In the past year, fiber optics underwent some important developments, some technical and some market-related. For those of you working in fiber optic network design and installation, the changes present opportunities and challenges.
Recent columns have focused on what is happening with dark fiber, that which is being “lit” to become the backbone of the world’s communications systems. Dark fiber connects data centers, cell towers, cities, towns, governments and people.
The dark fiber providers that most people are familiar with are private companies that were started to offer fiber connectivity for a profit. Today, there is a major movement toward building fiber networks as a public-private partnership.
For the last several months, I’ve been writing about uses for the dark fiber around the country and the world. Last month, I covered delivering broadband to communities, so the logical topic for this month is fiber to the home (FTTH) for broadband delivery.
All of those millions of miles of dark fiber are primarily expected to deliver broadband connections. The Internet continues to grow unabated, and bandwidth must be expanded to accommodate that growth.
Last month, I wrote about how fiber was being used to expand bandwidth for cellular systems, connecting cell towers to the phone network and antennas on the tower to the base electronics. That helps our phone coverage when we’re driving or walking outside.
All of that dark fiber we have been discussing the last few months is getting used for some fast-growing applications, and the fastest may be connecting cell towers. Cell phones have evolved into mobile data devices. Smartphones and tablets consume vast amounts of data.
Last month, we discussed how long-distance dark fiber is used to connect data centers. Everywhere you look, you read about new data centers being built by Google or Facebook or Amazon or some other one with a strange, unpronounceable name.
Data center connection is one of the most common uses for dark fiber, and it’s all due to growing data needs. You have probably seen graphs of the Internet’s growth and heard claims about how much data moves along it.
Some cabling industry stakeholders predict the imminent death of copper cabling, while others disagree. However, most agree that fiber optical networks are taking a large bite out of the new network market.
Last month, we looked at how dark fiber is tested to determine its capability of supporting newer, faster transmission networks. Once dark fiber has been tested and its usability confirmed, communications systems can be connected.
Last month, we discussed “dark fiber” and how most outside plant installations include more fibers than are needed at the time of installation. Later, those fibers will be used for expanding service capacity or leased out to provide income.
“Dark fiber” is a term often heard in conversations about fiber optic communications. Perhaps this is because it has a name that sounds evil or nefarious. But dark fiber is just fiber that has been installed and is not currently in use; instead, it is reserved for spares or future use.
Now that we have covered the process of stripping the fiber and attaching the connector with an adhesive, the connector is ready to polish. The biggest problem with polishing a fiber optic connector is patience.
I suspect that the idea of employing anaerobic adhesives for fiber optics came from someone using Krazy Glue or the two-part adhesive made to fix a car’s rearview mirror after it fell off in the hot summer sun.
I am always amused when I hear, “No one uses heat-cured epoxy connectors anymore.” In fact, about 95 percent of all connectors, including every factory-made patchcord, uses heat-cured epoxy for its ease of use, low cost and high reliability.