Fibre optic cabling is pretty much everywhere nowadays. It’s behind the scenes – literally in cases of television and movie production – in your car, if it’s relatively new, in your home technology and of course under the roads and pavements supplying much of the data most devices need to function these days.
Despite some of the current advertising hoo-ha, fibre optics are not the ultra-futuristic technology they once were. Nowadays, they are much closer to the status quo, with most applications that rely on large data transfer and space sensitive cabling solutions now using the technology. Traditional wiring is becoming less and less viable, particularly where streaming movies, on-demand television content, ever richer social media experiences and vast online gaming platforms are concerned.
As a result, fibre optics now lurk in all but the simplest areas of modern communications technology; their scintillating shard aesthetic hidden from view as they carry out much of the mundane digital tasks they were far too valuable for twenty years ago. Actually, fibre optic cabling doesn’t look anywhere near as glamorous as you might have been led to believe; the stuff you see on Christmas trees is for decoration purposes and wouldn’t be suitable for cabling at all. When lumped together to provide enough throughput for purpose and clad in rubber insulation, fibre optics look much like any other practical cabling solution.
It’s not even the case that fibre optics are particularly expensive anymore. When they were first developed, affordability and efficiency were key attributes that the industry were already looking for in the next generation of cabling. They knew that fibre optics would be refined into a cost-effective option in due course and once again it was the advertisers and marketing industry that vaunted them as an ultra-sophisticated (read very expensive) future technology that only the very well healed early adopters would be able to afford. The rest of us would have to be grateful for the tiny amount passed down in the most cutting edge and high value consumer products of the time.
So, what makes fibre optic cabling so much better than copper for the transfer of data? Well, much of it is down to the distances data has to travel. Our need to communicate at a faster and more intensive rate with the rest of the world requires that we have an infrastructure that can carry data over huge distances and without a loss of signal definition. Fibre optics can carry lossless data 100 times further than copper cabling and the amount of data that can be carried is currently 1000 times that of its predecessor.
Fibre optics are set to continue their domination of the data transfer arena and with the need for faster data and more intensive mobile applications only increasing, we’re going to be living with our own personal strands of binary bearing glass tucked away in our pockets, living rooms, offices and cars for years to come.