What is Fiber Optics & How Does It Work

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The older coaxial cable wiring in most communities and homes today has much more interference than fiber-optic transmissions. The result is faster, clearer imaging to support high-definition signals like 4K and 5K video.

Fiber optic networks are expanding in both cities and rural areas, but the high upfront cost of replacing these networks means that it is moving slowly. Currently, about 25% of consumers have access to fiber-optic internet.

How Fiber Optic Networks Transmit Internet

Fiber optic cables are paired with a device called a transceiver. As the name suggests, this device is dual-purpose. It functions as a transmitter to send data signals and a receiver to receive them. The transceiver is the device that converts the signals from data to light and from light to data.

Light waves travel through fiber optic cables at much faster speeds than the electrical signals sent through copper coaxial cables. Fiber optic networks have always been part of the infrastructure of the internet that we know and use. Older systems used centralized fiber optics with coaxial transmissions from the major hubs into the neighborhoods and individual homes. Upgrading individual homes’ connections to fiber optics is the next step in revolutionizing the internet user experience. The speed and reliability make concepts like smart buildings possible.

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Types of Fiber Optic Internet

You have probably heard the term ‘fiber optic’ internet used along with words describing how fast it is. And, that is an accurate description. But most people don’t realize that there are three different types of fiber optic internet.

Fiber Optic to Home (FTTH)

An FTTH connection provides the best performance. It uses only fiber optic cables installed directly to the residence to transmit data.

Fiber optic for homes

Fiber Optic to Curb (FTTC)

An FTTC connection uses fiber optic cables to bring the data to a utility pole located near the home or business. Then, existing coaxial cables transmit the data from the utility pole (curb) to the receiver inside the home.

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Fiber Optic to Neighborhood (FTTN)

An FTTN connection uses fiber optic cables to transmit data to a service point in a neighborhood. Once available, homes and businesses within a one-mile range can connect via a DSL connection.

All three fiber optic options provide faster, more reliable internet than older technology. But adding a coaxial cable or DSL variant will slow the speeds to some degree. If an FTTH connection is available, it is the best choice. However, the FCC estimates that the cost to install these networks is between $3K – $8K per home.

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Is Fiber Optic Internet Worth It?

Fiber optic internet is receiving a lot of hype right now as the bigger, better, and faster internet service option. While there are real benefits, there are also some big expenses associated with installation, so you should do your due diligence in weighing the pros and cons before taking the leap.

Advantages of Fiber Optic Internet

  • Highly Scalable
  • Faster than Cable and DSL
  • No Electrical Interference

Current fiber optic networks can handle speeds up to one-hundred times faster than existing internet speeds, so there is plenty of room for improvement before we will be looking for the next new technology. With 4.66 billion users worldwide, bandwidth capabilities are important.

Fiber optic smart home technology

While actual speeds vary based on many factors, including service provider, package, and equipment, fiber optic is faster. Cable internet providers currently boast max speeds of around 50 megabits per second. That is fast enough for streaming 4K video, online gaming, and operating multiple devices simultaneously. But by comparison, fiber optic internet starts at 1G per second. 

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Most homes and businesses rely on older internet technology like coaxial cable internet, digital subscriber loop (DSL), or wireless provided by existing cellular networks. These modes work fine, but they are all affected to some degree by electromagnetic interference from other devices, which slows them down. Some are even affected by weather conditions.

Fiber optic internet uses light instead of electricity to transmit data, so it is not susceptible to this type of interference. That means you don’t have to worry about losing your internet signal when the sky clouds up.

Disadvantages of Fiber Optic Internet

  • Materials are Expensive
  • Installation is Labor-Intensive
  • Less Sturdy (i.e., frequent repair)

Fiber optic seems like the answer to all problems when it comes to internet speed and reliability. But it has been slow to expand because some notable disadvantages weigh it down. These are all associated with the high cost to install and maintain fiber optic networks. 

Fiber optic cables are made from glass instead of copper. They are more expensive than copper, require extra insulation, and are more fragile. Fiber optics provide enough bandwidth that we will be able to utilize this technology for a long time. Still, it may break down easier and faster than existing coaxial cable networks because it is more fragile.

The Takeaway on Fiber Optic Internet

Fiber optic internet is a faster, more reliable technology with the bandwidth to handle our growing technology needs. While its use as a home internet provider is growing slowly due to the high cost of installation and lack of existing networks, this technology has been in place for quite a while.

Military and medical applications rely on fiber optics for clarity and reliability when performing surgeries and maintaining communications. And, the existing internet networks that we currently use are built on a fiber optic framework. It is the connections to that framework that use other methods and slow speeds down.

Technology resources are more important than ever in today’s business world. CC Technology Group specializes in providing custom solutions for data centers, smart buildings, and cabling solutions. Contact us today to start the conversation.

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