Fiber-optic cables consist of strands of glass/plastic that transmit light. A cable typically consists of one strand for sending data and another strand for receiving data on one side; the order is directly opposite at the remote site. Network devices that use fiber for connectivity can encounter unidirectional traffic flows if one strand is broken.

In such scenarios, the interface still shows a line-protocol up state; however, BPDUs are not able to be transmitted, and the downstream switch eventually times out the existing root port and identifies a different port as the root port. Traffic is then received on the new root port and forwarded out the strand that is still working, thereby creating a forwarding loop.

Unidirectional Link Detection (UDLD) allows for the bidirectional monitoring of fiber-optic cables. UDLD operates by transmitting UDLD packets to a neighbor device that includes the system ID and port ID of the interface transmitting the UDLD packet. The receiving device then repeats that information, including its system ID and port ID, back to the originating device. The process continues indefinitely.

This ensures that in the event that one of the two strands fails, the STP topology will remain stable.

Note that UDLD operates in conjunction with autonegotiation.

For additional STP fine tuning features, take a look at STP fine tuning the spanning tree protocol.