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How Fiber Construction Blows Every Other Cable Out of the Water

Updated on March 29, 2013
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I was having a friendly argument with a friend who is in the same industry as I am the other night, between pints of stout beers at our favorite after-work unwinding spot, over the pros and cons of fiber optic wiring as opposed to traditional, electric wiring. I was in favor of fiber optics (I am planning a massive overhaul of my company's cabling systems, with a large interoffice network of fiber construction); he contended – and will still contend today if I called him up – that fiber networks are too expensive to be practical, and essentially, just aren't worth the trouble. I thought he was crazy, and so did he of me; such is friendship, I suppose.

After that night, I began to suspect that many people don't know very much about fiber optics: what they are, what they do, how they're superior to other forms of cable networks, et cetera. Even if you've heard the term "fiber optics," you may not quite understand how they're used – even though, I assure you, you have used them in your day-to-day life frequently. Fiber wires are small and unassuming, but these are high-powered beasts with the capability to transform a business right from the moment you finish installing fiber optic network. So, if I may borrow your time for the next 800 words or so, I want to guide you through the ins and outs of fiber optic cable, and not be on the losing side of an argument about wiring alternatives like my friend was.

That's right, Greg, this article is dedicated to you; I'm hoping you will finally admit defeat by the time I'm finished writing this oeuvre to fiber construction.

So What Are Fiber Optic Cables?

This is probably the best place to start, since many don't even know the first thing about fiber network construction. Especially since it seems like every movie from action to sci-fi describe their use of fiber optics vaguely and, often, incorrectly, I fear that some even consider these cables to be the work of pure fiction. Well, these networks may seem like space-age technology, but they're as real as it gets.

The essential element to fiber networks is that information is sent through fiber optic cable via light, not electricity. And what moves faster than light? Certainly not electricity – fiber optics can send information at a rate of 10 GB per second or faster, and could do that over incredibly long distances without being boosted. The light is sent through a sturdy glass or flexible plastic fiber, down which it travels at insanely fast speeds. Complete with a core, buffer, jacket and cladding, the cables come in single-mode and multi-mode. It would be up to you to decide which works best for whatever network needs you got: The single-mode is a more direct approach, since it provides just one path for light to travel on through the cable, but this also makes the cable pretty unaffordable for most anyone, and it's inflexible and difficult to fit into a complex network. Multi-modes instead are wider and have many different routes for light to go down, which makes this cable easier to work with but also runs the risk of some signal distortion.

Why Are Fiber Optics Superior?

These cables certainly aren't more trouble than they're worth – for one, a fiber construction network is way easier to install than an electric one. And, when you're installing it (while, yes, you should hire a professional to do that), fiber optics are quite safe to work with, due to the lack of electricity running through them. Like I discussed earlier, they're faster than any other network, and would kick just about any computer-based business up a few notches, especially when you consider how the signal in a fiber system will barely lose any of its strength over longer distances. The light signal doesn't interfere with other devices, and other devices don't interfere with it – that is, tapping or monitoring a fiber network would be far easier said than done.

Fiber Networks: Common Sense

I laid out all of these advantages to my friend at the bar the other night, and still, he was not convinced. He cited fiber's expensiveness as his primary complaint, as well as its occasional vulnerability to the elements and the necessity to sometimes replace certain components. He also said that, when he worked in an office with a fiber network, he kept having to tight the connections – that the wires would sometimes come loose, though those times were few and far between.

These cons sure seem like petty concerns when compared to fiber optics' pros. In response to these complaints, for anyone who is thinking of installing a fiber construction network, I would say this, first and foremost: Get a darn expert to install the thing! This will clear up all the problems my friend listed but one – yes, fiber optic cable is expensive. But, from where I'm standing, you stand to gain a lot more than you will use with a fiber optic network, and I can't think of one thing that could change the way a business does business more than fiber optics. It's as simple as that.

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