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Fiber Optic Basics for Beginners

The term “fiber optics” or “optical fiber technology” actually isn’t a new concept to applications in the fields of telecommunications. As to the end-users, certainly, fiber optics is not so familiar as Ethernet or PoE networks that are widely used for home or business networking infrastructure setup. For some applications or in some situations, fiber optics is the only or the optimal choice in the deployments that require high bandwidth and great security at remote sites.

Today, we are going to go through useful information about fiber optics that tends to give the users, especially those who are beginners in the world of fiber optics, fundamental help when if plan to finish connection from the main control room to realize effective IP surveillance, wireless coverage or VoIP communications and so on.

What is Fiber Optics? Why Use It?

Fiber optics or optical fibers are thin strands of glass or plastics with a diameter about human hair, generally, they work in bundles to form optical cables, namely the so-called fiber optic cable. In a fiber optic link, fiber optic cable plays a crucial role, which is regarded as the crucial bridge for the whole connectivity from the main control end to the edge end. Later we will elaborate on the basics of fiber optic cable types.

Fiber optics rely on light as a medium to transmit data over an extremely long distance. It can reach a transmission distance of up to 80km, which mainly depends on the cable, signal conversion tools, and applications.

Fiber optics are able to benefit some specific applications as it is known that light signal unlike the electric signal, which experiences little electromagnetic interferences, like lightning, in a result, offering lower latency to supply a higher bandwidth. In other words, it is possible to keep the network speed the same as the original output. For example, if your network switch supports a 100M or 1000Mps network speed for data like video, audio, network, at the edge fiber device side can receive a 100M or 1000Mps network speed even over a long run.

Besides, data transmitted over light signal is useful to avoid cybersecurity threats for the reason that, from a technical aspect, it suppose to be more difficult to be hacked by people with evil intentions, that being said, high level security is granted to the system when adopting fiber optics in practices.

Moreover, its material determines its excellent capability to reduce potential power damages effected on the devices or the whole system, because glass optical fiber has no current carry inside. No current means few risks occur in the long optical fiber cabling.

Fiber optics can be applied in various fields, such as telecommunication, phone, TV. Apparently, networking and communication are two key applications. Point-to-Point fiber optic link has become more and more popular, so to speak, it is one of the simplest ways for home or business, installers, or end-users to take advantage of fiber optics to get advanced networking or communication.

Fiber optics for end-users from home or business seems like a brand new concept, and people may think it would be a complicated thing for beginners to start and engage, but in reality, it is not. Utilizing fiber optics for networking can be easy and fast. Although its cost would be higher than copper wires, think of its long distance, high bandwidth, and great security, cost should be the least consideration, not to say when if there is no other option to meet specific uses and requirements. In short, fiber optics is worth applying for applications that call for long distance, along with high bandwidth or great security.

Fiber Optic Cable: Single Mode & Multi-mode

As mentioned earlier, fiber optic cable is of great importance. Additionally, the installers or end-users should grasp the basic knowledge about the types of fiber optic cable and make clear that what cable to adopt so as to realize a successful and reliable system.

Fiber optic cable is basically categorized into two types, one is single-mode and the other is multi-mode. These two types of cables come with some differences that may affect the transmission distance, cost, and installation.

Generally speaking, single-mode supports a longer transmission distance comparing to multi-mode fiber optic cable. This conclusion is simply determined by the structure of the cable. It is a bit difficult for people new to fiber optic cable to understand the structure and how they work. For beginners, here we try to offer the simplest explanation.

Single-mode fiber optic cable in a smaller cord to propagate single light mode, which is useful to limit light dispersion to keep the transmitting channel “clean”, consequently supplying a higher bandwidth over a longer distance.

While multi-mode fiber optic cables take multiple modes for signal transmitting, and it is the reason why it has a shorten transmission distance. As a rule of thumb, applications require a shorter distance within 300-400m(1000ft), multi-mode tends to be a better option from the consideration of cost. Multi-mode cable shows its advantage on price, as the higher bandwidth requires, the larger the price difference between the two types of cable is. Therefore, what cable to be the final option largely depends on the considerations on distance, bandwidth, and budget according to individual demands.

In addition, it is significant to be aware that single-mode only works with single-mode, and so does the multi-mode, not only refer to cable only, which is the rule suits for connectors and fiber optic electronics.

How to Start the Implement of Fiber Optics?

To accomplish a complete fiber optic link, the first thing is to figure out what equipment or tools are needed. There are numerous types of equipment available in the market, and this generally messes up your minds when confronting with too many choices, not to mention the beginners lacking basic information on an effective checklist containing products ready to purchase. In a fiber optic link, as talked about previously, fiber optics rely on light to transmit signals. Most situations turn to fiber optics always use Ethernet copper wires for networking infrastructure setup. And light signal and electric signal can’t communicate and exchange data directly, then devices for signal conversion, including fiber media converter or fiber PoE switchesSFP modules. It is easier to know what a fiber media converter is, and you may have seen it on the network switches that are already placed in the control room, many network switches are equipped with one or two SFP slots that allow access fiber optic links. You can say that such switches with built-in fiber media converters.

In a deployment, find out and figure out the ways to connect fiber optic cable and electronics or how to terminate fiber optic cable for connecting the fiber optic electronics is an inevitable step to some extent, because it is the main influence to the difficulty and cost on installment, and the performance of data transmission. Three termination ways are commonly found by now, including field termination(fusion splicing), hand polishing, and pre-terminating.

Power Supply Issue Needs a Separate Consideration

Why power supply issue needs a separate consideration? As we talked about previously, fiber optics reply on glass or plastic fiber for data transmission and it is none of the business of current in the long run. In this case, power is a problem waiting to solve. Power supply basically concerning two points, one is the fiber optic electric itself, and the other is the edge connecting IP devices. For the former, simply take two ways as solutions, obtaining power from afar or local. Pull long wires together with the fiber optic cable, or use an external power supply unit or solar power system around the fiber optic electronics. While for the latter, you can choose the PoE power solution or local AC power source.

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