What is Fiber?

What is "fiber" Really?

In a world of ever expanding technologies, many new hype or jargon words can be thrown around that don't necessarily come with an easy or readily available explanation. One of those words that you might have heard lately with regards to technology is fiber. While we all know and have used the word fiber when talking about clothing or dietary supplements, do we know what fiber stands for when speaking about technology?

Fiber stands for fiber optic communication. In terms of technology, what this means for a standard consumer is that fiber optic communication is a new medium for which companies are using to bring faster Internet connections to their customers.

Faster internet sounds great, but how does it work? Fiber optic data transmission uses a special type of cable that can transmit light over long distances. A fiber optic system sends pulses of light over this cable at many different wavelengths (colors of light) which are then accepted by a receiver. The receiver then translates the light signals into an electrical signal which can be read and understood by common networking devices and computers.

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Fiber optic data transmissions have the capability of transmitting data at an exponentially higher rate than standard copper electrical transmission styles. A single fiber strand can transmit 6 bands of light frequencies on a single fiber strand. These bands can be further divided into 160 different channels allowing for a single strand of fiber to carry multiple separate data streams simultaneously without interference between adjacent streams. While this is also possible with standard electrical mediums, it is not nearly as efficient. Light as a transmission medium has a larger range of frequencies that can be used for data transmission over a very long distance. Electrical signals sent over standard copper wiring tend to degrade very quickly when traveling over long distances while fiber can carry data much further with little degradation.

It seems that fiber optic is superior, but is it really a worthy investment? Won't something new come out that's even better?

While it is always difficult to plan for the future, fiber optics may be a medium that we haven't even tapped the potential of its data transmission capabilities. According to recent research, the largest throughput that we project to get through a copper medium is approximately 10Gbits per second per channel. A current report from the University of Southampton states that with new fiber cabling design, they were able to achieve 73.7 Tbits per second of data transmission of throughput in just a single channel. That's 7370 times the speed that is possible through copper cable and this isn't even believed to be the highest throughput that we can achieve. It seems that fiber has a lot of room for growth and in the information age with the growing demand for more and more data, we could certainly use all the throughput we can get.

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