Facts About Fiber Optics

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Facts About Fiber Optics

Fitness buffs and IT gurus both have one thing in common: they both love their fiber. Of course, fiber optics is what the IT crowd could be talking about, and not dietary requirements for building a ripped body. Fiber optics may not help one prepare for a summer at the beach or a weight lifting competition, but it certainly is appealing and strong from an IT standpoint. Here are ten fun facts about why fiber optics are worth considering:

1.) Fiber Optics are Thinner
Fiber is thinner and smaller, which could be the basis for many fiber jokes if one were to be creative. Here is an idea: Choose fiber because thinner and smaller means fewer painful blockages…data blockages! The possibilities are nearly endless, but the fact of the matter is that copper and other forms of metal wiring can only be drawn so thin, but fiber optics can be much smaller.

How small is ‘small’ in the case of fiber optics? Engineers at Intel are researching and developing the use of optics to replace transistors, but what does that have to do with the benefits of using fiber optics? It means that more consumers can be serviced by wires that fit inside the same shielded pipes that have been used for coaxial and POTS wiring solutions. The result: a better bottom (pause…wait for it…wait for it) line.

2.) Fiber Optics are Lightweight
Smaller also means more lightweight, and anyone who eats a lot of fiber knows the benefit of being lightweight. From the standpoint of an installer, fiber optical cabling is easier to work with and transport. Easier to work with and transport also result in lower expenses, but there is another side effect worth considering: strain. Strain from moving heavy objects and the liability associated with such activities is one of the pillars of the insurance industry. That is to say that the risk associated with heavy lifting is one of the reasons why insurance premiums for some companies are so high, but remember that these costs are ultimately passed on to consumers.

How lightweight is fiber optical cabling? NASA uses it in space shuttles, and companies that build airplanes also make use of fiber optical cabling in order to keep overall weight down and increase payload capacity.

3.) Fiber Optics are more Secure
Fiber is more secure. Just thinking of all the bad jokes that could come from this is stomach turning, but the security benefits are tangible. Security is important, and the onus is often on the company that owns and/or runs the cabling. It is far easier to tap into electrical wiring than it is to tap into fiber optic wiring in a surreptitious manner. Furthermore, the financial investment of tapping into fiber optics is thought to be far greater than tapping into copper wiring.

4.) Fiber Optics are Binary
Fiber is either dark or it isn’t…let’s not even make comparisons to the other fiber in this regard because we all know where that joke would end up. Because fiber optic systems do not interfere with one another, and there is no such thing as a residual lighting charge, fiber optic is the perfect medium for exchanging digital data. Digital data is innately binary, so on or off works far better than signaling based on electrical thresholds.

5.) Fiber Optics are more efficient:
Signals sent over fiber optics do not degrade nearly as quickly as those sent over copper wiring. Light and electricity may travel at the same speed, but electricity transiting through any medium degrades. The greater the distance, the poorer the resultant signal. Fiber optics do not degrade nearly as fast, and there is virtually no signal loss in many situations. This means fewer sub-stations to maintain signal quality, which in turn means a lower infrastructure investment and obligation. Lower bottom lines are great for businesses and consumers. Strangely enough, there does not seem to be a ready dietary fiber joke that can fit in well with signaling.

6.) Fiber Optics use less energy:
Start small, get big and stay that way. The dietary fiber jokes that could go with that line are simply too numerous and unsettling to contemplate. Metal wiring of any kind has a finite tolerance for electricity, and that tolerance degrades over time. This means that no matter what compression algorithms are applied to data, at the end of the day the wire is going to be a limiting factor. Fiber optics do not share this limitation, as simply upgrading the equipment on both ends of a fiber optic wire will result in better performance. Furthermore, the fiber optical cabling does not degrade over time the same way that wiring does.

7.) Fiber Optics are “Green”:
Fiber is good for the environment. Insert your own fart/CO2 joke here, but then consider that the electrical requirement to send an electrical signal over miles of wiring is typically dozens of times the amount of energy needed to send a brief flash of light over the same distance via fiber optical cabling. Lower energy requirements means a lower carbon footprint and lower price of operation, which can be enjoyed by network owners and their customers/constituents alike.

8.) Fiber Optics use Light:
You won’t get burned with fiber optics. Since there is no electrical current passing through a fiber optical cable, there is no heat. No heat means a few things, but prime amongst the benefits is that fiber optical cabling is not a fire hazard in the same way that metal wiring is. Given how litigious people are these days, a fire that starts in an overheating cable might prove to be a very serious liability indeed. Even if a fire is not caused by an overheated cable, an entire cable can be completely ruined if only a portion of it melts. While this would also be true of fiber optical cabling, there should not be any risk of a fiber optical cable melting during routine usage.

9.) Fiber Optics aren’t influenced by Weather Conditions:
Nothing seems to bother fiber optics. Because fiber optical cables carry light instead of electricity, they are not disturbed by changes in the temperature, rain, cold, or virtually any other environmental condition. Fiber optical cables are not immune to everything, but deploying and maintaining a network of wires is expensive and dangerous by comparison. Copper wiring can become brittle over time, especially if it is overused and/or exposed to hot ambient temperatures. Cold ambient temperatures help transmit data over copper wiring more efficiently, but over great distances the results may be more electricity arriving at a port than expected. The results can be a burnout or even worse, but not with fiber optical cabling as it is not influenced by weather conditions.

10.) Fiber Optics are Faster:
Well the light doesn’t actually travel faster, but data is transmitted faster because of the increased capacity of fiber optic cables. How much capacity? Current commercial applications can transmit 10-80 Gigabits per second over a single channel. With Wave Division Multiplexing, many channels are transmitted over the same fiber optic cable, increasing the capacity many times over. The current record is 15.5 Terabits per second over a distance of 7,000 km: That’s the equivalent of 10.3 million 1.5Mbps DSL connections. Wow!

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