What is Fiber Optic Internet?

Fiber optics have helped revolutionize the Internet and the telecommunications industry and it has played an important part in the coming of the Information Age. It is replacing old copper wire technology across the planet.
Fiber Optic Internet is an Internet connection using very thin strands of glass or plastic. Data is sent over the fibers using infrared light. A fiber optic cable will hold many strands and is encapsulated with something called cladding, to reflect the light back down the fiber so that none of the signal is leaked. This also allows the fibers to bend a bit without losing data.

Fiber optic cables can be used for all or part of the Internet’s path to your house or business. The Internet service provider can use fiber optic to the node which means bringing the fiber optic cable to the cabinet, often several miles away. The Internet service provider can also bring the fiber optic cable all the way inside the house, building or even to the desktop. Generally, the closer fiber comes to your house, the better signal you will get.

FTTx shows how much of any given path is made up of fiber as opposed to other materials:

  • FTTP  - Fiber to the premises. Also known as fiber to the home or to the business.
  • FTTB – Fiber to the building, fiber comes all the way to the side of the building or basement.
  • FTTC – Fiber to the curb, fiber comes within 1000 feet of location.
  • FTTN – Fiber to the node, usually more than 1000 feet from location.

One strand of fiber can carry more than one channel. Each channel travels on a different wavelength of light. The bandwidth of one strand of fiber can be divided into up to 160 different channels. Research into fiber optic is still being carried out and breakthroughs are always happening, pushing the technology ahead.

Over 99% of Internet traffic is carried by fiber optic cables but what is important, is what they call the “last mile,” that is the stretch of wire that connects your computer to the Internet. If this is not up to speed then your service will not be optimum.

The origin of using glass fibers came from the Swiss physicist Daniel Colladon finding that he could shine light down a water pipe. The first fiber optic cable that could carry phone calls was developed in the 1960s by Corning Glass, who still make fiber optic cables today.

Alexander Graham Bell used light to transmit sound using a beam of light in 1880. He actually made the first wireless telephone transmission between two building. It wasn’t until advances in laser and optical fiber occurred that communication using beams of light became feasible.

The first commercial use of fiber optic cables in telephones was in 1977 by General Telephone and Electronics company. The speed at that time was limited to 6Mbs. Today fiber optic cables can handle download speeds of one petabit per second. That is fast. For frame of reference, a petabit is 1000 terabits. A terabit is 1000 gigabits. A gigbit is 1000 megabits. Of course you aren’t going to get those kind of speeds in your house, they are just the speeds that can get while they are testing them in the labs. The average speed for Internet in the United States for 2017 was a measly 18.7 Mbps .