Fiber Optics: What Are They?

Optical fiber cables, known as fiber optics, are assemblies similar to electrical cables but contain one or more fibers that are used to carry and transmit light. They are network cables that contain strands of glass fibers inside an insulated casing and are designed for long-distance, high-performance data networking, and telecommunications.

Though fiber optic technology is not new, it was quite expensive in the past due to infrastructure and device support issues. Thanks to some new innovations within the sector, however, fiber optics is much more accessible and structures are able to receive high-speed Internet and high-resolution television services across the United States.

fiber optics cables

How Fiber Optic Cables Work:

Fiber optic cables carry communication signals using pulses of light, which are generated by small lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The light data is packaged in binary format and is sent using a transmitter. During its journey, the light travels through the cable using compacted glass fibers and bounce around as they travel using total internal reflection. As soon as the light data arrives at its destination, it’s translated back into binary and can be used by a computer or device.

Fiber isn’t just for TV and Internet speed, either. It has practical applications in digital signage, imaging optics, spectroscopy, and hydrophones.

Advantages of Fiber Optics

  • Fiber optic cables are much less susceptible to interference compared to other network cables.
  • Signal boosters aren’t necessary when using fiber optics because light travels longer without losing its strength.
  • Fiber is the most expandable and scalable connection available. Dark fiber (unused strands) can be used down the line if the network capacity needs to be expanded.

Fiber Optics Factoids:

  1. Fiber optics can transfer 15.5 terabits of data per second.
  2. The first international fiber optic cable ever used connected the U.S. to France and Britain in 1988. Since then, hundreds more have been installed all over the planet.
  3. Fiber is a binary, digital medium, meaning it sends signals in a 1 and 0 (on and off).
  4. The fastest speed ever recorded on a single fiber line is 43 terabit per second (Tbps).
  5. Fiber is sustainable and is made from Silicon Dioxide, the second-most abundant element on Earth after Oxygen.
  6. There are over 19.2 million miles of fiber optic cabling across the U.S.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about fiber optics is that it’s ever-evolving. New forms of light have already been discovered that could potentially shape the future of fiber technology in revolutionary ways.

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