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What Do The 60s And Fiber Optics Have In Common; All About Fiber Optics

Fiber Optic Internet, The Soup

Fiber Optics and InternetIn addition to peace signs and the VW bug, the 60’s era was a culture of psychedelic color.  Although Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon wasn’t released until 1973, we still identify with the prism on the album cover as a 1960’s icon. The colors were cool to look at, but our transistor radios and rotary dial phones couldn’t quite take advantage of those light spectrums yet. That prism of light is one of the few things our era has in common with the 60s.  Who knew we’d essentially be talking about that same light prism over 40 years later?

Fast forward to today and that light prism is more relevant than ever. Even though some of us might not know it, the essence of Fiber Optics “IS” that very same prism. We’re now able to harness the power of light, creating spectrums that transmit the bits and bytes we use for communication. Fiber is now an undeniable, tangible necessity of life that defines our era. The era of the Internet. Since 1998, LightBound has provided fiber and fiber-based solutions. In fact, the genesis of LightBound is “light”, so we know a thing or two about it.

If you’d like to speak more geek, then read on. We’ll wade through some terminology and go from groovy to LOL.

Visible Spectrum

Terms you might hear:

  • SMF – Single Mode Fiber
  • MMF – Multimode Fiber
  • 100BaseT – 100 Megabits per second, twisted-pair cable
  • 1000BaseT – 1000Megabits per second, twisted-pair cable
  • 10GbE – 10 Gigabit Ethernet
  • BER – Bit error rate
  • CLEC – Competitive local exchange carrier
  • CWDM – Coarse wavelength division multiplexing
  • DWDM – Dense wavelength division multiplexing
  • FTTB – Fiber to the business or building
  • FTTC – Fiber to the curb or customer
  • FTTP – Fiber to the pedestal
  • FTTx – Fiber to the user
  • LC – Optical connector
  • SC – non-optical connector
  • GBIC – Gigabit interface converter
  • SFP Module – Small form factor pluggable Gigabit interface converter (GBIC)
  • PING – Packet InterNet Groper
  • SFF – Small Form Factor
  • SONET – Synchronous optical network

Single Mode vs. Multimode fiber - Which should I use?

The answer is – it depends. Multimode is most commonly used for short distances (under 550 Meters). For those of us born in the US, or weren’t able to grasp it in school, that’s about 600 yards or 6 football fields. It depends, because of the physical fiber you buy and the network equipment you use to “light” the fiber. Single Mode fiber will run 5-10Km depending on the cable and the equipment you use. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s about 3-6 miles. Suffice it to say that any fiber outside your premise or building is going to be single mode, while multimode can be used as inside wiring. That being said, many datacenters as well as building owners use single mode fiber for both, maybe with the exception of rack to rack configuration between devices within a datacenter or LAN. In terms of color, Multimode is frequently aqua and extends Multimode 10Gb to 400m. The older orange cable is only good for 10Gb at limited distance. There are several types (OM1 through OM4). OM! And OM2 are Orange jumpers. OM3 and OM4 are the aqua jumpers. Single mode cables are typically yellow is typically single mode and orange is multimode.

Fiber Optic Connectors


Connector configurations are different for each use case, but suffice it to say that you’ll most often be working with an LC or SC connectors for the fiber coming into your facility (and possibly from the demarc to your LAN (otherwise known as the demarc extension). The LC connectors offer smaller form factors and are most commonly used. The devices that service providers install at your premise will likely give you the ability to plug your equipment in via RJ45, which is the industry standard Ethernet jack that everyone knows. The actual Ethernet cabling can be purchased in any color, but your users will know it’s Ethernet because it’s likely all they’ve ever used in most cases. As for you, the IT professional, you’ll need to study up on wiring/cabling or have your trusted ISP like LightBound walk you through it.


Also called point of demarcation (POD), or demarc, it is the physical point at which the public network of a telecommunications company (i.e., a phone or cable company) ends and the private network of a customer begins - this is usually where the cable physically enters a building. One caveat, the demarc may be in the basement of a building or at the curb of a street, so please check with your provider. For business customers, your service provider may or may not be responsible for extending the demarc to your office suite. In other words, you may be responsible for the “demarc extension.” Depending on the distance and effort involved, this can add significant time and cost in obtaining service.

BER - Bit Error Rate

Once you have fiber installed, and if you sense a problem, you may want to do some testing. Like everything else in IT, it can be complex and costly if you’re doing it or the first time. There is equipment available to test connections from end-to-end, but the equipment is costly and it takes a qualified engineer to implement the test and interpret the results. Suffice it to say that the BER is the percentage of bits that have errors relative to the total number of bits received in transmission, usually expressed as a ten to a negative power. Something in the 10 -6   to 10 -13 range. (-13 being better).


The main difference between the two is the distance, cost, and capacity. CWDM is typically used for lower bandwidth and shorter distances than DWDM. DWDM technologies can carry significantly more capacity and are used for longer distances, primarily because the narrow-range light frequencies can be amplified.  With DWDM, precision lasers are needed to keep the channels on target, which is why DWDM technologies are more expensive. The theoretical maximum distance for CWDM is about 160Km, or 100 miles, as you might guess, it depends on several factors including fiber type, where the devices are placed, and type of transceivers used.

If you would like to learn how to harness the light spectrum for your business, let us know. The key with any discussion, before getting wrapped up in the details and acronyms, is to discuss your specific use case. Once we know the what and why, we can recommend the best solution.


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