A fiber-optic panel, also referred to as either a fiber-optic patch panel or fiber distribution panel, is used to provide a termination point for fiber-optic cables as well as provide access for the creation of cross connections. It is often covered with a box-shaped cover to provide protection. Fiber-optic panels also provide a central point for management of the fiber-optic cables.
Fiber-optic cable networks are high-speed networks primarily used in larger networks, such as the ones in cities or college campuses. They utilize fiber-optic cables that are made of bundles of glass or plastic fibers. The fibers carry a network signal using light waves that can send data in the form of a digital signal. Fiber cables are very thin and light, and the fiber-optic panels are needed to protect and organize the cables and provide a central location for access.
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.
A basic fiber-optic panel is typically made up of a metal frame that encloses the adapter panels, the connector couplers and a splice tray. The fiber-optic cables connect to the panels through the couplers. One side of the panel is usually fixed, meaning the cables aren’t disconnected at any point. The other side of the panel is reserved for cables that can be connected and disconnected to arrange the wire circuits as needed. The splice tray allows cables to be neatly arranged in the fiber-optic panel.
Not all fiber network cables use the same type of cables or connectors, so fiber-optic panels usually have several adapter types to accommodate for this. If the fiber-optic panel doesn’t provide the type of adapter, one will have to be added between the adapter on the panel and the cable with the different adapter type. This can be done using either a conversion cable or a hybrid adapter. A conversion cable is simply a cable with the two different types of adapters on either end, and the hybrid adapter is one piece that connects directly to the panel. Fiber-optic panels usually have several adapter types built in, and higher-end panels often have the majority of the hybrid adapters already installed.