Fiber optics or fiber-optic communication is a method of transmitting data from one point to another using pulses of infrared or visible light through thin strands of glass or plastic fibers called optical fibers. These optical fibers are preferred over electrical cables or copper-based wires in wired-based data transmission because of their unparalleled properties and advantages and are also used to supplement wireless communication
infrastructures. It is imperative to underscore the fact that the advantages of fiber optics stem from the advantages of optical fiber. Hence, based on this, fiber optics represents a more advanced form of wired digital communication than electrical transmission.
Pros of Fiber Optics: Advantages and Benefits
1. Suitable For High-Bandwidth Applications
The foremost advantage of fiber optics centers on wired digital communication at a higher bandwidth to enable the transmission of more data at faster speeds. Optical fibers outperform copper wires in this regard. This advantage stems from the fundamental properties of visible light and the overall characteristic of electromagnetic radiation.
Electrical transmission uses conductors or metals such as copper to transmit data as electrical currents. An optical fiber transmits data using pulses of light. Light is a high-frequency signal. This means that a particular optical fiber carries a signal with a higher frequency range. This higher frequency range translates to higher bandwidth.
2. Enables Long-Distance Data Transmission
It is also suitable for long-distance communication because it enables the transmission of data at greater distances with minimal attenuation loss than copper wires. The current generations of optical fibers have a low attenuation loss of between 0.10 and 0.5o dB/km while copper wires have a high attenuation loss ranging from 3.00 to 10.00 dB/km.
An optical fiber can go over 100 kilometers without active or passive processing while a copper wire is limited to 100 meters. The disadvantage of copper wires stems from their electrical and conductive properties that make them vulnerable to resistance, dielectric loss, and inferences while also requiring in-line signal repeaters for each kilometer.
2. Immune from Electromagnetic Interference
Furthermore, compared to electrical transmission, another advantage of fiber optics is that it is immune to electromagnetic interference or EMI from natural and human-made sources such as lighting, solar flares, radio transmitters, and power lines. This makes it ideal in places or specific areas with high numbers of human-made EMI sources.
An EMI affects the particular metal in an electrical circuit through electromagnetic induction, electrostatic coupling, or conduction. It can degrade the performance of a circuit or stop it from functioning. This can lead to an error rate and data loss in data transmission. An optical fiber is immune from EMI because it is a non-conductive material.
3. Other Favorable Properties of Optical Fiber
Some of the advantages of fiber optics over electrical transmission come from the properties of optical fibers. Their lighter weight and slimmer profile make them more ideal than copper wires in scenarios in which physical dimensions are critical considerations. Some examples include wiring environments with narrow and limited paths.
An optical fiber is also ideal in environments with higher risks of getting caught in a fire because it does not cause sparks. It is also resistant to corrosion and oxidation or chemical degradation because it is a non-metallic and non-reactive material. It is also more secure than copper wires because it is difficult to wiretap without causing signal disruption.
Cons of Fiber Optics: Disadvantages and Limitations
1. More Expansive Than Copper-Based Wires
A significant limitation or disadvantage of optical fiber is that it is more expensive to produce and sells at a higher market price than copper wires. This makes fiber-optic communication more expensive to implement or instant than an electrical transmission system. The high cost and prices come from its more complex manufacturing process.
It is also worth mentioning that optical fibers are more difficult and expensive to splice and terminate than metal wires. This adds to the overall disadvantages of fiber optics. Splicing and terminating optical fibers require using specialized techniques and equipment. This also means that splicing and terminating require a different set of skills.
2. Susceptible To Damage Due to Fiber Fusing
Optical fibers are susceptible to a unique phenomenon called fiber fusing. Optical intensities of above two megawatts per square centimeter can result in two or more strands of fiber fusing together. This results in the degradation and even complete destruction of an optical fiber core while also demining other transmission components.
The absorption of high-power or high-intensity light causes strands of optical fiber to heat up, melt, and fuse together. The melted fiber can then propagate light back towards the light source and damage the fiber core. There are other factors that contribute to this phenomenon. These include fiber imperfections and the size of the core of each fiber.
3. Delicate Physical Constitution of Optical Fibers
Another disadvantage of fiber optics comes from the delicate nature of optical fibers. These materials are susceptible to breakage when subjected to various forms of mechanical stress such as bending, twisting, or pulling. Each fiber is made of either glass or plastic. These materials are prone to cracking or shattering because they are brittle and not bendable.
Proper handling and installation are important to prevent the breakage of optical fibers. The cables should be lined in a straight and smooth path. It cannot be routed along sharp corners. Some cables also need conduits or armors to reinforce the structural integrity of the internal optical fibers. A damaged fiber can result in interrupted transmission.
4. Unideal For Short Distances and Simpler Circuits
The fact that optical fibers are more expensive than copper wires makes designing and deploying infrastructure based on fiber optics not suitable for short-distance networking such as local area networking in homes and small offices. An electrical transmission system has lower material costs and cheaper transmitter and receiver components.
Hence, because of the aforementioned disadvantage of fiber optics, electrical transmission is more common in small-scale applications such as box-to-box, backplane, and chip-to-chip applications. Several experiments made in laboratories have demonstrated that using optical fibers at a smaller scale is both uneconomic and inefficient.
Rundown: Advantages and Disadvantages of Fiber Optics
The advantages of fiber optics also correspond to its ideal applications. It is more suitable in wire data transmission scenarios that require high bandwidth, faster data transmission speed, and extensive communication networks. The advantageous properties of optic fibers such as their resistance to electromagnetic interference and material degradation also make them superior to copper wires. However, because of the disadvantages of fiber optics and the drawbacks of optical fibers, there are situations in which electrical transmission and copper wires are the most economical and effective options. Examples include short-distant communication networks and systems with smaller o simpler circuit designs.