Benefits of Fiber Optic Communication

Mention fiber optics and some will recall companies like AT&T and Verizon and Google pulling the plug on some well-publicized efforts to expand fiber optic networks. Even so, it appears that the fiber optic industry is not going away. There are even signs it may be in the ascendant.

Forbes Magazine seems to think the future of fiber optics is bright, writing in its April 2018 issue that "it's the cleanest and fastest wide-area network available, and it can offer the highest capacity of any production network connection."

Fiber optic networks have long been considered the premium choice for delivering a huge amount of data. That said, the expansion of fiber optic technology faces some challenges.

What Is Fiber Optic Technology?

Fiber optic lines consist of strands of glass or other transparent materials in a protective sheath. The lines transmit light signals rather than electric impulses, and have been installed in local area networking (LAN) and to connect the internet for a number of year.

The technology, which was developed in the 1970s, is well integrated into the global network, but was not widely used. Most internet connection in the U.S. has been by means of copper wire that was laid down for telephone lines. However, copper has some limitations for delivering high-speed internet.

Despite its ability to deliver lots of data, the high cost of installing fiber optic line has kept the technology from becoming more widely spread; however, costs are coming down. What's more, fiber optic networks are already widely in use in Europe and Asia, where internet speeds are generally much faster than the U.S.

The Challenge of Fiber Optics

Fiber optics has not been used much for wide-area networking (WAN) until recent times, with most companies connecting to the internet by means of T1s, coax or DSL, each of which has its limitations. Fiber optic solves some of the problems posed by the other technologies for WAN architecture, despite its high installation costs.

Fiber optic does have some other challenges. If you were going to lay a "dark fiber" network from coast to coast, you couldn't just stretch a fiber cable; every 40-60 miles, you'd have to re-amplify the connection in what's known as an in-line amplification shelter (ILA). These ILAs create security for electronics and give the power needed so the fiber stays active -- and again, these are not inexpensive. Logistically, bringing fiber into a new area can be challenging.

What's more, laying fiber cable is complex. A fiber optic company has to gain rights of way, and plan for time-consuming trenching and building. It so happens that you sometimes see fiber optic providers serving as benefactors for a project, opting to finance trenching for, say, a corporate complex, so they can gain some business -- but this doesn't happen that often.

Thus, fiber optics may not be for every company, but its use is growing. For those whose business is already "lit," it may be a good option, in addition to wireless. Globally, fiber optic networks are being expanded, and that will happen in this country as well.

Careers in Fiber Optic Technology

So what does all this mean for those considering careers in the fiber optic industry? As the industry expands, so will opportunities for skilled installers, technicians, and systems designers.

Technicians - Fiber optic technicians typically install, troubleshoot, repair, and maintain telecommunication cables. Duties might include inspection and testing of cable equipment, identifying malfunctions, and laying cable lines. Technicians need knowledge of different cable systems, including different fibers, connectors, and splices.

Installers - Generally those certified as fiber optic installers may also be involved in installing copper and wireless technology in building networks. Installers also need skills in troubleshooting voice and data outlets at work stations, for cabling pathways and spaces, and knowledge of various types of cabling,

System Designers - System designers create standard-compliant, cost-effective networks, establishing requirements and specifications for proper performance and reliable operation. A successful designer will learn skills involving network configurations and protocols, optical cabling, fiber count determination, industry communications standards, hardware selection, cable system testing and documentation, and splicing/termination methods.

Often aspiring cable/fiber optic technicians start out by entering an apprenticeship program, with classroom instruction and on-the job training. Usually the requirement to enter such a program is a high-school diploma. Participants can usually earn various certifications either during the apprenticeship or upon completion.

Certifications may be available from fiber optic trade organizations, community colleges, or trade school programs.

At Infotec, we provide instructor-led training that can lead to certifications in the fiber optic industry in these roles: fiber optics installer, military fiber optics installation professional, data cabling installer, fiber optics technician, and fiber optics designer. Contact Infotec today and learn how you can obtain certifications that can further your business in this dynamic industry.

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