Step-Index Multimode Fiber
Due to its large core, some of the light rays that make up the digital pulse may travel a direct route, whereas others zigzag as they bounce off the cladding. These alternate paths cause the different groups of light rays, referred to as modes, to arrive separately at the receiving point. The pulse, an aggregate of different modes, begins to spread out, losing its well-defined shape. The need to leave spacing between pulses to prevent overlapping limits the amount of information that can be sent. This type of fiber is best suited for transmission over short distances.
Graded-Index Multimode Fiber
Contains a core in which the refractive index diminishes gradually from the center axis out toward the cladding. The higher refractive index at the center makes the light rays moving down the axis advance more slowly than those near the cladding. Due to the graded index, light in the core curves helically rather than zigzag off the cladding, reducing its travel distance. The shortened path and the higher speed allow light at the periphery to arrive at a receiver at about the same time as the slow but straight rays in the core axis. The result: digital pulse suffers less dispersion. This type of fiber is best suited for local-area networks.