How does fiber-optic broadband work?

Fiber-optic broadband is a high-speed form of connecting to the Internet and works by sending and receiving signals over an optical fiber cable. Unlike the majority of broadband connections in the world that use mobile networks or the telephone lines, fiber-optic broadband transfers signals via special cables under the ground. These signals use light and optical fiber as against copper cables and move a lot faster offering speeds as high as 1Gbps.

Laying optical fibers under the ground is an expensive and time-consuming process. If you are in an area that is served by optical fibers, you can sign up for this superfast fiber-optic broadband service. Even the cheapest fiber-optic connection will provide speeds well in excess of any standard ADSL broadband service. Cheaper services often combine fiber along with copper wires to deliver the connection to your doorstep and are known as FTTC or fiber to the cabinet broadband. This type of connection usually has the fiber-optic line running from the provider to the junction box just outside your house. From here, normal copper wires carry the signal inside your home.

A better type is the FTTH or fiber to the home connection. This will have the fiber-optic cable run all the way inside your home. FTTH is better as it provides speeds up to 300Mbps as compared with speeds of about 75Mbps for the fiber to the cabinet service. However, FTTH services are not so widely available yet.

What can you do if you have a high-speed Internet connection? For example, with only a 50Mbps connection, you could download a 10GB Blue Ray movie in just under a half-hour or download an album of the size of 100MB within 15 seconds. FTTH provides several additional options such as to receive cable TV, phone lines and other excellent bundles with packages offered by service providers. The extremely high speeds offered by fiber optics has made it the backbone for much of the Internet deployed. In the US, the latest deployments are from Google Fiber and Verizon FiOS.

Fiber optics provides several benefits such as faster speeds over much longer distances as compared to the traditional copper-based technologies such as DSL and cable. Although the actual service you get depends on the company providing the service, but in most cases fiber will give you the best bang for the buck. In addition, fiber optics is future-proof as well. Even if broadband speeds increase by 1000 times in the near future, the existing single fiber-optic connection will easily support it.

Technically, fiber optics uses light in place of electricity for transmitting data. That means, much higher frequencies are used and the data capacity is enormous. The fiber-optic cable itself is made of glass or plastic and therefore, immune to electromagnetic interferences unlike metal cables are. Therefore, more data can be transferred to greater distances without any degradation.

Energy loss and interference are the limiting factors for most type of communication transmission, but fiber optics handles these factors in a much better way than any other modes of transmission. However, the biggest limiting factor that is currently hindering the widespread adoption of fiber optics for Internet access is the cost requirements of replacing DSL and cable networks.