What is a Fiber-Optic Patch Panel?


A fiber-optic patch panel is used to separate out the fibers within a fiber-optic cable. By using one of these panels, the fibers can be spliced to individual fibers on other cables, allowing the cables to be crossed and connected in a variety of ways. In addition, the panel creates a safe environment in which to work with exposed fibers.

Optical fibers from workstations or from other wiring closets terminate in termination boxes. The termination boxes provide a patch point for a small number of connections, but larger installations will have a separate patching location that serves all of the incoming and outgoing fiber cables.

A fiber patch panel consists of an array of duplex SC adapters, hybrid adapters, or Small Form Factor (SFF) jacks. If the entire installation, including the fiber optic hubs, repeaters, or network adapters, uses the same type of fiber optic connectors, then the array can be made of compatible adapters or jacks.

There are two types of fiber-optic panels: wall-mounted and rack-mounted. Wall-mounted panels are used if there is limited space and very few fiber-optic cables; they are usually put in the corner of a closet or a seldom-used room. In larger networks that have more cables, and usually a dedicated room or closet for panels, a rack-mounted panel would normally be used; there are usually several racks containing multiple fiber-optic panels in these types of networks.

An optical engineer often uses a fiber-optic patch panel to test the fibers within an optical cable. Problems with a fiber-optic cable can be located within a single fiber when the fibers are split apart and tested separately. The panels make it easy to organize the fibers. Furthermore, working with the fibers within the tray of the fiber-optic patch panel protects the fibers from anything in the environment that could damage them.