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Cables and Connectors

What Is a Fiber Optic Cable

The Basics

Forget copper wires: Fiber optic cables send data using pulses of light traveling through incredibly thin strands of glass or plastic. These strands are about the thickness of a human hair.

How Fiber Optics Works

The Core: The center of a fiber optic cable is called the core. This is where the light travels.

Cladding: Surrounding the core is a layer called the cladding. The cladding’s job is to keep the light bouncing within the core making sure it goes where it’s supposed to.

Total Internal Reflection: This is the key. The cladding has a lower refractive index than the core. This means light hitting the boundary between the two gets completely reflected back into the core, allowing it to travel long distances with virtually no signal loss.

Why Fiber Optics Is so Good

Speed: Fiber beats copper by a landslide. Data in fiber optic cables travels close to the speed of light making them not just insanely fast but the fastest form of particles known to human in the universe.

Distance: Traditional cables lose signal strength the longer they get. Fiber optic cables can transmit data over hundreds of miles with no signal degradation.

Capacity: A single fiber optic cable can carry way more data than a bundle of copper wires. That’s why they’re the backbone of the Internet.

Interference Immunity: Unlike electrical signals light doesn’t care about electromagnetic interference from power lines and other electronics.

Types of Fiber Optic Cables

Single mode: These have a super thin core to transmit a single ray of light. They’re used for long distance transmission like between cities or countries.

Multi mode: Slightly larger core allowing multiple rays of light to bounce around. Used for shorter distances like within buildings or data centers.

Where You’ll Find Them

Internet Backbones: The major highways of the internet are primarily fiber optic. All DNS Servers use fiber optics.

FTTH (Fiber to the Home): Some internet providers like AT&T, Frontier, Verizon Fios and Google Fiber offer super fast fiber directly to homes and businesses.

Data Centers: Where massive amounts of data need to move quickly between servers.

Undersea Cables: Huge fiber optic cables connect continents. So if you plan on traveling a couple miles under the ocean any time soon you might be able to spot them (I’m joking, don’t do that).

The Downsides

Fiber isn’t perfect: It’s usually more expensive to install than copper and the cables themselves are more delicate. But for high speed and long distance data fiber optics is not just the clear winner it’s the only winner so the expense makes sense almost always.

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