When building a high-speed network over long distances, there is no doubt that fiber optic connection is obviously the best option. In recent years, it is gradually replacing copper wires as an appropriate means of signal transmission owing to its inherent benefits: interference immunity, higher bandwidth, inherent security and most importantly, its uninterruptible, fast-speed data networking in wide-range applications.
Fiber Optics? A fast-speed transmission method for long-distance deployments
Fiber optic technology has overcome the geographical and operational challenges of long-distance deployments with a maximum distance of up to 80 km without signal boosters. Unlike the PoE solution which will suffer a great deal of signal degradation over long cable runs, it barely experiences attenuation or signal loss for its immunity to electromagnetic interference (EMI), thereby eliminating the need for re-transmission. Additionally, optical signals are sent as the pulses of light through the fiber cables which enables them to operate at an astounding speed (1000 Mbps) and offer significantly higher throughput than the copper-based cables (i.e. coaxial cables and twisted-pair cables) in the same amount of time. Fiber cables have a strong resistance to water, dust or corrosive elements and last for decades without frequent maintenance, which makes them a worthwhile investment in the long run. Moreover, fiber optic internet is a long-term, future-proof technology, and it is possible that this high-end technology will become more affordable in the near future.
Choose the right fiber optic cables for your networks
Fiber optics are made up of numerous microscopic strands of glass or plastic encapsulated by an insulated casing called the cladding that reflects the light back to the fiber core. Outside is a protective layer called the buffer to protect the fibers from physical damages. And all these strands and layers are protected by the jacket to avoid environmental hazards. When choosing cables for data networking, the following factors should be taken into consideration: throughput demand, transmission speed, deployment distance, environment and budget.
1. Single-mode Fiber vs Multi-mode Fiber
Fiber cables can be primarily categorized into two types: single-mode fiber (SMF) cable and multi-mode fiber (MMF) cable. SMF is covered with yellow sheath, while MMF cables are coated in orange or aqua jackets. SMF is designed to carry light (laser) traveling in the same pattern with a small fiber core size (about 9 microns), which allows the light signals to quickly pass through the cable without unnecessary reflection which greatly lessens the possibility for attenuation, while MMF has a larger fiber core (62.5 µm or 50 µm) in which light waves (mostly LEDs) are dispersed into numerous paths as they travel through the cable, generating more attenuation than SMF. Moreover, SMF has a considerably higher bandwidth than MMF, for the reason that laser-generated light travels faster than LEDs. SMF is used in places that require long-distance and higher-bandwidth deployments. On the contrary, MMF is mostly used for communication over short distances within a building. Additionally, SMF is usually more expensive because it requires preciseness to produce lasers. Generally speaking, MMF is a more cost-effective choice in applications within 550 meters, while SMF is best used for longer distances.
2. Glass Fiber vs Plastic Fiber
Moreover, fiber cables could also be further classified into glass optic fiber (GOF) cable and plastic optic fiber (POF) cable according to the construction materials of the fiber cores. As its name implies, GOF is constructed of numerous strands of glass arranged in bundles inside a hardened coating for durability. Besides, it is ideal for deployments in hostile settings. GOF is barely affected by fluctuations in temperatures, because it has a strong resistance to both extremities, which makes it applicable to operate over a wide temperature range, especially in places like furnaces and cold storage warehouses. In addition, it also shows great resilience to chemical exposure and mechanical stress. Technically, the signal is transferred in a glass-made fiber optic cable at a speed of 2/3 the velocity of light with a refractive index of 1.5, which makes it suitable for long-distance data transmission at a higher speed. But since every coin has two sides, it also has some inherent drawbacks. As a delicate type of optic cables, it is susceptible to bending and less resistant to accidental breakage when handled improperly. And the installation cost is normally higher than that of POF.
On the other hand, POF is a type of fiber cable where the fiber core and cladding are all made out of plastic or polymeric materials, which makes it lighter in weight. POF always boasts of its great flexibility and resilience to bending and breakage. But it is more suitable for low-speed and short-distance applications since it will suffer a more considerable amount of signal loss at greater distances. And considering the POF supports multi-mode light transmission, it will experience greater light dispersion than its counterpart. And POF can’t withstand the extreme temperatures like GOF does. Generally, POF is more suitable for short-distance (≥100 meters) and low-speed data applications like home networks.
Build a fast-speed network with point-to-point links
Point-to-Point (P2P) connection is a wise move to ensure high-speed network connectivity between the workstation and the terminal device. It is a type of network topology that refers to the data transmission between two endpoints, namely the one-to-one correspondence. P2P technology offers higher bandwidth individually at every port (no sharing) and fully supports speeds over 1 Gb, which is not available in the Passive Optic Network (PON), the point-to-multipoint connection. Compared with other network topologies, P2P could transfer data at higher throughput in a shorter amount of time, because there are only two nodes/endpoints in the entire network link, which also makes it highly impervious to crosstalk or attenuation. Furthermore, the most crucial advantage of P2P technology is its symmetrical bandwidth (the equal speed of downloading and uploading), which is of great importance in surveillance systems. The PON normally has no control of bandwidth allocation, but the P2P ensures good governance over the network, allowing the administrator to manually control the bandwidth of each port. The P2P technology features simple installation and configuration, eliminating the need for professional support. What’s more, the P2P technology offers a more reliable network connection. When one P2P link breaks down, the other links will not be influenced. However, in the case of PON, the entire fiber network will collapse if the fiber connection between the optical line terminal (OLT) and the splitter is destroyed. For more information, check How to Setup a Point to Point Fiber Optic System set up your own fiber networks.