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Everything you need to know about fiber optic internet

Fiber optics is a technology that guarantees fast and reliable internet. Everything you need to know about fiber optics can be read here.

Everything about fiber optic (header)

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We are making increasing demands on connectivity and the internet, both privately and professionally. Modern technologies such as cloud computing, IoT, and big data require high bandwidth - high availability of internet services - and networks that grow organically with the needs of businesses. Fiber optics can be the perfect solution for people and organizations looking for fast and reliable internet. Everyone has heard of the technology, even if they don’t have a fiber-optic connection yet. In this article, we explain exactly what fiber optics is and how the technology works in practice. We also discuss the different types of fiber optics and briefly highlight the benefits of this technology. Finally, we show how organizations can achieve high-quality fiber-optic connections.


What is fiber optic?

An optical fiber is a wafer-thin fiber that is only 125 to 250 microns thick (approximately 0.125 to 0.25 millimeters and is thus barely thicker than a human hair). Unlike traditional copper internet cables, the fiber consists of two types of glass: a very thin core and a slightly thicker cladding. The two types of glass are fused together and, despite their minimal thickness, form an ironclad whole. The foundation for fiber-optic cable was laid back in the 1960s. In 1961, Elias Snitzer and Will Hicks noticed that dust particles in the open air impeded the passage of light. They then figured out that the best carrier for light would be a glass cable. The first usable fiber-optic cable was developed in 1970. Today, fiber optic technology is a lot more sophisticated, advanced, and powerful than the pioneers of the time could ever imagine.

Would you like to know the difference between fiber optic, cable and (A)DSL? You can read this and more in our article 'The difference between (A)DSL, cable, and fiber optic: what are your organization’s needs?'.

How does it work?

The technology uses laser light to transmit digital information over the cable. The laser light acts as a carrier wave for digital data transport. Its bandwidth is determined by the optical transmitting and receiving equipment that is used. Light travels at lightning speed (much faster than electricity) and can effortlessly cover large distances without losing speed. The tiny cables are surrounded by optical material, so hardly any light, and therefore data, escapes before the signal reaches the receiver. So you can send data at incredible speeds. The technology behind fiber optics is very similar to Morse code. The data (video or audio files, emails, photos, text files, tables, spreadsheets) is converted into flashing light signals, just like Morse code signals transmit a message. The faster the fiber optic lasers flash, the faster the data is transferred.

Read more about the speed of fiber optic internet and the technology that makes this possible.

Fiber optic technology

The different types of optical fibers

Optical fibers are available in several different types. Want to get the most out of fiber optics? Then it’s important to know the purposes for which you want to use fiber optics and which type is best suited for that purpose. Do you want to transfer data over relatively short or really long distances? And how fast should the data be transferred? Does it have to be in real time and within just a few seconds, or does near real time and a somewhat wider time window also suffice? Within the fiber-optic arsenal, we distinguish between two main groups: single-mode and multimode.

1. Single-mode fiber

Single-mode fiber is a fiber optic variant specifically tailored for data transmission over longer distances (up to about 40 km). Single-mode fiber has a tiny core diameter (5 to 10 microns) and transmits data over only one light beam. The maximum transfer rate is about one terabyte (as much as 1000 GB) per second. Signal transmission occurs at a wavelength of 1310 and/or 1550 nanometers. 

Single-mode optical fibers can be divided into two types: OS1 and OS2. OS1 is tightly buffered, while OS2 has a loose-tube design. OS1 is now considered obsolete and rarely used, mainly because OS2 is superior to its predecessor in terms of speed, attenuation, and distance.

2. Multimode fiber

You can also opt for multimode optical fiber. This type of fiber-optic cable is ideal for transmitting digital signals over short distances (up to about 1100 meters). The transfer rate is slightly lower than single-mode fiber. However, the core diameter is larger (50-63 microns), so a multimode fiber provides a higher bandwidth than a single-mode fiber. This allows you to send more data simultaneously. Multimode fibers carry signals at wavelengths of 850 and/or 1300 nanometers. 

Multimode optical fibers can be divided into five categories: O1 through O5. The higher numbers (O4 and O5) are more advanced than the lower ones (O1 through O3). They can transmit more data simultaneously over slightly greater distances at the same speed.

The speed of a fiber-optic connection

Internet over optical fiber is faster than any other connection. Optical fiber is already many times faster than the fastest copper connection (xDSL) and has the potential to become even faster. In test situations, speed records are constantly being broken. A staggering speed of 53.3 terabytes per second (53,300 GB/s) was achieved in a test environment in 2017, a figure that has since risen to 319 terabytes per second. 

We don’t see these dizzying speeds yet in the “real world,” but decent progress is being made nonetheless. For example, the American space agency NASA, a pre-eminent high-tech organization, has to make do with “only” 400 GB per second. The fastest fiber-optic connections for private individuals can be found in parts of the US and Japan. These can handle about 10 GB per second.

In Belgium, 1 GB per second is pretty much the private ceiling, but most fiber-optic connections and subscriptions do not exceed 500 MB per second. Business internet via optical fiber is already available in Belgium at speeds of 10 GB per second. Tech experts expect fiber-optic connections for businesses and private individuals to rapidly gain speed outside of the test labs.

Benefits fiber optics

The five main benefits of fiber optic internet

Opting for fiber optics yields several benefits. We already mentioned speed, but that is certainly not the only attractive feature of fiber optics. Optical fiber also offers the highest level of reliability — a great thing at a time when both businesses and consumers can no longer do without the internet. Short-term downtime is primarily a nuisance for many private individuals (although continuous internet availability is becoming increasingly important now that we all work from home more), but it can be costly for businesses and self-employed persons. Downtime costs entrepreneurs and businesses customers and revenue.

The advantage of optical fiber is its robustness and reliability. The technology is not susceptible to corrosion, lightning strikes, or radio frequencies, so it works pretty much all the time. Even the internet activities of your neighbors or colleagues do not affect the performance of fiber optics.

In addition to speed and reliability, optical fiber has five main benefits.

  1. Huge bandwidth, allowing you to use several services, applications and devices simultaneously side by side.
  2. Upload and download speeds are synchronous. You can send and receive data equally fast.
  3. With copper connections, the signal weakens considerably the further you are from the local switch. With fiber optics, this problem hardly exists.
  4. Do you send a lot of large files and real-time data? And do you make a lot of video and voice calls? If so, then latency (delay in data transmission) is a problem that’s often encountered with traditional internet connections. Due to the high transfer rate and bandwidth, this is not an issue with fiber optics.
  5. Optical fiber is well suited for cloud computing thanks to its ability to process and transmit large chunks of data quickly.

Want to know even more about the benefits of fiber optics? Then take a look at this page, which discusses this aspect of fiber optics in even more detail.

The disadvantages of fiber optic internet

One of the few disadvantages of optical fiber is that the technology is not yet available everywhere. Unlike for DSL, many homes and business properties do not yet have a fiber-optic connection in the neighborhood. Installing it can also take a considerable amount of time. 

Fortunately, fiber optics are now on the rise in Belgium. Optical fiber is already available to over one million people, a number that is still growing rapidly. The number of fiber optic subscriptions purchased is also increasing.

Business fiber optics at Eurofiber

With business fiber optics from Eurofiber, you will have access to fast, flexible, and reliable fiber-optic connections via an open network. Our fiber-optic cables are laid in sheathing tubes (ducts) under the ground. This provides your connections with extra protection from disruption and excavation damage. All critical components in the quality network are duplicated (redundant). For active equipment, we use data centers with the highest level of availability. Eurofiber’s quality network is redundant: fiber-optic cables run along different, physically separate routes. The digital registration of our fiber-optic network provides insight into exactly how connections run.

Eurofiber’s fiber-optic network extends over nearly 66.700 kilometers and accommodates over 12,000 locations spread across Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. Moreover, because it is an open network, you decide entirely which services and service providers you prefer to use. Do you want even more speed and reliability? With Managed Dark Fiber, you get a fully underground, private connection between multiple locations. The fiber-optic cables are welded together underground, leading to benefits such as:

  • lower attenuation than above-ground patching 
  • often shorter and more efficient routes
  • even lower interference sensitivity
  • optimal security

Curious about the possibilities? Do the fiber check!

Optical fiber has an edge over conventional internet connections in terms of performance, speed, and reliability. Would you like to learn about fiber optics and discover for yourself the peculiarities and advantages of this technology? Several Belgian municipalities are already very advanced in building and implementing high-quality fiber-optic connections.

Are you curious about the possibilities of business fiber optics at your location? Then click on the button below and do our Business Fiber Optics Check. You will immediately see if we can provide business fiber optics at your location. The check is entirely obligation-free. After the assessment, you can leave your company details and we can connect your location at favorable rates. Want to know more? Call us on +31 (0)30 242 8700 or send an email to