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Fiber Optics For Wireless

[Connecticut - Forbes]


- Overview

Fiber optic networks are a type of high-speed wireline network offering improved speed, security and bandwidth over legacy copper systems. Fiber optic technology has long been used in long-haul networks due to its high performance over long distances -- fiber can travel as far as 40 miles without losing signal strength.

Now fiber is increasingly being used in metro and access networks instead of copper. And because copper can only carry a gigabit signal about 300 feet, many businesses choose to continue the fiber connection all the way to their premises - called a fiber to the premises (FTTP) configuration - to avoid losing signal strength. In essence, fiber optic networks are limited only by the technology used to transmit and receive signals.

In an ideal world, every phone, smart sensor and mobile device could be directly connected to the fiber backbone - but that would limit the mobility of the devices. That’s where 5G wireless network technology comes in. 5G networks will essentially be designed to bridge the short distance between a mobile device (as in 5G mobile services) or business (as in 5G fixed broadband) and the fiber backbone.

Recently, we’ve been reaching the limits of current wireless network technology (4G LTE). Average mobile data usage has inched up steadily every month, mobile traffic is set to quadruple, and a user’s bandwidth is expected to grow nearly 50% every year according to Nielsen’s Law of Internet Bandwidth. A new solution is needed to keep up with these bandwidth and speed needs, and 5G (and beyond) may be the answer.


- Optical Wireless Communications

Fiber-optic cable systems convert packets of data -- images, text, video, emails -- into a stream of light. The light travels through the cable from sender to the receiver, which converts it back into its original form. Wireless communication converts the data it transmits into electromagnetic waves for broadcasting.

In theory, a wireless network can transmit data at the same speed as optical fiber. In practice, fiber-optics attain higher maximum speeds. This is particularly true when networks become congested, as all users of wireless networks share the same bandwidth. The more users at any one time, the more congested and slower the wireless network becomes. Optical fiber is capable of much faster speeds than current networks provide. If the company upgrades its other equipment, fiber-optic cables can send faster messages.

Wireless signals degrade with distance. The further away the user is from the broadcast station, the weaker the signal. Fiber-optic wires can convey a clear signal much farther. A user at any point gets the same signal as someone many miles down the line. Wireless communication, however, can reach users who are so isolated or rural that it's prohibitively expensive to run cables out to them.

Optical wireless is the combined use of "optical" (optical fibre) and "wireless" (radio frequency) communication to provide telecommunication to clusters of end points which are geographically distant. The high capacity optical fibre is used to span the longest distances, and a lower cost wireless link carries the signal for the last mile to nearby users. 

Fiber is often said to be "future-proof" because the data rate of the connection is usually limited by the terminal equipment rather than the fiber, permitting substantial speed improvements by equipment upgrades before the fiber itself must be upgraded. Still, the type and length of employed fibers chosen, e.g. multimode vs. single-mode, are critical for applicability for future connections of over 1 Gbit/s.


- Types of Wireless Systems

Wireless communication is not entirely wireless. The easiest way to understand wireless is to think of it as a link that replaces the cable that connects your cellular or wireless phone to the phone system or the patchcord that connects your computer or other portable Internet device to the network. 

To understand wireless, it is necessary to look at several different and unique types of wireless systems, including cellular wireless phones, wireless in premises cabling, municipal or private wireless links and even some of the short distance links used for computer peripheral connections. 


- Fiber To The X (FTTH, FTTC, FTTW, Etc.)

Fiber to the X or fiber in the loop is a generic term for any broadband network architecture using optical fiber to provide all or part of the local loop used for last mile telecommunications. 

For example, today's users of mobile devices depend on wireless connections for their voice, data and even video communications. Even homes and businesses may depend on wireless, especially those who are not in urban or suburban areas served by FTTH (fiber to the home) or FTTC (fiber to the curb.) Some of us in the business now use the term FTTW for fiber to wireless, since wireless depends on fiber for the communications backbone and increasingly the connection to the wireless antennas, no matter what kinds of wireless we use. 



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