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Fiber optic cabling experiencing a renaissance

By Max Burkhalter
January 7, 2011
When fiber optic cabling was first introduced, its potential was apparent, but actual deployments were rare. The technology was simply too expensive to provide a viable solution for small businesses and consumers, elongating the life-cycle of copper cabling establishments.

According to a recent report from Bishop & Associates, copper cable was also able to extend its period of dominance by a number of new advances that improved its bandwidth capabilities. However, the report said new movements toward 10 GB and faster internet standards are creating a new wave of interest in fiber optic networks.

The report said fiber optic cabling offers significant performance-related advantages over copper cables, as just one hair-like strand of fiber optic wire can transmit hundreds of high-speed signals. Overall, fiber optic cable is an ideal carrier for advanced internet technologies because it is capable of handling almost unlimited bandwidth and enhanced signal density while minimizing the impact of crosstalk and electromagnetic interference.

Limitations in the copper cabling industry are also impacting fiber optic growth. According to the report, copper-based networks often experience signal degradation over long distances. While this issue can be countered by precision passive assemblies, limited suppliers and expense prevent the technology from solving copper cabling's issues. Other advanced copper cable solutions are available, but they all add expense to basic copper options, reducing the difference between copper and fiber optic. As a result, more telecom providers and businesses, and military institutions are deciding to deploy fiber optic networking solutions to optimize their internet services.

A number of new connector technologies are also emerging to make fiber optic cable solutions more accessible to businesses. SFP+, QSFP+ and other connectors allow companies to attach internal fiber optic networks to established copper wiring to improve network speeds and reduce some of the negative affects of copper deployments over extended distances. In some cases, these devices include switches that relay signal through either fiber or copper based on users' needs as well, simplifying the transition to the new technology, the report said.

In Panama City, Florida, local schools are taking advantage of regional fiber optic initiatives to deploy broadband internet solutions and improve the quality of education in the district reports. The Bay District Schools have installed a new fiber optic network by tapping into a local fiber optic network used to monitor traffic signals. The new system allowed the district to use online examinations for standardized testing.


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