What Is Fiber Internet?

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The year was 1953. The Yankees continued their dominance and defeated the Dodgers in the World Series. The Montreal Canadians hoisted their seventh Stanley Cup. Calvin Coolidge was the 30th U.S. President. And an Indian-born physicist named Narinder Singh Kapany was creating a new breakthrough technology he would later call "fiber optics."

Although his invention attracted little attention at the time, Narinder would be recognized by Fortune magazine in their “Businessmen of the Century” issue in 1999.1 What were the origins of fiber optics and what does it mean for us today? Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Fiber Internet

A visionary technology takes shape.

Narinder worked with a partner at Imperial College in London to achieve good image transmission through a large bundle of optical fibers. Although fibers had been used in previous image transmission experiments, Narinder’s fiber bundling technique proved the most successful to date and offers the highest level of image quality to that point. Narinder coined the phrase “fiber optics” in a Scientific American article in 1960. (Fun fact: Narinder Singh Kapany is now referred to as “The Father of Fiber Optics.”2)

Communications “at the speed of light.”

As fiber optic technology continued to progress, it became a natural fit for the mass communications field. In fact, even before the technology existed, inventors such as Thomas Edison envisioned a way to send and receive communications "at the speed of light."

Here is an abbreviated timeline of fiber optics advancements:

1978 – First fiber optics trade show is held in Boston

1980 – Video signals from the Lake Placid Winter Olympics are carried via a fiber optics system

1981 – Canada begins a fiber optic trial in Manitoba homes with coaxial cables

1982 – MCI prepares to connect Washington D.C. and New York City with fiber optics

1986 – English Channel fiber optic cables are laid

1988 – TAT-8 becomes the first operation transatlantic fiber optic cable

1996 – Data is transmitted at the rate of 1 trillion bits per second with fiber optic connections

2006 – Ribbon fiber cable increases fiber core counts in smaller diameter cables

2009 – Bend sensitive cable is introduced

Fiber optics and the high-speed internet.

Today, fiber optics is used in a number of different industries, including industrial, medical, broadcast, communications and military applications. When most people hear the words "fiber optics", they quickly think of one of the types of internet options that many internet service providers (ISPs) offer.

What is fiber optic internet?

It's an internet connection that transfers data fully or partially through fiber optic cables. For internet applications, fiber refers to the thin glass wires inside the larger protective cable. Optics is in reference to the light signals that are used to transfer the data.

What is Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) internet?

It's an internet connection delivered through phone lines but not the ones originally used for dial up cable connections. These phone lines are made of copper wires. While copper cable is an outstanding conductor of signals, data can't travel as fast through DSL internet lines and cable internet as it does through fiber optic lines.

How much faster are fiber optic networks versus DSL?

Fiber optic lines (the diameter of a human hair!) can deliver up to 1 gigabits per second (Gbps) or 1000 megabits per second (Mbps) compared to about 6 Mbps for DSL. While DSL and satellite internet can be a reliable internet source, there is no comparison with fiber optics when it comes to data speed and faster internet speed.

What can I do with all of this fiber optic internet speed?

The real question is, what can't you do? Fiber network internet speed allows you to do things online you love most with minimal or no delays, including:

  • Fast download speeds and upload speeds for videos and music
  • Stream movies, television shows, sports and more
  • Online gaming with multiple players
  • Connect multiple devices to the internet – computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets – and using them all at once
  • Browse the web
  • Send and receive large data emails and messages
  • Download eBooks and audiobooks

Fast facts about fiber internet connections.

  • Fiber uses less energy than other connection types making it green friendly
  • The fastest internet speed registered on a single fiber line is 43 terabits per second (Tbps)
  • Fiber is made from silicon dioxide, the second most abundant element after oxygen
  • Fiber optics use light only which mean little or no electrical signals are transmitted through the cables
  • Fiber continues to evolve, providing almost limitless possibilities for future technologies
Fiber optic internet service transmissions

A look at fiber optic internet service transmissions.

When an internet signal is sent through fiber optic cables, light is transmitted in pulses that carry binary data. This is a coding system that makes up everything we see on the internet. This binary code is made up of "bits" and are organized in 8-bit patterns called "bytes". Confused yet? Hang on. These pulses of light can travel thousands of miles and are boosted through optical amplifiers so that no data is lost along the way.

Once these pulses of light reach their destination, an optical network terminal (ONT) converts the pulses into electrical ethernet. This is where everything begins to become real - meaningful data that can be received, reviewed, read and made sense of. It's an amazing process that takes just milliseconds yet has a huge impact on our everyday lives.

The future of fiber internet.

In 2016 alone, over 3.5 billion people worldwide accessed the internet and nearly 90 percent of U.S. residents consistently use the internet. As usage continues to grow, faster and broader capacity forms of internet transmissions offered by fiber optic internet providers will be critical to internet usage, accessibility and faster speeds.

Technology advancements by new fiber providers in fiber optics and Wi-Fi could make it up to 100 times faster than current speeds. This will continue to have positive impacts on the industry and more importantly, you the internet user.

Broadband internet service is the most used form of internet access because of its high speeds and fiber optics is the fastest form of broadband. The necessity for people around the world to not only enjoy internet access but continue to have the ability to stay connected with the world around them is an important consideration as Internet technologies continue to evolve.

What's on the horizon for fiber optic internet technology? Besides Google fiber here are a few things to watch for:

Pacific Light Cable Network – This ambitious project seems destined to change the way we think about fiber optics and how we use them. The revolutionary initiative connects Los Angeles and Hong Kong with over 8000 miles of fiber cable laid by a submarine. This has resulted in an incredible capacity of 144 tigabits (Tbs) going each way.

Simba - Fiber Optics in Africa – This social media platform is designed to surround the continent of Africa with underwater data cable that will offer access to new markets while minimizing bandwidth expenses. The goal is to also link this internet connection long distances to European and Asian data centers to offer greater internet access to African residents while also directly connecting them with much of the world.

Twisted Light Spirals – This revolutionary concept is based on the idea that twisting the light used to transmit communications through fiber may allow for a “third dimension” in light that would allow it to carry information rather than simply storing it as it does currently. Scientists are comparing this to the double helix spiral of DNA. This may help to greatly increase fiber optic speed in internet networks and set new expectations for internet performance.3

Connect with the future – today.

While fiber optic technology continues to evolve, you can have access to it right now to get the most from your internet connection and internet performance. Altice Fiber is available through Suddenlink and provides up to 1 Gbps of internet service that can’t be matched.

We also offer internet service at 400 Mbps and 100 Mbps capacities. No matter what your internet needs, there is a Suddenlink option for you. It's yet another way your favorite internet provider is connecting you with the future of high-speed internet today.

1 https://www.quora.com/Who-was-the-inventor-of-fiber-optic-Charles-K-Kao-or-Narinder-Singh-Kapany

2 Ibid.

3 https://remee.com/future-fiber-optic-cable

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