Years back, a 75-year old woman buzzed the internet world when she notched the record for having the world’s fastest internet connection. Her residential internet connection has a rate of about 40 Gigabits/second, the secret behind her ultra-fast connection? Fiber Optics!
According to Karlstad Stadsnät, one of the men who installed the connection, he wanted to show that there are possible methods than can be used other than the old-fashioned copper wires.
Faster internet connection is only a portion of the wide possibilities that fiber optics could offer. And this is the purpose of this article. We are going to explore the possibilities or the benefits of fiber optics to businesses and endpoint users.
Some Notes for Starters
Fiber optics is a household name nowadays, but unfortunately, it evades understanding for many of us. In simple terms, fiber optics are fiber strands made of molten silica-glass that can be as thin as a strand of hair. When bundled together, fiber optic cables are created.
This material is used to transmit signals similar to what copper wire does, only that it is not metal and it does not transmit electrical signals. As it is made out of glass, fiber optics transmit signals using light. Alternately, fiber optics have long since been used for home decoration such as table centerpiece and Christmas trees.
When used for communications between two or more computers, it is called Optical network. To date, optical network is the fastest communication network. Major tech companies use this type of communication network for faster and more reliable service. And thanks to fiber optic networks, we have faster internet connection. Even businesses that need high speed, low latency network for business processes use optical networks.
How Fiber Optics Work?
It was in 1880 when the world saw the first time signals were transmitted using light. Alexander Graham Bell did this using his photophone. Photophone projects voice using the sunlight that bounces on a mirror: when words are spoken, the vibrations cause the mirror to oscillate between convex and concave.
Photophone was used to transmit voice message similar to telephone only that it uses light and has no wires at all. This was the first optical wireless communication.
Fiber optics, on the other hand works much the same but it uses cables made of glass instead of mirrors; and it does not reflect light but serves as the medium where light can travel.
Light passes through optical fibers by repeatedly bouncing off the walls. This is called total internal reflection: the light is reflected within limits and thus travels through the fiber optics. This phenomenon keeps light from leaking out.
What keeps light from leaking out in the fiber optics is the cladding, the one that encloses the core which is the fiber itself–a thin strand of glass.
Various Applications of Fiber Optics
There are many possibilities where fiber optics are the best choice. Here is a quick rundown of the many uses of fiber optics aside from computer networks:
- Broadcasting e.g cable and digital TV
- Medicine e.g gastroscopes
- Military radar tracking
- Airplane and Helicopter cabling
- Telecommunications e.g
The Benefits of Fiber Optics
There is a continued increase in the use of fiber optic cables over copper wires. The following benefits of fiber technology are the reasons that pushed industries to migrate from fiber to copper.
Faster Data Transfer and Greater Bandwidth
The fiber speed is extremely fast, way faster than the speed of sound. The light that passes through fiber optic cables travel at a rate of 2/3 the speed of light (2/3 C). It does not mean that data transfer is at a rate of 2/3 C, although it is true that data transfer is the fastest with fiber optics. The speed of the cable determined the bandwidth potential of the fiber. Hence it is easy to understand that fiber optics have a bandwidth larger than metal wires.
Greater bandwidth means more information is carried by the cable. It can work up to 10 Gigabits per second and even more.
Low Attenuation Means More Efficiency
Attenuation, also called loss, is a natural tendency of losing signal as transmission travels over long distances. Compared to other cabling system, fiber optic cables have lower attenuation, meaning there is very low signal lost during transmission. With fiber optics, data can travel as much as 10 times further before requiring amplification. This means the distance limitation of fiber optics is longer as it can go up to 40 km while copper can only go for 100m.
Design: Thinner but More Reliable
As fiber optics cable uses light and not electrical signals, it is immune to electromagnetic interference that is commonly caused by storms , lightning, solar flares etc. The very being of fiber optics as glass material makes it immune to any interference caused by electric current and temperature fluctuation. This also means that they are not affected by weather and can be submerged underwater.
The material is also extremely durable considering it is lightweight and thin. It has 4.5 times more capacity than copper, and can hold as much as 10 times more pulling tension than copper.
The design of fiber optic cables makes it impossible for data to leak. The cladding, coating and outer jacket that covers the core ensures that light does not leak and thus no electromagnetic energy can be intercepted. Tapping the cable wouldn’t easily work as light can leak out that will result in detection following a system error.
Cabling cost can be expensive at first (but a steady decrease is happening right now). But considering all its benefits, it is less expensive in the long run than copper wires. Fiber optics’ lifespan is longer, as it does not weather and it is cheaper to maintain.
There is every reason why many businesses and industries are migrating to optical fibers. We have delved, albeit quickly, to the possibilities and benefits that fiber optics can offer, but the list could run longer. And as every little thing that we use around us are connected through the internet, what we call Internet of Things, the benefits of using fiber optics can be really felt at a personal level.