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Fiber optics are the newest arrival on the broadband internet scene. With its impressive network performance, fiber internet is a popular choice for businesses, power users, telecommuters, families with many web-connected devices, and online gamers. But what makes fiber-optic internet so different from other types of internet service?

Anatomy of a fiber-optic cable

Each fiber-optic cable is actually a bundle of many thin fiberglass (or plastic) strands. Fiber strands are made up of three main parts:

  • The core | The center, which transmits light
  • The cladding | Casing around the fiber, which reflects light back towards the core as it travels
  • The buffer coating | A protective plastic coating that prevents the fibers from getting wet or being damaged

How does fiber-optic internet work?

Fiber optics transmit data via pulses of light coded with data. The process isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

First, a transmitter produces the light signal, turning the light on and off in a specific order to encode it with data. Then the coded light waves travel down fiber-optic cables. The cables’ cladding keeps the light contained by constantly reflecting it back toward the center as it travels. Finally, on the receiving end, an optical receiver decodes the light signals and converts them back into electrical signals that computers and other web-connected devices can read.

Short version: fiber-optic internet works something like two computers communicating via light-based Morse Code!

Why fiber optics are superior

Cable internet providers transmit data via radio waves. Utilizing light waves instead gives fiber-optic internet several advantages over more traditional internet technology.

Fiber optics are:

  • Faster | Fiber optics aren’t subject to the same level of signal loss that copper wires are. While other providers’ signals can weaken considerably with distance, fiber-optic internet signals maintain signal strength — and thus internet speed — over greater distances.
  • High capacity | Because light waves operate at higher frequencies than radio waves, fiber-optic cables have a higher capacity than copper wires. This capacity equates to more bandwidth per cable — which means each fiber cable can accommodate more data simultaneously, with minimal loss of speed. For this reason, fiber internet is a popular choice for households with many devices or many users.
  • Low-interference | Fiber-optic signals don’t interfere with signals in nearby cables, resulting in crystal-clear phone service and a reliably clear TV signal. On the other hand, cable wires transmit data via electrical signals, which can interfere with transmission of other signals.

Fiber optic internet, TV, and phone services boast several advantages over other varieties of service. Fiber’s speed, reliability, and overall quality make it a great option for anyone, from telecommuters to power users and large households.