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Tag Archive: fiber optic network

  1. When Optical Fiber Arrives

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    Using optical fiber networks, people can access and share information at an amazing level. They can communicate, work and learn from virtually anywhere there’s an Internet connection. For people in rural communities that lack wireless or broadband services, their ability to obtain information is clearly unequal. Even getting a signal for a cellphone or laptop can mean driving miles to a more populated area. Life is much easier with an available high-speed optical fiber network.

     

    Leveling the Playing Field

    Implementing optical fiber helps to “level the playing field” by providing more equal access to information and opportunities for rural residents. In reality, optical fiber and wireless services can transform rural communities.

     

    When optical fiber arrives, one obvious plus is being able to access a cell signal from home. That wireless service requires optical fiber, which acts as the nervous system of a network. Fiber to the Tower and Fiber to the Building lay the actual groundwork for wireless communications including LTE and 4G, and soon to come 5G. The benefits of this connectivity can be seen in three distinct areas as follows.

     

    Rural Healthcare

    Digital revolution through high-speed optical fiber Internet helps medical facilities provide better treatment for patients in rural areas in a number of ways, including:

    • Physicians can search files, consult with specialists and use remote diagnostics and alternative healthcare delivery methods;
    • Healthcare professionals may use connected devices to directly monitor and care for patients;
    • Patients practice “self-care” by accessing health-related information on the Internet.

    Education

    Teachers need optical fiber connectivity for video lectures and e-learning that can be widely shared. Students also need access to home Internet to complete homework and expand their learning. Colleges and universities require high-speed optical fiber Internet access to stay competitive and ensure their degree programs stay relevant.

     

    Growth in Rural Communities

    With 25% of rural residents lacking Internet access, fiber optic infrastructure build-outs are still needed. More people move into rural areas when they can maintain their standard of living. When optical fiber connectivity is optimal, existing or new businesses can reach and attract highly-qualified employees no matter where they live.

     

    In rural areas where high-speed Internet is available, even small businesses and farms can benefit. The Internet of Things (IoT), another product of this digital revolution, makes Smart Farming possible. By applying sensing technologies through Smart Farming, farmers can practice more precise and scientific agriculture that results in increasingly bountiful, high-quality harvests.

  2. Lighting Up Dark Fiber

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    Last month, internet speeds in Jackson, Mississippi, jumped from 1 Gb to 100 Gb. This leap forward is part of the city’s work to light up “dark fiber” in the robust fiber optic network that it owns.

    The Origin of Dark Fiber

    The term “dark fiber” refers to unused or underused fiber optic infrastructure (optical fibers, fiber cables and repeaters). Because it’s expensive to deploy cable (especially under oceans), companies typically install more fiber than they will need. This fact was especially true during the dot.com boom of the 1990s. However, after the bust of the early 2000s, many companies either went bankrupt or merged. The result is that today, in addition to “lit fibers” (fibers currently transmitting data by light), there are many “dark fibers” (unused fibers) within the same networks.


    Cities Lighting UpBecause it’s possible to buy or lease these fibers, some cities and companies see using dark fiber as an appealing way to save money or create a new revenue stream. However, there are other factors to consider because using dark fiber isn’t straightforward. Buying and managing a fiber network takes skills that many organizations simply don’t have. Also, when a group starts selling network bandwidth, it takes on the role of becoming an ISP.

    And on top of this, success isn’t always guaranteed. Take the example of California’s Santa Monica CityNet. In 2014, CityNet became the first 100 gigabit municipal network in the country. However, in its efforts to lease dark fiber, CityNet has signed up less than 2 percent of the business market since 2006. It has also collected only about $2.1 million in revenue over that time.

    Other Uses

    At least for now, dark fiber still has staying power. One factor driving its use is cloud computing which requires greater bandwidth. However, dark fiber could face greater competition as cities get “smarter” and 5G wireless communications roll out.

    Ironically, dark fiber’s strength may come through uses besides connectivity. At the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Dr. Jonathan Ajo-Franklin is using dark fiber to measure seismic signals. Dr. Ajo-Franklin’s team gained permission to access a section of a dark fiber network between Sacramento and Calusa, California. During a seven-month experiment, the team collected about 300 terabytes of data. Ultimately, they found that the same dark fiber installed for communications was also useful in making distributed measurements. These measurements included seismic wave fields, temperature, strain and vibrations that can affect infrastructure (such as the number of cars on a road). In other words, an unused fiber installed for a telecom network might also be used in sensing.

    What’s more, by using dark fiber, the team saved a substantial amount of money by replacing a critical, huge array of thousands of individual point sensors with an existing, installed fiber optic cable.