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Understanding fiber optic communications

If you’ve ever dabbled even a little bit into the tech world, you’ve probably heard of fiber optics. But what is it and why is it so important?


Fiber optic cable is a whole new way of communication. It’s used in phone lines, cable television and the Internet. From the outside, fiber optic cable doesn’t look much different than your average cable, but on the inside, it’s a whole new world.

Fiber optic cable is made of pure glass fibers, each about as wide as a strand of your hair. Thousands of those fibers are bundled together and wrapped in an optic cladding, then a plastic coating. The bundles, usually called optical cables, send communication at lightning speeds using light.

How does it work?

Remember the multi-color fiber optic light wands you used to get at fireworks and musicals? They’re a lot like those. The ultra-thin glass cables are wrapped in an optic cladding, which serves as the middle level of the finished cable. As the light travels down the glass fibers, it bounces off the cables and is reflected back by the optic cladding. The final coating of plastic serves as protection to the cables and cladding.

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Why fiber optic?

Fiber optic communications are presenting some very real competition to your average metal cable, many of which are made of copper. There are lots of reasons why this newer innovation is winning the race against its older counterparts.

Fiber optic communications are much less expensive to make because the price of glass cable is much lower than copper, which gets more expensive every day.

Fiber optic cable is thinner, more lightweight and more flexible than other cables, which means it works much better with small devices. This is a big bonus since phones, cameras and other electronics get smaller nearly every day.

Glass fiber optic cables that use light don’t interfere with each other the way electric wires do, so you get much less interference on phones and other devices.

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Fiber optic cables have a much higher capacity for carrying information, so they can handle not only the communications you use today, but pretty much anything you upgrade to in the future. They also last longer than metal cables, so you shouldn’t have to worry about replacing them for a long time. It also means the information travels a lot faster, even during peak times when everyone else is using theirs too.

Electric cables are not as safe as fiber optic cables. Any time you deal with electric, you run the risk of a fire, but that hazard does not exist with fiber optic cables. You can breathe a little easier when your home is wired with fiber optic cable and not electric.

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All these reasons and more make fiber optic cable the optimal choice for carrying digital signals, which is what the technological world is moving toward.

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