Advantages and Disadvantages of optical fiber

Due to its characteristics, optical fiber is getting more and more popular in telecommunications. Find out what is optical fiber and its advantages and disadvantages.

What is Optical Fiber?

Optical fiber is a hair-thin glass or plastic fiber with a typical diameter of 125 micrometers (μm), which is called the cladding, or outer reflecting layer. The core, or inner transmitting pathway, is usually as small as 10μm. This medium allows the transmission of information as light pulses instead of electrical pulses. This process is known as total internal reflection, where light rays beamed into the fiber travel and reflect within the core for great distances with very little attenuation while maintaining its intensity.

Several multiples of fiber counts (4,8,12,24,48,96…) constitute Optical fiber Cables either for internal or external applications in a protective coating suitable for the environment where the cable is used. These and other characteristics like fiber modes such as SM & MM, types of jackets, internal construction such as tight or loose tube buffered cables and fiber counts are important when distinguishing the type of cable for your network. Although optical fiber has bandwidth and speed advantages over copper cable, it also has its disadvantages.

Advantages of Optical Fiber

Bandwidth & Speed: The large amount of data that can be transmitted at fast speeds is it´s important advantage

Cost: With higher demands comes greater competition, so CAPEX costs have decreased substantially with greater number of fiber manufacturers producing this commodity due to the rising demand for optical fiber.

Signal degradation: The signal loss is less in fiber optic cables than in copper wires. There is no cross-talk interference in optical fiber as there is in copper cables.

Lifespan: The life cycle of a fiber optic cable is usually around 100 years making it an attractive ROI.

Weight and size:
When space is a concern, optical fiber is the best solution. They are usually smaller size and light weight than copper wire cable, offering a better fit for purpose for a particular environment.

Flexibility: Optical fiber is more flexible than copper cables with the same diameter.

Disadvantages of Optical Fiber

Fragility: Although being more flexible, optical fiber is more fragile and more vulnerable to damage than copper wires. Care and attention should be paid to the handling and preparation of optical fiber.

Splicing/Jointing: Optical fibers require specialized trained staff in the process of optical fusion splicing and test and measurement when jointing optical fibers together.

Related articles: Top 3 questions about Fiber