|Fiber optic transmission systems – a fiber optic transmitter and receiver, connected by fiber optic cable – offer a wide range of benefits not offered by traditional copper wire or coaxial cable. These include:
1. The ability to carry much more information and deliver it with greater fidelity than either copper wire or coaxial cable.
2. Fiber optic cable can support much higher data rates, and at greater distances, than coaxial cable, making it ideal for transmission of serial digital data.
3. The fiber is totally immune to virtually all kinds of interference, including lightning, and will not conduct electricity. It can therefore come in direct contact with high voltage electrical equipment and power lines. It will also not create ground loops of any kind.
4. As the basic fiber is made of glass, it will not corrode and is unaffected by most chemicals. It can be buried directly in most kinds of soil or exposed to most corrosive atmospheres in chemical plants without significant concern.
5. Since the only carrier in the fiber is light, there is no possibility of a spark from a broken fiber. Even in the most explosive of atmospheres, there is no fire hazard, and no danger of electrical shock to personnel repairing broken fibers.
6. Fiber optic cables are virtually unaffected by outdoor atmospheric conditions, allowing them to be lashed directly to telephone poles or existing electrical cables without concern for extraneous signal pickup.
7. A fiber optic cable, even one that contains many fibers, is usually much smaller and lighter in weight than a wire or coaxial cable with similar information carrying capacity. It is easier to handle and install, and uses less duct space. (It can frequently be installed without ducts.)
8. Fiber optic cable is ideal for secure communications systems because it is very difficult to tap but very easy to monitor. In addition, there is absolutely no electrical radiation from a fiber.
How are fiber optic cables able to provide all of these advantages? This guide will provide an overview of fiber optic technology – with sections devoted to each of the three system components – transmitters, receivers, and the fiber cable itself. An appreciation of the underlying technology will provide a useful framework for understanding the reasons behind its many benefits.