In fiber-optic communication, a single-mode optical fiber is an optical fiber designed to carry only a single ray of light (mode). This ray of light often contains a variety of different wavelengths. Although the ray travels parallel to the length of the fiber, it is often called the transverse mode since its electromagnetic vibrations occur perpendicular (transverse) to the length of the fiber. Data rates are limited by polarization mode dispersion and chromatic dispersion. In 2005, data rates of up to 10 gigabits per second were possible at distances of over 60 km with commercially available transceivers (Xenpak). By using optical amplifiers and dispersion-compensating devices, state-of-the-art DWDM optical systems can span thousands of kilometers at 10 Gbit/s, and several hundred kilometers at 40 Gbit/s.
Multi-mode optical fiber (multimode fiber or MM fiber or fibre) is a type of optical fiber mostly used for communication over shorter distances, such as within a building or on a campus. Typical multimode links have data rates of 10 Mbit/s to 10 Gbit/s over link lengths of up to 600 meters—more than sufficient for the majority of premises applications. The equipment used for communications over multi-mode optical fiber is much less expensive than that for single-mode optical fiber.