Compared to copper cabling, fiber optic cabling is a relatively new technology considered to have enormous potential for future applications. In fiber optic cabling, light transmissions are channeled through glass fibers measuring barely the width of a hair. Using high speed LASER or LED light, data or voice information is transmitted through the fiber digitally.
This creates a highly focused beam of light that is cycled on and off at very high speeds. Computers (or related equipment) at the transmitting end convert this data or voice into bits of information. The information is then sent through the fiber by the presence– or lack– of light. Computers on the receiving end then translate the light pulses back into data or voice.
This modern concept was actually the idea of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, who theorized that voice could be transmitted by pulses of light. Unfortunately, the technology for making this a reality did not come until much later. Most of the advances for fiber optic cabling came about in the 1970s, when glass-purifying and other fiber-optic manufacturing techniques were developed. Fiber optic cabling went on to be used more heavily over the next twenty years– especially as the internet became more prevalent in the 1990’s.
The light in fiber optic cabling is prevented from escaping by what is referred to as total internal reflection. This process describes what takes place when a light ray travels through a medium with an Index of Refraction higher than that of the medium surrounding it. In this type of cabling, the fiber core has a higher refractive index than the material around the core. The light hitting that material is reflected back into the core where it then continues to travel down the fiber.
A single fiber optic cable can have the capacity to transmit large amounts of data consistently and is mostly immune to most kinds of interference. With the ability to do so much more with so much less, it is no wonder fiber optic cabling is the preferred medium of the telecommunications industry.