A brief discussion on the advantages of optical fiber in communications

Infineon / Mitsubishi / Fuji / Semikron / Eupec / IXYS

A brief discussion on the advantages of optical fiber in communications

Posted Date: 2024-01-11

Fiber optic communications have revolutionized the telecommunications industry. It's also making its presence felt widely within the data networking community. Using fiber optic cables, optical communications enable telecommunications links to be established over greater distances with much lower levels of loss in the transmission medium and, perhaps most importantly, to accommodate higher data rates.

Due to these advantages, fiber optic communication systems are used in a wide range of applications ranging from major telecommunications backbone infrastructure to Ethernet systems, broadband distribution and general data networks.

Development of optical fiber

Since the dawn of telecommunications, there has been a growing need to transmit more data at faster speeds. Initially single wire wires were used. These gave way to coaxial cables, enabling multiple channels to be transmitted over the same cable. However, these systems have limited bandwidth, so optical systems were investigated.

Optical communications became possible after the first lasers were developed in the 1960s. The next piece of the puzzle fell into place in the 1970s when the first optical fibers with low enough losses were developed for communications purposes. Then, a lot of research was done in the late 1970s. This led to the installation of the first fiber optic telecommunications systems. It operates over a distance of 45 kilometers, has a wavelength of 0.5 millimeters, and has a data rate of only 45 Mbps, a fraction of what is currently possible.

The technology has improved considerably since then. Data rates have increased, and on top of that, the performance of fiber optics has also improved, allowing repeaters to be farther apart. As a sign of this, speeds in excess of 10 Tbps are now achievable through fiber optic systems.

When the first fiber optic transmission systems were developed, it was thought that fiber optic cabling and technology would be prohibitively expensive. However, this is not the case and costs have fallen to the point where fiber optics now provides the only viable option for many telecommunications applications. Apart from this, it is also used in many local area networks where speed is a major requirement.

Advantages of fiber optics in communications

There are many compelling reasons for the widespread adoption of fiber optic cabling for telecommunications applications:

Signal attenuation levels are much lower

Fiber optic cabling provides higher bandwidth, allowing more data to be transmitted

Fiber optic cables are much lighter than coaxial cables that might be used.

Fiber optics are not subject to spurious interference pickup like coaxial cables

Optical fiber transmission system

Any fiber optic data transmission system will contain many different components. There are three main elements (marked in bold), plus one that is critical to the actual system:

Emitter (light source)

optic fibre cable

optical repeater

Receiver (Detector)

Different elements of the system will vary depending on the application. Systems for lower capacity links, possibly for local area networks, will use slightly different technologies and components than those used by network providers to deliver extremely high data rates over long distances. Regardless of the system, however, the basic principles remain the same.

In the system, a light source's emitter produces a modulated flow of light that enables it to carry data. Traditionally, a pulse of light represents a "1" and no light represents a "0." This light is transmitted along very fine glass fibers or other suitable materials to appear on a receiver or detector. The detector converts the light pulses into equivalent electrical pulses. In this way, data can be transmitted as light over great distances.

fiber optic transmitter

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