Behind the Communications Jargon

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We here from corporations and scientists all the time about how this technology or that will revolutionize our lives, bring us a clearer picture, better sound or uninterrupted service. But have you ever wondered about that science behind the tech talk? For example, Internet service providers wax poetic about the benefits of fiber optics, but what does that really mean, and how does it benefit you, the consumer?

Breaking it Down in Plain Language

Fiber optics are simply cables that are comprised of bundles of almost microscopically thin strands of glass or plastic. They convey coded words, sounds and images via a beam of light, where the information is presented in a decoded form to recipients on the other end of the fiber optic network. Each fiber in the cable is capable of transmitting the contents of 25,000 phone calls, so you can imagine the capability of an entire network.

Transforming sound and images into electronic pulses and back again is nothing new; it’s the concept that all modern communications is based on. But, how does light transmit information through glass and still come out the other end intact? If the strands are so thin and fragile, how do they not break?

The basic structure of a fiber optic cable is bundles of thousands of glass or plastic strands that are about one-tenth the size of a human hair are bound together to form a core and encased in a thicker sheath of glass called a cladding. This cladding keeps the light beams from escaping as they bounce down the cable by virtue of a mirror-like reflection that causes the beams to rebound back and forth inside of the cladding as they move forward, kind of like a child in a water slide. The result is a method of extreme high-volume data transmission that’s faster and more efficient.

Types of Fiber Optic Cables

For communications purposes, there are two types of fiber optic cable. Single mode fiber optics are up to 10 microns in diameter and transmit data in a straight line over distances of up to 60 miles from the source. This is the most common mode for your cable, Internet and fixed phone line. Mulit-mode fiber optics are 10 times the size of single mode cables. They contain three or more bundles, and they use color coding to send different data through a specific bundle to recipients over a short distance, usually an in-office computer network,.

Verizon FiOS is one example of how communications providers are using the latest technology to provide better, more reliable service to their customers. You can learn more about how this technology will benefit you by talking to your local service provide.