What is fiber optics and why is fiber optic cable the best approach to realizing high speed broadband. Here I attempt to explain the significance of fiber optic cable.
What is Fiber Optic Cable
A fiber optic cable is made up of fiber optic strands. For example, one cable could hold 144 strands of fiber. So, what is a strand of fiber ? Imagine a human hair made out of glass, that is 10 miles long. This is one strand of fiber 10 miles long. Data travels from one end of the fiber strand to the other end via pulsing light. If you shine a light into one end of the glass hair-like strand, then the light will travel down the glass strand (it doesn’t escape) and appears at the far end, 10 miles away. For example, if you were to signal some morse code, with your flash light, dot dot dot dash dash dash into the fiber strand, then the dot dot dot dash dash dash would appear to the receiver at the far end. If you switch your flash light on and off faster, you will be sending data faster – since the receiver at the far end will receive your dot dot dot dash dash dash right after its sent (since light travels extremely fast in glass, not quite as fast as light travels in a vacuum but still fast).
If each dot or dash is called a bit, then dot dot dot dash dash dash is six bits. If you have a slow flash light operator and signals with his flash light dot dot dot dash dash dash in 6 seconds, then you have a data speed of 6 bits in 6 seconds, or 1 bit in 1 second.
Perhaps, the next day, the flash light operator is faster and sends 6 bits in 1 second (rather than 6 seconds), thus the speed now is 6 bits per second.
This is in essence the operation of fiber optic cable. In the real world, a lazer provides the light source. The lazer can switch on and off sending light pulses down the fiber strand, not at 6 bits per second, but at speeds such as 10 million bits per second (10Mb/s) or 1 thousand million bits per second (1Gb/s) or 10 thousand million bits per second (10Gb/s). Also, a bit is not a dot or dash from morse code, but is simply a ‘1’ or ‘0’, ie. the light being on represents a ‘1’ and the light being off represents ‘0’.
Other means of transporting data is via copper cable (a cable made out of, you guessed it, copper), coaxial cable (the cable that brings you cable tv), telephone wires (the twisted pair wires that connect, or used to connect, to your fixed line phone), over the air Wi-Fi (those hotspots in coffee shops), 4G LTE (the latest wireless technology used by the big wireless operators, Verizon, AT&T etc.. For your information LTE means Long Term Evolution. Its just a techie term for fast data over the airwaves). You don’t need to really know the details of these other approaches, just that they are all not as fast as fiber optic cable. While some vendors have managed to squeeze more data speed from these alternative technologies, they are not able to transmit data as fast as fiber optic cable.