The Basics of Fiber-Optic Internet

The Basics of Fiber-Optic Internet

With global IP traffic expected to triple over the next three years1, it’s not surprising that Internet Service Providers are looking to fiber optic technology to meet their need to supply greater bandwidth while also connecting more users.

Unlike copper cabling, fiber optic cabling uses light to transmit data instead of electricity, which cuts electric costs. However, it also requires different equipment to run it. That means your ISP has to purchase the equipment to transmit data over fiber, then this light-bearing cable has to be run to your home. Then, it will either be connected to your computer (which will require a fiber network card to receive data) or to the cabinet outside your house where the existing cables from your computer run. The latter method will cost you a little speed, but not much.

Fortunately, the cost of running fiber optic cable to your home isn’t much different from running copper cabling, but there are other considerations. Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) technology has advantages and disadvantages when compared to conventional copper cabling. According to Communications Products, Inc.2:

  • Fiber has greater bandwidth, which means greater speed.
  • Transmission distances are longer, with copper cable losing over 90% of signal strength over 100 meters while fiber loses about 3%.
  • Fiber is lighter and less expensive than copper.
  • Fiber is stronger, so there is less likelihood of damage during installation.
  • Fiber isn’t flammable; it can’t arc and catch fire like copper that is old and worn.
  • Fiber isn’t metallic, so it isn’t subject to electromagnetic interference.

The disadvantages are:

  • The equipment to run a fiber optic network is expensive for the ISP.
  • Unlike Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) devices, you can’t run power over the network to things like phones, security cameras and wireless access points using fiber, requiring a separate electrical system to those devices.

So, once you’re hooked up and running with fiber, you’ll immediately notice the benefits.