An introduction to Optical Fiber and Why Fiber?

Short notes for fiber project staff

  For studying purpose, our FTTH Blog is trying to collect a series of fiber optic network knowledge, regarding to our fiber/FTTH project issues. 

  This short notes (collected from internet) hope will help a bit as guidelines for design, installation and testing of fiber optic networks.

An introduction to Optical Fiber

  Since the introduction of fiber in the 1970s, optical fibers have revolutionized communications, transmitting more information over greater distances than could ever be achieved in copper wires. We live on the continent (Africa) that gave birth to the concept of the ‘Digital Divide’. But this being said, fast forward a few years, and today, the uncompromising amount of bandwidth we demand from Internet services is nearly insatiable. Why then do we need all that bandwidth?

Construction-Optical Fibre Cable

Construction-Optical Fibre Cable

  The past 10 years have seen a tremendous increase in Internet bandwidth requirements (“Moore’s law” springs to mind), driven by high-capacity business data services, increasingly powerful 3G/4G wireless smartphones and video-intensive Websites such as YouTube, Netflix, etc. And of course, lets for forget the Periscope and Meerkat live-streaming video apps.

  Buoyed by the surge in demand for digital data, local telecommunication companies are looking to reinvent themselves to support the need for faster data rates and smarter network architectures, potentially hamstrung by the predicament of having to handle unpredictable and fast-changing traffic patterns.

Why Fiber?

  Optical fiber technology provides a higher capacity data transfer at extremely high speeds, enabling the facilitation of video content on networks. In this context, community or service providers can now supply a wide range of services and applications, such as High Definition TV (HDTV), Video on Demand (VoD) and high-speed data and on top of this, provide for the basic fundamentals of voice connectivity. Who would have dreamed that operator’s largest revenue component voice, might in the not-too-distant future, be surpassed by data and content provision services?

  Switching a laser beam on and off at high speeds is how we communicate now over fiber. A laser flashes on and off in a sequence that represents the information being sent. The quicker the lasers can flash on and off, the quicker the information can be transferred. The speed of transfer is known as “bit-rate” and is usually talked about in terms of bits per second – bps or bit/s (which effectively is the number of flashes possible per second). Modern networks typically transmit at a minimum of 10 Gigabits per second from a single laser, which amounts to 10 billion flashes per second.

  For example an test in Jul 16, 2013, Alcatel-Lucent transmitted as much as 31 Terabits per second over 7200 km on a single fiber i.e. 155 x 200-Gbps channels. This link featured amplifiers every 100 km and as far as I know, the highest sub-sea capacity ever transmitted on a single optical fiber.

Fibre Advantages – a brief summary

  • It has exceptional bandwidth and is virtually “future proof”
  • It has the ability to carry many signals concurrently
  • It is immune to electromagnetic interference and has no electromagnetic emissions
  • It does not corrode like copper based cabling does
  • It is resistant to eavesdropping
  • It has the capability to operate in conjunction with any current, or proposed, LAN/WAN standard
  • It is light weight and easy to handle and it’s pulling strength is higher than that of copper cables

Case knowledges from FOA

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