What Is a Fiber-Optic Cable?

Ryan Bennion

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Most people have heard of fiber optics but may not understand how they relate to a home Internet arrangement. In simplest terms, fiber-optic cables, like copper or telephone wires, make up networks that allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to deliver Internet connectivity to their customers. But fiber-optic lines aren’t exactly like their copper competitors — read on to learn more about how fiber-optic cables work and what sets them apart.

What Is a Fiber-Optic Cable?

Fiber-optic cables — sometimes just called fiber cables — are hair-thin lines of optically pure glass or plastic that are used to deliver TV, Internet, and voice services to residential and business customers all across the U.S. Unlike other cable types, fiber-optic cables transmit data as pulses of light, greatly increasing connection speed and distance capacities.

Each individual fiber-optic cable is made up of a few different components. First, there’s the core — an ultra-pure glass tube that readily transmits data in the form of light beams. The core is surrounded by a thicker coating of glass or plastic called the cladding, which helps contain and direct the light down the cable. Those internal components are then surrounded by various types of strengthening materials — anything from plastic to Kevlar — to add a bit of durability. Finally, the fiber-optic cable is covered in a colored outer jacket to hold everything together.

Are There Different Types of Fiber-Optic Cables?

There are two separate kinds of fiber-optic cable — single-mode and multi-mode — and each type has a specific use. Most residential fiber Internet subscriptions use single-mode optical fibers, whereas internal business networks are often configured with multi-mode optical fibers.

Single-mode fibers have smaller cores, and while that smaller transmission space does limit the number of data streams that can travel through the fiber, it also allows light pulses to travel farther without losing speed or quality. That increased distance capacity is what leads most fiber ISPs to use single-mode fibers to carry data to subscribers’ homes.

Multi-mode fibers, on the other hand, have larger cores that allow them to carry multiple streams of light data at once. However, because the cores are larger, the light streams have a tendency to disperse more quickly than they would in single-mode fibers. As a result, multi-mode fibers are usually used for short-distance internal networking setups on business or school campuses.

Do I Need Fiber-Optic Cables for My Internet Connection?

The type of cable you need for Internet services will depend on the Internet plan you sign up for. It is possible to receive DSL Internet over phone lines or cable Internet over coaxial cables, but those other Internet types aren’t necessarily the fastest on the market. If you want truly fast and reliable Internet delivered via fiber-optic cables, you’ll want to sign up for a fiber-optic Internet plan.

To determine whether you should opt for a fiber Internet plan, you’ll want to assess your overall data usage. If you stream a lot of video, use several home automation devices, or do a decent amount of online gaming, fiber-optic Internet may be the best service for you, as it offers some of the highest speeds currently available. In the event that you’re unsure about your normal data usage, use a bandwidth calculator to determine whether your speed needs are high enough to merit investing in a fiber Internet connection.

What Are the Benefits of Fiber-Optic Internet?

Because fiber-optic cables transmit data as light pulses, fiber Internet can carry a lot of information over a short amount of time. That bandwidth capacity makes fiber-optic plans very appealing to users with high bandwidth needs.

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Fiber-optic cables also provide some nice security benefits. While no connection is completely invulnerable to hacking, fiber lines are often harder to infiltrate than other connection types. Additionally, because data is transmitted as light instead of electricity, there’s a significantly lower risk of electric shock or fire, and environmental electrical interference is less likely to affect the connection.

What Are the Drawbacks of Fiber-Optic Internet?

Arguably the largest drawback to fiber Internet is the cost — because fiber-optic infrastructures aren’t as prevalent as telephone lines, it takes a big investment for an ISP to build out a fiber network. Those prohibitive costs have somewhat limited market competition, so fiber plans are often a bit more expensive than other service types.

Another impact of fiber networking expenses is the limited availability. Many subscribers who want fiber Internet may not yet have the option. However, thanks to efforts by the federal government, fiber-optic networks will likely reach a much greater percentage of U.S. households in the coming years.

Does CenturyLink Use Fiber-Optic Technology?

As a leader in Internet technology, CenturyLink offers great fiber-optic packages at affordable prices. CenturyLink’s fiber network also reaches across several states, with further expansion announced on a regular basis.

Additionally, CenturyLink offers several bundled services, giving fiber Internet users access to discounted fiber TV and voice plans in select areas.

Ultimately, fiber-optic cables provide a reliable infrastructure for fiber Internet plans, which give consumers access to speedy and consistent connections. If you’re ready for faster Internet, call 855-640-4510 for more information on CenturyLink® High-Speed Internet offerings in your area.

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