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What are fiber optics?

Fiber optic cable is made up of thin strands of glass that carry information by transmitting pulses of light, usually created by lasers. (Copper cable, by contrast, carries low-voltage electrical signals.) The pulses are turned on and off very, very quickly. A single fiber can carry multiple streams of information at the same time over different wavelengths, or colors, of light.

Single-mode fibers have small cores (about 3.5 x 10-4 inches or 9 microns in diameter) and transmit infrared laser light (wavelength = 1,300 to 1,550 nanometers).


Fiber has many advantages over copper wire or coaxial cable:

1 Less Signal Loss - Signals travel long distances inside fiber cable without degradation – 40 miles or more in some real-world networks and 65 miles or more in the laboratory.

2 Lightweight - Fiber cable is thin and flexible. An individual fiber can be thinner than a human hair. Thin fibers can be packaged in a narrow ribbon or inside a hollow plastic microduct less than 1/8 inch in diameter. Fiber cable can be hidden easily on the surfaces of walls in old construction.

3 Future-Proof - Once installed, fiber is upgraded by changing the electronics that create and receive the light pulses, not by replacing the cable itself.

4 Long service life - Fiber cable has a longer life than copper because it does not corrode, is not easily affected by water and generates no heat. It isn’t damaged by lightning. Nothing hurts it except a physical cut or the destruction of the building it is in.

5 Less Expensive - Fiber networks cost less to operate than copper. They use less power which minimizes operating costs. Even optical networks that do require electronics in the field use far less power than coax or other copper networks. Several miles of optical cable can be made cheaper than equivalent lengths of copper wire. This saves your Internet provider and you money.

6 Non-Flammable - Because no electricity is passed through optical fibers, there is no fire hazard.

7 Higher Capacity – Bandwidth use is growing exponentially. Fiber optic cables have enormous capacity to carry bandwidth.


What is bandwidth?

In a network, bandwidth (what engineers call bit rate) is the ability to carry information. The more bandwidth a network has, the more information it can carry in a given amount of time. Networks with high bandwidth also tend to be more reliable because fewer bottlenecks disturb the flow of information.