A Growing Fiber Optic Market

By: CableOrganizer®

fiber optics

The fiber optic industry continues to grow because of the demand for high-speed communications. It was Albert Einstein who pointed out that nothing travels faster than light. Experts say light in a vacuum can travel at 186,282 miles per second (around 299,792 kilometers), which is why many different sectors have been seeking to convert copper cable infrastructure to fiber optics.

Three scientists from Corning in 1970 discovered the power of fiber optics, patenting technology that could outpace copper wiring by 65,000 times. Teams from Corning and Bell Labs created a single-mode fiber (which uses a small core diameter for higher bandwidths and longer distances). Corning started mass producing this fiber in 1979, after it had its runs linking the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) computers in 1975. Chicago was the first city to have optical phone service in 1977. AT&T placed the first subsea cable in the Atlantic Ocean in 1982; and by 1988, 40,000 calls could be made at once between the United States and Europe — a massive jump from the former 4,000 made simultaneously on a system run on copper wiring. This advancement made these intercontinental phone calls more commonplace and lower in costs. Fiber optic technology maintained its traction in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, thanks to the boost in internet and mobile phone usage. The first cellphone was invented in 1986 and the internet was introduced to the public in 1993. It was, however, still difficult to access then and in the following years, because of downloading complexities over copper wiring. Corning reported on its website that it, along with Bell Labs, Fujitsu, NTT Labs, and other entities, refined fiber in the late 1990s. By 2015, another subsea cable was placed in the Atlantic that was 20 times faster than one laid down in 1995.

It’s an industry that continues developing today, but especially did through the 1990s and 2000s, as people became more mobile, relying heavier on computers, cloud computing, smartphones, and other technology. The world entered COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020, and because of social distancing, there was a whole other need to connect virtually.

Fiber Optic Uses and Statistics

Sales of single-mode fiber in 2014 within the United States alone, earned its producers over $370 million in revenue. That same year, multi-mode fiber (optical fiber over shorter distances and multiple modes) earned $500 million in revenue. Plastic optical fiber garnered $70 million in 2014. Projections predict each of these figures to double by 2025, according to Statista, with $610 million revenue expected for single-mode, $910 million for multi-mode, and $180 million for plastic optical fiber.

The prevalence of fiber optic cables continues to grow, as people rely more on telecommunications. Companies require vast fiber optic data centers to support that use. The broadcasting industry is one category that uses fiber optics to transmit high-definition audio, video, data, and live broadcasts.

The use of fiber optics isn’t limited to the communications industry, with financial institutions relying on it too. The technology helps to ensure fiscal data transmission is secure, and in real-time, between banks, stock exchanges, high-frequency trading, and other aspects of the economic world.

The transportation and logistics sector relies on fiber optics for traffic management, passenger information storage, security, communications, and other applications.

Power grids, oil and gas pipelines, and renewable energy infrastructure, are just a few ways the energy industry counts on fiber optics.

Military, aerospace, and defense industries use fiber optics for secure communications and data transmission.

Fiber optics are important in the medical industry, with it used in imaging equipment and minimally invasive surgeries. The pandemic saw the rise in telemedicine, with fiber optic frameworks the ideal for clear signals needed to conduct virtual medical appointments, as well as to transmit health-related data.

Research and educational institutions, laboratories, and similar settings, are other places where high-speed internet using fiber optics are central to research, collaboration, and remote learning activities.

Advantages and Disadvantages to Fiber Optics

Fiber optics provide higher bandwidth (a network’s ability to transmit data) than copper cables. Data moves with it at faster speeds with low latency (delays when data arrives at a port, then departs), while maintaining signal quality. Fiber technology is impervious to electromagnetic interference (EMI). Fiber optic cables are additionally more secure than copper because they do not radiate electromagnetic signals, which makes it more challenging for hackers to intercept data. Since they are lighter and thinner than copper cables, they are ideal in tighter spaces, as well as easier to transport, handle, and install.

There are some factors that may slow down the progress of fiber optic expansion. Equipment is often more expensive to install, with a higher initial investment required for the infrastructure. There are greater complexities to a fiber optic system as well, with sophisticated switches and transceivers. Fiber optic cables are more fragile, so they cannot be manipulated beyond the bend radius, with installation and maintenance more intensive. A subsea fiber optic cable in Alaska, for example, submerged 90 feet under water and buried 13 feet beneath the floor of the Arctic Ocean, was cut by ice, causing interruptions and outages in phone and internet service in many communities. Vandals and accidental digging incidents have been other frequent causes of damage to fiber optic cables, according to news reports from various cities throughout the United States.

Fiber optic cables need a separate power supply at the endpoints. A solution is Power over Ethernet (PoE) that connects with a twisted-pair cable to deliver electricity and data simultaneously to devices. As it is with traditional Wi-Fi, fiber optic internet is not invincible during a power outage, with generators or uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) options to maintain service. A UPS can safeguard equipment from power surges, while providing adequate battery power to systems, to safely shut down electronics.

Related Items