Long-distance communication in the modern era has grown increasingly reliant upon sophisticated, durable, high-capacity connections. Fiber optic cabling has, in recent years, come to dominate telecommunications space largely for these reasons, though there are considerations to be weighed when considering the various advantages and drawbacks of fiber optics.
Of course, fiber optic cabling is often positioned as a successor or apparent to the long reigning monarch of copper in the telecommunications arena, though neither enjoys (or is soon likely to enjoy) complete dominance within the industry. Instead, each is used under different circumstances for reasons having to do with scalability and basic economics, with many businesses utilizing a combination of the two in order to accommodate variable communication requirements.
What essentially separates fiber optic cabling from copper, and what renders it a growing presence in the telecommunications space is the topic to be explored herein. These 10 topics explored below will collectively illustrate the fiber optic fundamentals while placing them into larger telecommunications context.
1. What are fiber optics in laymen’s terms?
Fiber optics are highly drawn out lengths of silica which are characterized by extreme flexibility and which are capable of light transmission across long distances. These lengths are comparable in their thickness to hair strands and offer considerably greater data bandwidth within that narrow diameter than does traditional copper wiring.
2. How do fiber optics work?
Pulsed light takes on an electromagnetic “wave” form when transmitted through fiber optic cabling. These information transmissions are highly reliable and less prone to interference than are their electrical signal (carried by copper wiring) counterparts. The signals, when relayed, are safeguarded from weakening disruptions over long distances, a factor which renders fiber optics very attractive for important (government, business, et cetera) communication needs. Receiving the transmission requires converting it into an electrical signal, rendering it compatible with communication interfaces.
3. With what technologies can fiber optic cabling be joined?
Primarily a transmission technology, fiber optic cabling is a fixture within the telecommunications space. The fibers can be implemented in service of reliable telephone networks and are an industry standard within the realm of Internet connectivity.
Though fiber optic applications are growing, the telecommunication space itself remains divided, with copper accounting for much of the market share. In other words, even the industry for which this technology was ostensibly conceived is not yet modernized to the extent that it might one day be, suggesting that fiber optic cabling has its work cut out for years to come.
4. Transmission Speed?
The question of transmission “speed” is something of a misnomer within the telecommunications space, as what is actually being measured when evaluating fiber optics in relation to copper is the bandwidth or capacity of a given transmission medium. In short, fiber optics possess a far greater capacity for information throughput than does copper, by a factor of 10x in terms of telephonic transmission.
Due to the relative strength of its silicon dioxide composition, fiber optic cabling is quite durable. This seems somewhat counterintuitive given the degree to which the fibers are drawn out, but they are rather resilient to wear and benefit greatly from their inherent flexibility.
The process of drawing out silica fibers to so great an extent carries with it the side-effect of inevitable imperfections upon fiber surfaces. These imperfections are essentially chinks in the proverbial armor of a given fiber bundle and will eventually give way to time or the stresses inherent in their applications.
In fact, the underlying premise of fiber-optic communication dates back to Alexander Graham Bell’s day, though the technology and its more advanced applications have matured considerably since that time. The technology we now utilize and enjoy has its more direct origins in the mid-20th century.
From an infrastructural standpoint, much of the developed continues to lag in terms of readying itself for a complete fiber optics cabling conversion. Though acknowledged as being almost entirely superior to its copper counterpart, full adoption of fiber-optic communication is likely decades away.
While admittedly costly to splice, particularly in relation to copper wiring, the benefits of fiber-optic communication often outweigh the upfront expenses. Embracing the superior technology is a matter of investing in the future.
10. Immeasurably Low Loss of Signal
Above all, the benefit of fiber optics cabling is the infinitesimal likelihood of compromised signals between communication interfaces. Combined with its durability and immense bandwidth, the value of a safeguarded signal is nearly impossible to quantify.