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Unveiling the Power of Fiber Optical Cabling

Fiber optic technology has revolutionized the IT landscape, bringing about significant improvements in communication, data transmission and network performance with its speed, reliability and versatility in a range of applications from datacenters to FTTx. In this blog we take a look at the basics of fiber optical cabling with its advantage over traditional copper-based rivals and how fiber optical cabling is being used in different scenarios to provide higher performance, reliability and scalability.

Understanding Fiber Optics

Fiber optics are used in the transmission of data, and, instead of transmitting data in electrical signals, data is sent via light waves through optical fibers made of thin strands of glass or plastic. The basic components of fiber technology are the optical fiber, a light source and a photodetector.

Light source cable

Optical Fiber
The core of an optical fiber is a thin strand of glass or plastic that serves as the medium for transmitting light signals. The core is surrounded by a cladding layer, which has a lower refractive index than the core. This design enables total internal reflection, confining the light within the core and allowing it to travel over long distances without significant signal loss.

Light Source
The light source used in fiber optic communication is typically a laser or light-emitting diode (LED). These devices generate intense beams of light that can be modulated to represent digital data. You can read more about how the light source is transmitted, in our Understanding fiber optical lasers blog >

The intensity of the light is modulated to encode data. This modulation can be in the form of turning the light on and off (on-off keying) or varying the intensity to represent different signal levels. The variations in light intensity correspond to binary data (0s and 1s). Modulated light travels through the core of the optical fiber and bounces off the inner walls of the core.

At the receiving end, a photodetector, such as a photodiode, detects the incoming light signals. The photodetector converts the received light into electrical signals, which can then be processed by electronic devices.

What is the difference between fiber optic and ethernet cable?

First of all, why should I choose fiber optic cable over copper (often referred to as “Ethernet Cable)? Depending on requirements, network designers and installers can choose between fiber optic or copper cable and use both in different parts of the datacenter or network. While copper cables are referred to as “Ethernet cables”, Ethernet is the same networking protocol used to communicate over both fiber and copper cables.

Copper/Ethernet Cables
Copper cables typically have a lower bandwidth than fiber optic cables and are susceptible to signal degradation over longer distances due to factors like attenuation and electromagnetic interference, so are typically used for shorter distance connections in networks within offices, buildings and homes. Higher grade copper cables (Cat6a, Cat7) can support bandwidths up to 40Gbps over shorter distances, with reliable performance up to 100 meters for Gigabit Ethernet.

Fiber Optic Cables
Fiber optic cables are used when both high bandwidth and distance are key factors in connecting high-speed switches in data centers and other networks, and are used by telecommunications carriers in Fiber to the Home (FTTH), Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) and other long-haul applications. Fiber optics are not limited by the same electrical constraints as copper allowing them to carry data at much greater speeds, currently up to 800Gbps.

Fiber cable diagram

Key reasons fiber optic cables are superior to coaxial copper cables

Fiber optics have become fundamental in modern communication networks where they support high-speed internet, telecommunications and in data centers and other applications that demand reliable and high-performance connectivity.

Using light to transmit over fiber optical cables offer several advantages over copper cables such as:

High Bandwidth – enabling the transmission of large amounts of data at high speeds

Faster data transmission – Fiber optic cables use light pulses to transmit data, enabling faster data transfer rates.  This is particularly important for applications requiring real-time data transmission, such as video conferencing, streaming and online gaming.

Low Signal Loss – minimal attenuation (signal loss) over long distances, making fiber optics suitable for long-haul communications, such as undersea cables and connecting geographically distant data centers.

Lower latency– with light travelling at extremely high speeds, lower latency is achieved in fiber optic communication – crucial for applications that require real-time data transmission.

Immunity to Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) – As light rather than electrical signals are transmitted over fiber optical cables they are immune to electromagnetic interference which enhances the reliability and quality of data transmission.

Security – as fiber optic signals do not radiate electromagnetic fields, they are difficult to tap without detection, which is an advantage when transmitting sensitive data.

Lightweight and durable – fiber optical cables are lightweight, durable and resistant to a number of environmental factors, such as moisture, temperature and physical stress, making them suitable for various internal and outside applications.

Scalable – As data demands increase it is relatively straightforward to upgrade fiber optic systems without the need to replace the entire cabling infrastructure.

Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) – widespread deployment of fiber optic cabling in FTTH and FTTP deployments is bringing high-speed internet directly to homes and businesses, and is contributing the development of smart cities and smart infrastructure.

10 criteria to consider when implementing fiber optics

Implementing fiber optic cables in a network requires careful planning and consideration to ensure that the right cabling is selected for a successful and efficient deployment. Here are 10 initial considerations to make when implementing fiber optic cables in your network:

01. Understand network requirements – Define the expected data transfer rates, bandwidth needs and the number of connected devices to guide your decision on the type and capacity of fiber optic cables you need.

02. Distance and coverage – Determine the distance over which your data needs to be transmitted without signal degradation.

03. Bandwidth needs – Assess the bandwidth needs of your network to ensure that you have fiber optic cables that can support your requirements now and in the future.

04. Single mode or multi mode fiber – Choose the right fiber type. Single mode fiber is suitable for long-distance, high-banddwidth applications.  Multi-mode fiber is more cost-effective for shorter distances and lower bandwidth requirements.

05. Connectivity standards – Different connectors and interfaces are available, such as SC, LC and MPO/MTP.  Make sure that your chose fiber optic cable is compatible with your network environment.  Read more about MPO/MTP Cabling >

06. Environment – consider where your fiber optic cables will be installed, whether indoors, outdoors or in harsh conditions and chose cable swith appropriate jackets and protection to withstand environmental factors, such as moisture, temperature and physical stress.

07. Future expansion – plan for the future scalability of your infrastrucure by ensuring that fiber optical components and cabling can be easily upgraded and added to your network as it grows.

08. Budget – Balancing cost versus performance and reliability is crucial. Establish a budget, not only considering the cost of fiber optic cables, but also any associated hardware, connectors, splicing equipment and testing tools.

09. Installation method – Pick the method of installation of fiber optic cables (direct burial, conduit installation, aerial installation or in-building) to align with the environment conditions and regulatory requirements.

10. Testing and quality assurance – Regular testing will ensure that the installed fiber optic cables are meeting performance standards and will help identify and address any issues before they have an impact on your network’s performance.

Fiber optic cabling is playing a pivotal role in advancing IT infrastructure, high-speed data centers, and making smart cities and infrastructure possible with its high performance, reliability and scalability.

In our next blog we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the different fiber optic cable types available for different applications.

Find out more about fiber optic cables available from Pro Optix here >


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