What is fibre optic?

We are all familiar with the fibre broadband that many of us use at home to get access to super-fast internet services for browsing the internet, streaming videos and basically for staying connected. In many countries, there are specialised Internet Service Providers (ISP) but many telcos nowadays also offer internet services through fibre broadband. Unlike Mobile Broadband, fibre-optic broadband can be installed in a number of different ways. The installation methods can impact the internet speeds you get. Let’s have a quick look at what fibre optic is and how it operates.

Fibre optic or optical fibre is a highly efficient medium available in the form of a cable used for providing super-fast internet services to customers. Fibre optic cables can achieve data rates in the multiples of terabits per second over long distances. For an internet user, a fibre optic cable can comfortably support data rates of well over 100 Mbps as long as your service provider’s network offers that speed.

So the cable is great but it depends on who is using it and how it is being used. Due to the security and speeds they offer, fibre optic cables are considered far more superior than the traditional cables used for providing internet services.

The fibre optic cable transmits signals as light pulses using thin fibres made of plastic or glass. It basically includes a glass core covered by a glass cladding and the information (data) travels in the form of light pulses within the glass core. The glass cladding, due to its higher refractive index, keeps the light inside the glass core to avoid any ‘losses’.

Installation methods for fibre-optic broadband

When a customer buys fibre broadband services from a service provider, a fibre optic cable is employed in order to take the internet from the service provider’s central office to the location of the customer. Now that’s where things get a little bit tricky depending on where the customer lives and which service provider they are using. There are various installation methods used for providing fibre broadband services to the customers, which are described below. These methods can impact the speeds you get so it is best to check with your provider before choosing your service to make sure that your needs are properly met.

In the UK for example, in many cases, the fibre optic cable is laid till the nearest telephone cabinet (green boxes) or the kerb. The “last mile” or the remainder of the distance is usually covered by either telephone/copper wires or a coaxial cable which plugs into a router or modem located at the customer premises. The router can then allow customers to use Wi-Fi or LAN cable to access the broadband service.

FTTH

FTTH stands for Fibre-to-the-Home and it is one of the installation methods used for proving fibre broadband services. In this installation, as the name suggests, the fibre optic cable runs all the way from the local exchange (of the service provider) to your home. But it is not always the case and depends on the type of building you live in. FTTH is often also referred to as FTTP which is explained below.

FTTP

FTTP stands for Fibre-to-the-Premises and is often considered the same thing as FTTH. As per the definition, the fibre optic cable runs from the local exchange to the customer premises. The premises can be home or business. If you live in an apartment/flat building, the fibre cable may go to the outer wall of the building. Your provider then may use the existing cable infrastructure of your building (e.g. telephone cable) to connect from the outer wall to your modem or router.

FTTC

FTTC stands for Fibre-to-the-Cabinet but you are likely to come across Fibre-to-the-Curb also. It basically means that the fibre cable runs from your service provider’s local exchange or central office to a nearby street cabinet (the green boxes by the kerb usually). From the cabinet, a normal telephone or copper cable then runs to the home or premises of the customer. In the UK, this is the most common form of installation as it uses the existing telephone infrastructure. As you can imagine, due to the introduction of copper/telephone cable towards the end, the speeds do drop depending on the length of the copper/telephone cable being used.

Here are some helpful downloads

Thank you for reading this post, I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. Sometimes, we need some extra support especially when preparing for a new job, or studying a new topic, or maybe just buying a new phone. Whatever you are trying to do, here are some downloads that can help you:

Students & fresh graduates: If you are just starting, the complexity of the cellular industry can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, I have created this FREE ebook so you can familiarise yourself with the basics like 3G, 4G etc. As a next step, check out the latest edition of the same ebook with more details on 4G & 5G networks with diagrams. You can then read Mobile Networks Made Easy which explains the network nodes e.g. BTS, MSC, GGSN etc.

Professionals: If you are an experienced professional but new to mobile communications, it may seem hard to compete with someone who has a decade of experience in the cellular industry. But not everyone who works in this industry is always up to date on the bigger picture and the challenges considering how quickly the industry evolves. The bigger picture comes from experience which is why I’ve carefully put together a few slides to get you started in no time. So if work in sales, marketing, product, project or any other area of business where you need a high-level view, Introduction to Mobile Communications can give you a quick start. Also, here are some templates to help you prepare your own slides on product overview and product roadmap.

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