The Future Of Fiber

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asked Aug 14 by sonn2019 (8,540 points)

Fiber-optic cable sounds like something out of a sci-fi film, and from all the talk, it’d be easy to think that it’s just a marketing gimmick to upsell us on our internet packages. In reality, it’s the cleanest and fastest wide-area network available, and it can offer the highest capacity of any production network connection.qsfp28 active optical cable

Fiber has been used in local area networking (LAN) and internet connectivity for decades, and it’s an integral part of our global network. Despite this, fiber hadn’t gained a lot of traction for wide-area networking (WAN) until recently. In the past, most companies connected to the internet via T1s, DSL or coax, but these technologies each have some limitations.

• T1: This is still the most common type of last-mile connection. T1 offers a slower connection (only 1.544 Mbps), but that bandwidth is not shared. T1 capacity is not scalable because you can only bond so many T1 connections together.

• DSL: This is often faster than T1 (1.5 to 6 Mbps), but it’s limited by distance -- you must be relatively close to a central office. It’s also often asymmetrical, meaning it offers slower upload vs. download speeds. DSL providers also oversubscribe bandwidth, so at peak usage times across the network, speeds can slow dramatically.

• Coax: Cable offers higher speed connections at a disruptive price point. In this model, a line connects to a cable company’s “head end” and segments bandwidth off across a neighborhood, for example. Because coaxial connections are typically a shared medium, performance issues are inevitable.
Enter fiber WAN architecture, which solves many of these headaches. Today, fiber has approached mass adoption for WAN, renewing the hype around its capabilities. Unfortunately, fiber comes with a catch. It’s not immediately scalable thanks to its high price tag and limited geographic availability. Even though it’s not likely fiber will replace all of our connections any time soon, it’s a fascinating technology that can give your business an edge if it’s an option.

What Is Fiber?

Fiber is made up of single or multiple strands of glass, covered in a protective sheath. It works by transmitting pulses of light rather than electrical pulses. The capacity of a given strand is theoretically limitless and determined only by the performance of the electronics at either end. Advances in fiber technology like dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) take this ceiling even higher. DWDM allows the electronics at either end of a fiber cable to transmit multiple colors of light over a single strand. This technology increases that connection’s capacity exponentially without trenching.

Translation: Fiber is awesome. It’s the fastest, cleanest type of last-mile connection, easily surpassing copper and cable. It’s also very secure, since it doesn’t have an electromagnetic field, which could be read by surveillance equipment. Providers often offer the best service-level agreements with fiber, including the fastest mean time to repair (MTTR), which makes it ideal for handling mission-critical data. For a growing business, fiber is an excellent choice because you can flexibly scale your bandwidth.

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