What is...
Carnegie Mellon AI Startup Zensors Profile on Jun 11, 2019
Zensors is a startup formed by Carnegie Mellon graduates from a Carnegie Mellon research project, offering customized models per camera that they...

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