Optical fiber – Optical fiber is a thin strand of glass used to transmit light from one end to another to send a specific message very fast (at the speed of light). Fiber can be spread across long distances, through which messages can travel at higher bandwidths than through metal (like copper) cables. Fiber experiences less data loss than metal and is also immune to electromagnetic interference.
It used to be that running fiber through a building was an expensive endeavor. Contractors had to purchase the long strands (upwards of 300 feet) and then had to hire a specialized technician to polish and terminate the cables. (If fiber gets dirty, its losses increase. Any exposure of fiber requires it to be polished to be back at peak operating performance.) With advances in fiber optic technologies, cables can now be purchased pre-terminated, eliminating a huge cost for the electrical contractor.
Building controls and electrical contractors used to also shy away from fiber optics because it was too big and inflexible to be pulled for any distance between walls. New cables are so thin and pliable that you can wrap them around a pencil.
Fiber is also considered the most secure conduit, so highly classified locations like military facilities are required to use fiber over metal because spies can’t penetrate light (true story).
- Multi-mode fibers are designed for communication over short distances (short by city standards, so it’s actually good for up to 2,000 feet) and allows for multiple light modes to transmit. Multi-mode fibers are good for connecting LED lighting panels and surface-emitting lasers.
- Single mode fiber only transmits light in one direction, transverse or down the fiber. Single mode fibers experience a lower loss rate over long distances than multi-mode fibers, and they are much smaller.