In mission critical as well as secure network applications, fiber optic cabling forms the infrastructure of choice – with superior transmission line and noise cancelling performance over that of traditional copper cable.
We all know how signals travel over copper – but how does fiber optic cable work? The main reason for its superior performance is that it converts the signals being carried into light before transmission, and converts them back again on the other end.
Fiber optic cables are very thin glass wires (some are made of plastic) that are arranged in bundles or optical cables. Each fiber has a core or thin center where the light is carried, a cladding that reflects the light back into the core, and an outside coating called a “buffer” that protects the fiber from damage.
Each bundle is again protected by an outer coating, called a “jacket”.
The light signal can travel at longer distances than electrical signals can travel over copper, as it bounces back and forth from the cladding which is reflective and doesn’t absorb any light. The only thing that degrades the signal as it travels is impurities in the glass (or plastic), which is why it is a good idea to use high quality cabling if using fiber optics for long runs.
The light is sent across the cable using a transmitter, which is usually a laser or LED that is placed very close to the fiber. On the other end, a photodiode receiver detects the light signal, decodes it, and turns it back into an electrical signal that can be read by a computer or piece of networking equipment.
Fiber optic cabling is thinner than copper wire, and can be run in tighter places than copper. It also uses less power, so is “greener”.
Because these cables are thinner, more of them can be bundled together to increase the overall carrying capacity, making fiber optics a great choice for service providers such as AT&T Uverse with an IPTV offering.
Fiber optics are also very flexible, which is why they are used in medical imaging where they must bend in order to get good pictures of internal organs. Because glass doesn’t emit electromagnetic energy that can be “sniffed”, fiber optic cabling is also much more secure than traditional copper in network cabling.
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