Tech Magazine

A Brief Fiber Optics Primer

Posted on the 03 September 2011 by Nerdywerds @NerdyWerds
Fiber optics delivers the best in speed and performance

I've had a couple of readers request an article about fiber optics, what they are and are they worth the cost. Special thanks goes to Jamie and Marcus for suggesting this article. For this article, we will be discussing fiber optic internet in particular. Optical fibers do have other applications, and possibly one day they will get some attention here, but internet seems to be the most helpful to us all here. Optical fibers are flexible, transparent fibers made of highly pure glass(silica) that is about the width of a human hair. They transmit light over great distances. Information is transmitted by pulsing light through the fibers. This pulsing light forms an electromagnetic carrier wave, and this is then modulated(modified) to convey the information. The exact details of this process are a bit murky even to the best of us, but if you know that pulsing lights through fibers is how they work, you'll be ahead of the vast majority of people. Now that we have that out of the way, let's dive into this a bit more.

We'll begin by giving a quick compare and contrast of the 3 major internet transmission style; DSL, cable and fiber optic. DSL, or digital subscriber line, delivers internet using the existing copper wire for your phone lines. DSL tends to be the cheapest of the three options, and as such, the slowest. There is some give and take involved in a DSL connection. Namely, your signal strength depends upon your distance to your DSL provider's central office. The further away you are, the slower your internet will be. You are given a dedicated line however, so you don't share a connection with your neighbors like cable. An average DSL connection will set you back about $40.00 a month for 3Mbps download speeds. Need a refresher on download speeds, check out the link.

Cable internet is the most popular choice for internet at the moment. Cable uses the same coaxial cable that you use for your television. Unlike DSL, your connection quality does not depend upon your proximity to your provider. So you'll get consistent speeds regardless of where you live. Like I mentioned earlier, cable is a shared connection. This normally isn't a big deal, but during peaks times, you're connection speed may suffer a bit. I've never really noticed a problem with this, but it is something to consider. Also, since it's a shared connection, there are slight security concerns, but nothing too big. Just secure your connection and you should be fine. Cable speeds range from around 6 Mbps to 15Mbps for standard connections. Comcast now offers a 100Mbps plan, but the price on that is a bit steep, and unnecessary for home use. My 12 Mbps plan costs $45.00 a month after reduced price introductory period.

Finally, let's get to what I've promised you with the headline; fiber optic internet. Fiber optics offers exceptional data transmission speeds, up to 110 Gbps. Also, the distance isn't a problem either due to these increased speeds. The fiber optics can be bundled into cables. These cables tend to be much smaller than traditional cable, and the also weigh less. This makes it an ideal choice for a variety of uses. In addition, since the conductor is glass it will not conduct electricity, as such it is immune to all kinds of interference. So any high-voltage electrical equipment, lightning, power lines or other interferences will not affect your connections performance. Fiber internet is a bit more expensive, low end fiber plans run about $75 and can go up into the thousands. Also, it is severally limited in it's availibility.

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