You’ve probably seen the adverts on TV claiming to guarantee you faster download and connection speeds if you upgrade to fibre optic. But if you’ve ever wondered what exactly fibre optic is and why it’s so different to the broadband you’ve always had, look no further. We’ve gathered all the most important facts about fibre optic cables right here, to help you understand what they are, and why fibre optic is the new big thing for internet providers.
What is fibre optic?
Optical fibre is a flexible fibre made of glass or plastic strands that are only slightly thicker than human hair. Light passes through the fibre forming an electromagnetic wave which transmits the data across much longer distances, at higher bandwidths than wire cables. To put their power into perspective: a single fibre can carry in the region of 90,000 TV channels.
There are two different kinds of fibre optic cable. The first, a single mode cable, is narrower in diameter meaning that the light passes through a much more concentrated space. This makes it more suitable for use in long distance data transmission, between countries and sometimes even continents. The second type, a multi-mode fibre, is wider in diameter meaning there is more space for the light within. As a result multi-mode cables are a much less precise, and therefore cheaper, option.
What are the benefits?
In the past, data connections have always been made through copper wiring that transferred the information through electricity. But today – although Ethernet and coaxial cables are still widely used in homes and by businesses – much of the core infrastructure of telecommunications (including the signals that carry the data underground, across cities and across the ocean) are usually always fibre optic.
A huge advantage in the use of fibre optic over copper cables is that they are impervious to any electromagnetic interference. Where signals transmitted through metal wires might be affected by electrical activity, fibre optic cables can transmit this data across much longer distances with little interference and no loss of signal quality. This is a factor that makes fibre optic a popular choice for home and business use- it can offer an improved and so far unparalleled phone and television signal. Their immunity to environmental and electrical noise also make them much more ideal for use in variable environments such as in aeroplane engineering- where high signal quality is essential.
As well as this, fibre optic cables are non-conductive, which makes them a good alternative for use in high electricity environments like power stations, or in structures which are prone to lightning strikes.
Is it the right solution for me?
Wire cables are still most commonly used for home and business use, and using fibre optics for data connection in smaller areas is still very much in development and usually a more expensive option. But homes and businesses running numerous electrical devices requiring high download speeds and uninterrupted signals would certainly benefit from this technology and the superior bandwidth and speed it promises.