Optical Transmission in Data Communication (Part 1/2)
There are situations when using fiber optic transmission makes sense and has many unique benefits. Fiber optics are much needed in data centers and also to handle data communication in a range of industries such as automation, aerospace, petrochemical, automotive and utilities. Here are some of the advantages of fiber optic data communication.
Copper is not cheap. In fact, the cost of copper which is used in connectors and cables rises much faster than that of other materials. That is why fiber optic cables, which make use of glass and plastic, are preferred. Glass and plastic are available in plenty and are very cheap to make. Another issue is the deployment of the fiber optics for “last mile” systems. This wasn’t possible in the past because of high costs of fiber optics, but things have changed because of a fall in the cost of production of optical fibers.
Another important thing to be considered is the cost of receivers and transmitters. Electrical line drivers or receivers cost 20 cents for basic devices and 50 cents for USB devices. They cost over $2 for devices that make use of additional circuitry for encoding such as the super fast 100 Mbit/s Ethernet.
There is a misperception that fiber optics are expensive. While this is the case for single-mode fiber optic transceivers; that’s not a fair comparison to make. When you consider fully-connectorized modules that are used alongside the less expensive plastic optical fibers, this comes down to about 25 percent of the price. When you consider this to be a part of the cost of the entire system, this does not really appear to be so costly in comparison to copper wires.
Consumes Less Power
Optical fiber performs better over long distances in comparison to copper wires. The signals suffer from a very low attenuation when they pass through optical fiber. It doesn’t take much power to light up an LED or laser diode that transmits light signals through an optical fiber over long distances. Multi-mode transceivers that make use of LEDs rather than laser diode to transmit visible light for industrial applications are compatible with hard-clad silica (HCS) fiber and plastic optical fiber (POF). These devices work with only 825 mW of power.
Ease of Installation
Optical fibers are much thinner than copper wires. They are capable of carrying a much higher quantum of data in spite of their small size. This means you can bundle more optical fibers into a cable of a certain diameter than is possible with copper wires. Also, since you would be using multiple fiber optic cables instead of just a twisted pair bundle as with copper wires, you don’t have to worry about replacing any of the cables if they were to get damaged or blocked. Other cables can take their place.
You can easily fit the optical fiber into crowded spaces or tiny spaces, in comparison to electrical cables. You can fit them in subway tunnels, through utility pipes, alongside other cables and in other ways as a part of an underground transmission. It is very easy to install fiber optic cables in buildings. You don’t have to drill any large holes through the walls. These cables are far more discrete and you won’t need to install repeaters with them. In comparison, copper wires are very thick, less flexible and consume more space. They are much more difficult to install compared to optical fiber cables.
Furthermore, optical cables don’t weigh much compared to copper wire cables. This makes them suitable for industrial applications such as in automobiles, aircrafts and so on, where any decrease in weight can make a lot of difference to the performance and lead to higher fuel savings and more energy efficiency. Optical fiber cables are small in size, lightweight and very flexible. They are also resistant to corrosion since they have a non-metallic built.