So what’s so great about fibre optic cabling being used to bring you the Internet? Mainly, two things: increased capacity and 24/7 reliability.
Fibre works differently from the broadband service that’s been provided by cable companies, which use their existing copper cable networks, and telephone companies, which use their old POTS (plain old telephone service) copper network.
Today’s NGN (next generation) network transmits data using light. Imagine a laser passing through optical fibre at two thirds the speed of light. Because of this technology, fibre can cover much longer distances without signal loss and uses much less power. The lack of electric current means no need to worry about sparks or shocks.
Since electrical interference doesn’t affect light, it’s not a problem either. So, this means more reliability. Fibre doesn’t require shielding and it can be installed close to electrical transmission lines, cell phone repeaters or WiFi transmitters. This also makes it more secure as it is impossible to tap into the line like you can with copper cabling.
Another advantage of fibre is the core of the cable has one or more very thin strands of fibre, each capable of sending a separate signal so one fiber cable can stream multiple data and video feeds. The fibre itself is usually a plastic that is more pliable and flexible than glass. The core is clad in a special reflective coating that reflects any escaping light back into the fiber along the length of the cable.
Outside the core is a buffer made of layers of plastic, this strengthens the cable and protects the core from damage and then comes a final jacket made from polyethylene. The fibre cable itself is very strong and its pull strength is much more than copper’s.
For many years the telephone and cable companies have used fibre for their network backbones but now these backbones are expanding and entering towns and cities. From there they are connected to local cable head-ends and telephone exchanges.
There’s quite a few terms currently used to describe how close to the home the fibre gets. There’s FTTN, which means fibre to the neighbourhood. Fibre to the cabinet or curb if it's closer to the home, say within 300 metres or so, is referred to as FTTC. Finally, FTTP - fibre to the premises - and FTTH – fibre to the home, both refer to terminating the fibre on or in a building.
Once there’s fibre in the home you can stream multiple hi-definition feeds (or 4K video!) as well as the fastest Internet imaginable.
This technology has come a long way. The speed of a broadband connection is described in megabits per second or Mbps. Phone companies use a technology called DSL or digital subscriber loop, which allows a digital signal to be sent over the existing wiring known as twisted pair wiring. Download speeds of up to 10 Mbps are common but with upload speeds considerably less than that.
Data is transmitted by an electrical signal and copper is used because it’s a great electrical conductor. But, your Internet connection is vulnerable to the quality of the wiring and any electrical interference. It can also be affected by corrosion, and as there is resistance in the copper wire, the electrical signal will degrade over long distances.
Cable modems are usually capable of higher speeds in the 100’s of Mbps, but in comparison fibre optic has almost unlimited potential and usually delivers gigabit speeds. That’s a 1000 Mbps or a 100 times faster than the old broadband!
Express your interest and your community could be the next communtiy to be lit up with high speed fibre optic Internet! www.axia.com/alberta