Basic Elements of a Fiber Optic Communication System

Basic Elements of a Fiber Optic Communication System

Fiber optic cables are the fastest, most secure, and most reliable connectivity cables currently available. They’re the fastest because they transfer signals using light as opposed to using electric currents from copper wire cables. Additionally, they’re the most reliable and secure because most organizations install fiber cables underground and out of harm's way. In addition, copper wires emit electrical signals, making them vulnerable to hacking and several forms of interference.

Because fiber optics are so fast and dependable, it makes sense why so many organizations are installing fiber optic communication systems. A communication system involves several items including transmission systems, relay stations, and data terminal equipment. Each communication can look different, as some are strictly for telephones while others act as networks for sharing data. There’s one important factor that influences the reliability, security, and speed of a communication system, and that’s the basic elements of a fiber optic communication system. Our experts discuss each element and why it’s important in our guide below.

A compact light source

Given that fiber optics operate and transfer information using light, you’re going to need a compact light source. A light source is going to formulate bursts of light in order to pass the data from point A to point B through the cable. Depending on the local area network setups, your light requirements can vary based on your power source, the required speed, and temperature. Many compact light sources will be sufficient for general needs, but if your organization requires extremely quick speeds, you may need a stronger light.

Most (if not all) light sources are going to include light-emitting diodes, better known as LEDs, or laser diodes––sometimes both. For those of you who must transfer data over shorter distances, an LED light source would be adequate. The reason is that LEDs have lower bandwidths and boast lower power usage––hence why everyone is putting LEDs in their homes nowadays. On the other hand, many organizations need to transfer data over long distances, in which case you’d want a laser diode. Laser light sources have a much stronger output power, which increases speeds. The main downfall between the two light sources is their ability to operate at different temperatures. LEDs have minimal reactions to temperature fluctuations, while a laser light source is much more sensitive to its surrounding temperature.

Low-loss optical fiber

The quality and construction of your fiber optic cable are vital to a reliable connection. The four primary components of a fiber optic cable are the jacket, buffer, cladding, and the core. The jacket, as you may expect, is the cable's outer layer that you would handle directly. Manufacturers offer cables with various colored jackets to help users identify their cables during installation and maintenance. The buffer’s primary purpose is to protect the fibers from damage. Buffers can be made up of anything from Kevlar to gel-filled sleeves. Next, we have the cladding layer, which is partially a protective layer for the core, but its primary function is to reflect light back into the core. Cladding is a low-density material that changes the angle of the light back to the core, a high-density material. The last component is the core itself. The core is a circular plastic that runs through the entire length of the cable. As you send data over a fiber-optic network, your information transforms into beams of light and the core carries that information to the next point. However, because light moves so quickly, the light can leave the core at times and that’s where the cladding layer we previously mentioned comes into play.

There are two types of fibers that are available: a single-mode and a multi-mode. Single-mode fiber isn’t very common as it can only transfer one signal per fiber. Single-mode fiber cables are best for minor applications like telephones. The type of cables that most organizations use today are multi-mode cables, as they allow you to transfer multiple signals per fiber. Most organizations will install multi-mode fibers since they can meet higher demands.


Fiber optics are only beneficial if you can send and receive signals. You can receive signals through the last element, a photodetector. A photodetector is like a small camera that first receives a signal, and then transforms that signal into an electrical signal. The electrical signal will then transfer the data received into content, whether that’s an email, picture, video, invoice, or more. Why is this important? Because modern computers and LANs aren’t yet capable of reading light signals and transforming them into meaningful content. Not yet anyway, so until then, a communication system driven by fiber optics requires photodetectors. Without the photodetector, the light signals are a lot like deciphering the Morse code for your computer.

If your organization wants to send and receive data rapidly, you can’t overlook fiber optics since they offer the best connection currently available. Put it this way, fiber optics connected the U.S. to France and Great Britain in 1988, and the technology’s only gotten better since. That said, fiber optics should be good enough for your organization if the technology was good enough for the government. However, the fiber cables alone aren’t going to cut it, and you need to install the basic elements of a fiber optic communication system that we discussed earlier.

Furthermore, you should purchase all the elements from a reliable supplier that only offers high-quality products. If you neglect to use quality items and only consider the most affordable options, you’re going to find yourself repairing and replacing cables prematurely. In other words, neglecting to invest in quality upfront is only going to cost you more time and money in the long run.

If you’re looking for superior products, CableWholesale has everything you’ll need to create the best fiber optic communication system. Our team has decades of industry experience, and we’re dedicated to helping you find every item you need for your next cabling setup. Our inventory consists of bulk fiber cable, Ethernet fiber converters, standard 1ft to 1000 ft Ethernet cables, and everything in between. If you have questions, or if you’re ready to take your connectivity to the next level, contact us today.

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