The Differences Between Active & Passive Enclosures

Telecommunications and networking enclosures are available in active or passive setups.

Active refers to a cabinet that has power, whether that be switches, radio gear, batteries or whatnot. Passive refers to an enclosure, e.g., a fiber distribution hub, that does not have power.

It sounds pretty straightforward, but there’s actually more to it than that. So, let’s take a minute to delve deeper into the differences and similarities between the two styles of enclosures.


Active cabinets house equipment that requires power. Therefore, they need a power source. Often, that’s in the form of an AC or DC power system that’s backed up by batteries.

That power can be distributed to a variety of equipment and/or accessories. In addition to the active equipment, a typical enclosure can have an electrical panel, grounding system, wiring, AC and/or DC wiring circuits, climate control system, i.e., an air conditioner, fan or heat exchanger, and a way to hook up a generator.

Due to the added features of an active cabinet, it will be no surprise that they tend to cost more than their passive counterparts. One of the main cost drivers is the climate control systems mentioned above.


Passive enclosures are designed for PON (passive optical network) and GPON (gigabit-capable passive optical network) usage, usually with fiber passive optical nodes.

Organizations use them for splitting or terminating fiber for distribution to subscribers. One type of passive architecture is where a feeder fiber cable or ring cut comes in, and then the telecommunications/networking organization will use splitters to increase the channel count being distributed to the end users. Passive splitters are used to divide the fiber. Distribution cables can then be connected to patch panels to provide connections to subscribers.

Passive cabinets can be deployed indoors or outdoors, depending on the construction. For outdoors use, make sure the cabinet has a NEMA 3R or 4 rating to protect your equipment from environmental hazards.


By definition, a cabinet is either active or passive–it’s either powered or it’s not. But, that doesn’t mean an active cabinet can’t have passive components in it. In fact, it’s not uncommon for an enclosure manufacturer to make dual-bay enclosures where one section is for active equipment and the other for passive equipment.

Whichever type of cabinet you need, American Products can help. When you contact us, our enclosure specialist will ask you a number of questions to help determine exactly which type and size of cabinet you need, as well as what accessories/add-ons would meet your needs. That includes asking questions about your equipment and cabinet/shelter deployment location, which will help us size the climate control system to be cost effective and still meet your needs.

Then, we’ll craft your configured cabinet to your specifications. We’ll also expertly install whatever accessories you choose, including a climate control system, fiber optics, splitters, distribution panels and more. That way, when you receive it at your location, it will be ready to install, hook up and immediately start connecting your customers.

Ready to start building out your network? Contact our enclosure specialists at 417.323.6312 now.

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