Innovative Technology

Optical Fiber Communications Technology

 

 

       

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Going Wireless

 


I. Brief Explanation of Optical Fiber Communication Technology and Its Current Market

Fiber optics: the branch of optical technology that deals with the transmission of light or images across short or long distances, through transparent fibers.

A fiber-optic system is similar to the copper wire system that fiber-optics is replacing. The difference is that fiber-optics use light pulses to transmit information down fiber lines instead of using electronic pulses to transmit information down copper lines. At one end of the system is a transmitter. This is the place of origin for information coming on to fiber-optic lines. The transmitter accepts coded electronic pulse information coming from copper wire. It then processes and translates that information into equivalently coded light pulses. A light-emitting diode (LED) or an injection-laser diode (ILD) can be used for generating the light pulses. Using a lens, the light pulses are funneled into the fiber-optic medium where they transmit themselves down the line.

. SPEED: fiber optic networks operate at high speeds - up into the gigabits
. BANDWIDTH: large carrying capacity
. DISTANCE: signals can be transmitted further without needing to be "refreshed" or strengthened.
. RESISTANCE: greater resistance to electromagnetic noise such as radios, motors or other nearby cables.
. MAINTENANCE: fFiber optic cables costs much less to maintain.

The use of fiber-optics was generally not available until 1970 when Corning Glass Works (now Corning Optical Fiber) was able to produce a fiber with a loss of 20 dB/km. It was recognized that optical fiber would be feasible for telecommunication transmission only if glass could be developed so pure that attenuation would be 20dB/km or less. Today's optical fiber attenuation ranges from 0.5dB/km to 1000dB/km depending on the optical fiber used. To learn more about the fiber optics, please visit http://www.infoweblinks.com/content/fiberoptics.htm.

Optical fibers form the backbone of the global telecommunication system. These remarkable strands of glass - each thinner than a human hair, yet stronger, length for length, than steel - were designed to carry the vast amounts of data that can be transmitted via a relatively new form of light - tightly focused laser beams. Together, lasers and optical fibers have dramatically increased the capacity of the international telephone system. With equally striking improvements in computing, the new communication technology has fueled the exponential growth of the phenomenon known as the Internet.

Customers ( Market)

The applications of optical fiber communications have increased at a rapid rate since the first commercial installation of a fiber-optic system in 1977. Today's telephone companies use optical fiber throughout their systems as the backbone architecture and as the long-distance connection between city phone systems. Cable television companies have also started integrating fiber-optics into their cable systems. The trunk lines that connect central offices have generally been replaced with optical fiber. Local Area Networks (LAN) is a collective group of computers, or computer systems, connected to each other allowing for shared program software or data bases. Colleges, universities, office buildings, and industrial plants all make use of optical fiber within their LAN systems. Power companies are an emerging group that has begun to utilize fiber-optics in their communication systems. Most power utilities already have fiber-optic communication systems in use for monitoring their power grid systems.

Companies

Among all the large and small optical fiber companies in the USA, here are the companies that I am interested in.

Corning Optical Fiber - fiber manufacturer.

Avanex, JDS Uniphase, and MRV Communications - optical fiber communication component companies.

Cisco System, Alcatel, Nortel, Ciena, and Lucent Technologies - optical fiber equipment companies.

Costs

One of the initial economic factors to consider when converting to fiber-optics is the cost of replacing wire systems with fiber. Increased demand for optical fiber has brought the prices down within competitive range of copper. However, since transmitters, converters, optical repeaters, and a variety of connecting hardware will be needed, the initial cost of changing over to fiber can be expensive. In the short term it is often less expensive to continue using copper cabling for covering expanded communication needs. By simply adding more wire to an existing system, expanded needs can be covered. This avoids the expense of adding the transmitters and receivers needed for integrating optical fiber. In the long term it may be more cost effective to invest in conversion to fiber optics. This cost effectiveness is due to the relative ease of upgrading fiber optics to higher speeds and performance. It has already been seen in the industry as communication providers are wiring customers with optical fiber bandwidth that exceed consumer bandwidth needs. This is in anticipation of future bandwidth needs.

Competitions

Competition is not only between users of fiber optics networks. Recent developments and proposed plans in the satellite industry may have an effect on the use of fiber optics as a transmission medium. The satellite industry is proposing, and building, several systems that they say will provide the telecommunication services needed without the need for laying more fiber lines. Some of these systems include Motorola's Iridium system, Loral Space and Communications Globalstar system, Direct Broadcast Satellite systems like DirecTV , and Bill Gates and Craig McCaw's proposed Teledesic system. Satellites also have an advantage over fiber in that they can provide mobile access to telecommunications services. They can provide a level of global ubiquity that is not possible with fiber optics, or with terrestrial cellular. Satellite services could potentially serve rural and undeveloped communities that may never see a fiber optic line come through the part of the world.

II.  Have the products "Cross the Chasm" , why or why not?

There are too many optical fiber companies with different products to follow in the USA. My favorite companies were Avanex, JDSU, Ciena, Lucent, and MRV. These companies' old products that I followed already crossed the chasm, and some even died. Some companies opened a branch in China and other countries to seek larger markets, and to cross the chasm there.

However, new products have been increasingly launched, and the new business strategies have been developed. AirFiber announced Nortel had taken a lead role in a $37.5 million equity funding syndicate that also included Qualcomm. Obviously, it was no accident that at about the same time, AirFiber introduced its OptiMesh wireless optical networking product. Things were coming together in the brave new world of wireless optics. The new product is expected to cross the chasm.

I might be wrong, but school (education) networking products are expected to across the chasm as we see MRV has launched a line of the new products for education. MRV's OptiSwitchT product line provides cost effective switching and routing solutions with extremely flexible, scalable configurations.  This ensures an easy-to-deploy environment with no wasted resources - if a classroom needs only a few Ethernet links, then only a few needs to be purchased. 

As broadband service providers (BSPs) scramble to develop a whole host of new data, video and voice services, consumers who had a taste of broadband access realize they want to distribute these broadband capabilities throughout the house. I think home networking is crossing the chasm (of consumer awareness) and is ready for total market acceptance across the board in all demographic areas very rapidly, and the consumers are driving the demand both in the USA and other countries.

Since I stopped following fiber companies for a while, honestly I am not very familiar with the new products now.

III.  Optical Fiber Communication Technology in Education

College and University Campuses
Universities have long been at the forefront of network-technology advances. Today, college campuses are still leading the way towards next generation networks.  Part of this is due to the ever-increasing amount of information to exchange with other researchers. The students' educational process, as well as their quality of life depends on their access to computer technology and the Internet. A high-speed network benefits the whole organization and allows such applications as on-line curricula, Alumni programs, and even course-work over the Internet.

K-12 - Connected Schools
Both public and private schools are starting to understand the need for advanced communications networks within the classroom.  Many new capabilities are available with a communications infrastructure.  Teachers, who constantly face the challenge of providing new and exciting material to their students, can use the Internet as a source of content and curriculum ideas.  The students can make use of advances in Web-Based Training, which delivers an effective, individually paced educational environment.  Administrators can take advantage of a connected classroom to improve efficiency by creating electronic grading and classroom organizational tools. 

Distance Education
Fiber optics is capable of carrying much greater bandwidth technologies such as full motion video. These lines can provide two-way videoconferencing, online multimedia, and video programming on demand. Virtual communities of learners and educators are already sharing information resources which are growing exponentially over the Internet and will grow even faster with a more extended international information infrastructure. The shared online public databases form the beginning of a comprehensive worldwide knowledge resource that is becoming available to anyone with access to a network gateway. These new technologies can lead to more empowerment and thus more learner control of instruction for distance education students who have access to them.

IV. Why I Find Optical Fiber Technology Innovative

Based on the above description of the optical fiber technology, it is evident that fiber-optics is an innovative technology for terrestrial transmission of communication information. The bandwidth needs of the information superhighway require a medium, like optical fiber, that can deliver large amounts of information at a fast speed. It will be difficult for copper cable to provide for future bandwidth needs. Considering all the services that the communication industries are announcing to be just around the corner, and a modern society that seems to be expecting them, it is evident that fiber optics will continue to be a major player in the delivery of these services.

Resources

A Fiber-Optic Chronology. Jeff Hecht. Retrieved from http://www.sff.net/people/Jeff.Hecht/Chron.html . May 29, 2005.

A Short History of Fiber Optics. Jeff Hecht. Retrieved from http://www.sff.net/people/Jeff.Hecht/history.html. May 29, 2005.

Optical Fiber Telecommunication. Edited by I. Kaminow and T Li. An Elsevier Science Imprint. 2002.

Fiber Optics Basics . Terry Macy. Retrieved from http://www.tcomschool.ohiou.edu/its_pgs/fiber.html. May 29, 2005.

Campus Network Design Using Fiber Optics  Retrived from http://www.versitron.com/campus_network_design.html. May 29, 2005.

Fiber Optics. Retrieved from http://www.infoweblinks.com/content/fiberoptics.htm. May 29, 2005.

Fiber Optics Information and Technical Forum. Retrieved from http://www.eio.com/fibintro.htm. May 29, 2005.

Corning Optical Fiber Company's Website. http://www.corning.com.

MRV Communications Company's Website. http://www.mrv.com.

AirFiber Website. http://www.airfiber.com.