When customers demand information, convenience, and 24/7 support through online channels, your business’ success requires fast, reliable, and high-bandwidth network connectivity. If this sounds like what your business needs, then the solution you are looking for is fibre optic cabling.
Fibre optic cables are network cables typically made of glass filaments thinner than a human hair that can transmit data at speeds and bandwidths significantly better than traditional cables made of conductive metal like copper.
This is because the data in fibre optic cables is transmitted via pulses of light, which, by the laws of physics, travels faster than electrons passing through metal.
These filaments have a reflective outer coating, allowing the light pulses to bounce from side to side. This, in turn, allows the signal to go around corners. They usually come in bundles for more data to be transmitted. They also have more outer layers for insulation and protection.
There are a number of reasons why fibre optic cabling will best suit your organisation, including:
The speed at which fibre optic cables transmit data is about 70% the speed of light, which is markedly faster than copper cables traditionally used for phone lines and internet connections.
Copper cabling was first developed with the goal of only transmitting voice signals. The amounts of data we transmit through networks nowadays far outweigh the bandwidth requirements of voice signals. Fibre optic cabling can answer those bandwidth demands more efficiently while taking up similar amounts of space.
Fibre optic cables can transmit data through distances farther than typical copper cabling before having to deal with distortion issues. Generally speaking, copper cables have a limit of a hundred metres for decent quality data transfers. With the right setup, fibre optic cables can transfer data over hundreds of kilometres without degradation.
The thinness of fibre optic cables relative to copper cables make them less prone to damage and pull pressure. Fibre is more resistant to changes in the weather and temperature than copper. Because fibre cables don’t carry an electric current, they are immune to electromagnetic interference and don’t become a fire hazard because of wear and tear.
Despite the upfront expense of having fibre optic cabling installed costing more than traditional copper cabling, the investment that brings in all the aforementioned benefits, as well as the much lower maintenance requirements, make it more valuable in the long run. The growing acceptance of this technology will also make it more affordable for small private enterprises.
There are three types of fibre optic cables, each of which is designed to fit specific network requirements:
Single-mode fibre is made up of a single strand of fibre. It is very thin, measuring at around 8.3 to 10 microns in diameter. The light that travels through a single-mode fibre cable only has one path to take, and it involves less internal reflecting while the light transmits data. This allows data to be transmitted at greater distances with a higher transmission rate, and distortion becomes less of a problem.
Single-mode fibre is the go-to option for long-distance networking. Because of their relatively simple setup, single-mode fibre cables are easy to maintain.
In direct contrast to single-mode fibre, multi-mode fibre cabling has multiple paths for light to travel through. The core of multi-mode fibre cabling is thick in comparison, with diameters ranging from 50 to 100 microns.
The positive result is more bandwidth when using such a setup for networking. However, the downside is that distance is much more limited in comparison to single-mode fibre cabling.
This is because with more internal reflection going on, the greater the distortion, which ends up compromising the integrity of the data transmission the longer the distance the light has to travel.
There are two kinds of material generally used for fibre cables: glass and plastic.
Glass (or silica) fibre is mechanically robust and durable, capable of withstanding temperature fluctuations, chemical hazards, and moisture. This makes it ideal for subterranean and underwater installation. It can be configured in a variety of ways to suit long-distance networking needs. It is the more expensive option compared to plastic fibre.
Plastic fibre is flexible and less prone to damage than glass fibre when it’s looped or moved around. It can be modified and repaired. The diameter of a plastic fibre cable is about 1 millimetre. For short-distance connections that you foresee being altered multiple times, plastic is the way to go.
Before you decide on what kind of fibre cabling you will have installed, take into account the following items:
Data Format — Do you need a setup for phone calls or cable TV? Are you setting up a local area network (LAN)? Will you be converting a lot of media or installing a video surveillance system?
Environment— Is your business located in an office setup with people working in cubicles or shared spaces? Is it a factory with heavy machinery? Will you need to have the cables installed outdoors? Are there water sources nearby that can damage the cables? Having an idea of how the cables will go in and around your premises will help make the installation go smoothly.
Distance — What lengths do the cables need to run in your business premises? Cable splicing might be necessary to accommodate the distances for proper installation, so communicate with your installation provider about the hardware required to accomplish this.
Component Specs— Talk to your fibre cable provider about what components you can acquire to help the installation process. They will probably have suggestions for you to go on, and it won’t hurt to ask them to explain why those parts will be useful. If you can afford to, purchase additional components to avoid delays in case of unforeseen circumstances.
Although you won’t be manually installing the fibre cables yourself, it is still important that you practice safety in your business premises when installation is being done:
Avoid direct contact with fibres. The broken ends are extremely sharp and can puncture skin. Their size makes it almost impossible for them to find once they’ve penetrated your skin as well.
Don’t drop fibre scraps. They can stick onto carpeting, clothes, and shoes, which can lead to them being carried at home where they pose even more of a danger.
Don’t drink or eat close to the installation area. Fibre scraps can get into your food or drink undetected. Accidentally swallowing them is a real risk.
Don’t smoke near the installation area. Chemical adhesives and cleaners are used in the process, so smoking runs the risk of explosion due to flammable materials.
Don’t directly view fibre components and light sources. Direct exposure to light coming from fibre cables can lead to eye damage. Visible light from a local source is necessary to inspect such components. Fibre microscopes used for inspection must be fitted with filters.
Permanently cap unplugged adaptors and connectors. These ends of fibre cables emit light that can damage your eyes. By permanently capping adaptors and connectors, you prevent accidental exposure and injury.
Your internet connection slowing to a crawl or your phone lines going down abruptly are events you cannot afford to let happen in this highly connected, highly competitive digital world. Invest in fibre optic cabling for the sake of your business’ continued success, lest you get left behind.
21 Station Road Workshops, Station Rd, Bristol, BS15 4PJ
Fiona Francombe, Site director, The Bottle Yard Studio