Introduction to Fiber Optics

An optical fiber cable, better known as a fiber optic cable, is an essential component of numerous telecommunications systems.

So, why is fiber used in telecommunications? There are two important reasons: bandwidth and distance. Bandwidth means the amount of data that can flow through a cable in any given period. For example, if you think of cables as pipes, then bandwidth would be the amount of water that can flow through a pipe in a second; essentially, the larger the pipe, the more water that can flow through.

If you consider a standard communication cable that could be used to carry a single phone call, it’s built out of copper and may have the bandwidth of a typical drinking straw. In comparison, a fiber cable of the exact same size would have the actual bandwidth of the Alaska pipeline.

A second advantage that fiber cables have over copper cables is distance. Oftentimes, copper communication cables have a range of at most 100 meters. Fiber cables, however, can reach a maximum distance of 2 kilometers, and can sometimes extend up to dozens of kilometers. This advantage in distance makes fiber cables vital for applications where systems need to travel long distances.

You might be wondering, though, what is so special about fiber optic cables? First, fiber cables are constructed differently than copper. As previously mentioned, many communication cables are built from copper and conduct electrical signals. On the other hand, fiber cables are made out of glass and carry thumps of light energy. Although the thought of a flexible piece of glass sounds counterintuitive, the fiber cables are actually significantly stronger and more effective than copper cables.

In the 19th century, the thought of carrying light over a mirrored path originated as a trick involving a lamp and a fountain of water. Decades later, scientists at Corning University formulated the first fiber optic cables in the 1970s, based on the concept of “total internal reflection.” Fiber cables are built on this principle, which simply means that an optical fiber is composed of a core or transparent glass, surrounded by an outer layer called “cladding”, which reflects the light back into the core.

Today, fiber optic cables are used in a multitude of telecommunication systems. Fiber cables have a long distance ability that make them ideal for telephone companies and other communication services that want to link voice and data across oceans or continents. With the growth of the Internet, fiber optic infrastructures have evolved and led to new investments. With the demand for more fiber optic services growing, “Fiber to the Home” (FTTH) has been established, resulting in new fiber being installed in phone companies and Internet service provider networks.

Fiber optic cables are seeing exponential growth in private networks as well. From data centers, data warehouses, server sites, SANs and LANs, fiber cables have an unbeatable bandwidth and distance that private networks need. With Ethernet backbone speeds running from 100Mbps to 1Gig, and beyond, fiber cables support these evolving needs and outrun copper.

If you are looking for an intensive Fiber Optics Training Program, please contact NCTC at 1-760-471-9561 to learn more about our classes. We are the National Leader in Fiber Optics Training, and our program consists of 75% hands on fiber optics training and 25% theory.