Fiber Optics – The Wave of the Future
The copper wires used to transmit communication signals haven’t changed in over 100 years. They’re familiar, reliable…and limited in bandwidth.Enter fiber optic cable — the wave of the future. What makes fiber optics so special?
- Speed and bandwidth – Fiber optic networks operate at high speeds and have large carrying capacity to meet the expanding demand for data
- Better distance – Signals can be transmitted farther without the need to be refreshed and strengthened
- Resistance – Greater resistance to electromagnetic “noise”
All of this from a strand of pure glass the diameter of a human hair.
How Fiber Works
Thousands of these glass strands are bundled together in optical cables. How are these glass fibers protected in the ground? There are three distinct parts shown below:
- Core – The center containing the thin glass fibers
- Cladding – An outer optical material surrounding the core
- Buffer Coating – A plastic coating that protects the fiber cable from damage and moisture
An outer coating, called a jacket, protects the entire ensemble.
Light moves easily through these glass strands within a fiber optic cable due to a principle called total internal reflection. Binary codes, in the form of light pulses, travel through the core (glass) by constantly bouncing from the cladding. Because the cladding does not absorb the light, the light wave can travel great distances. A receiver on the other end converts the light pulses back into the digital zeros and ones of the original signals, assembling them into messages we can see and hear.
The first commercial installation of a fiber optic cable system occurred in 1977. Since that time, fiber optic cable has been used to steadily expand networks and replace copper as the means for communication signal transmission. INS and Independent Telecommunications Companies are expanding the fiber optic network throughout Iowa to assist with the increasing demand for bandwidth.