Your Questions Answered: What Are Fiber Optics Exactly?


What’s faster than light?

Apparently, nothing unless you can somehow warp space and time or go back in time to the Big Bang. So, if you’re looking for fast internet, wouldn’t it be sweet if you could somehow harness the speed of light?

It’s now possible thanks to fiber optics. So what are fiber optics or fiber internet?

In simple terms, fiber optics uses cables made of thin glass or clear plastic fibers to transfer data as light signals. Using light to carry digital information gives it an unparalleled speed advantage.

Learn more about fiber optics by reading the rest of the article.

What Are Fiber Optics?

Digital information (the ones and zeros) needs a medium to travel from one place to another. For cellular networks such as 4G LTE or 5G, radio waves carry the signals. In DSL, data travels through copper telephone wires while cable internet uses coaxial cables.

For fibernet internet, the data is in the form of light particles that travel through fiber-optic cables.

A fiber-optic cable is made up of optical fibers arranged in bundles. The fibers are long, thin strands of glass or plastic that are just one-tenth of the diameter of human hair. A single optical fiber has three parts: the core, cladding, and buffer coating.

The core is the glass fiber itself and it’s surrounded by the cladding, which is another glass layer that reflects the light back into the core. The buffer coat protects each individual strand from damage and moisture.

How Do Fiber Optics Work?

The beam of light ferries the data through a fiber-optic cable by bouncing repeatedly off the walls. It’s similar to how a bobsleigh manages the twists and turns of the track until it reaches the finish line.

This process is known as total internal reflection. It’s the same tech as endoscopes but instead of images, it transmits digital data.

However, let’s make it clear. The light signals do not travel at the speed of light.

The beam loses speed while bouncing around and through the glass layers. Instead, it travels thirty percent slower than the speed of light. Seventy percent of 186,000 miles per second is still pretty darn fast!

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages?

Let’s see why fiber-optic technology is the crème de la crème of internet networks. By transmitting data through fiber-optic cables instead of traditional copper wires, you can have:

  • Faster speed. Fiber internet can reach speeds higher than 1000 Mbps while DSL maxes out at 35 Mbps.
  • Higher bandwidth. Diameter for diameter, fiber cables can carry much larger data since the optical fibers are thinner than copper wires
  • Less signal degradation. Light can travel ten times further before it needs a signal boost.
  • No interference. Unlike electrical signals in copper wires, there’s no interaction of light signals carried by different fibers in the same cable.

However, it’s not all bells and whistles for fiber optics as it stands right now. Availability is limited to select areas, mostly cities. Also, the initial costs are prohibitive for most average income families.

Should You Make the Switch?

Hopefully, we’ve answered the question, “what are fiber optics?” and provided the information to guide your decision. When it comes to speed and signal quality, fiber internet currently sits at the top.

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