Fiber Optic Cabling For Beginners By Brandon Michael

Everyone knows that a structured cabling system is the foundation of every business network, providing connectivity between servers, computers, and other network devices and allowing both voice and data to be sent worldwide. When it comes to data cabling, there are different mediums available to carry that data, transferring it from point A to point B.

Traditionally, twisted pair copper cable has been and is still currently used as the most common form of structured data cabling, transmitting data through copper wires. As technology continues to advance however, and the demand for faster, more advanced methods of networking grows, fiber optic cabling is quickly on its way to becoming the next generation standard in data cabling.

Benefits of fiber optic cabling include:

Longer distances - Signals carried through fiber optic cable can go up to 50 times longer than those using copper wires due to low attenuation (signal loss) rates, without requiring a signal repeater to maintain the integrity of the signal over long distances as copper wire cables do.

Intrusion prevention - With copper wire cable systems, it is possible to remotely detect a signal being broadcast over the cable, which can present unwanted security loopholes. This is not an issue with fiber optic cable as its dielectric nature makes remote detection impossible, and gaining access to the fiber itself would require a physical intervention that would be easily thwarted by a well placed surveillance system.

Installation improvements - Longer lengths, smaller diameter, and lighter weight of fiber optic cable make installation and upgrades easy and less costly than with copper cables.

Higher bandwidth and data transfer rates - With wider bandwidth, more data is able to be transferred at a much faster speed. This allows for shorter download times and increased network efficiency.

EMI Immunity - Fiber optic cables can be installed in areas with high Electromagnetic Interference (EMI), as the absence of metallic wiring makes the cable completely immune to EMI.

Depending on your specific data cabling requirements, there are two different types of fiber optic cable available to meet your needs:

Multi-Mode fiber - Multi-mode fiber has a large core diameter, where light may be broadcast through multiple paths on its way to its destination. This gives multi-mode fiber high transmission capacity, but only retaining reliability over short distances generally less than 8 miles, limited by modal dispersion.

Single-Mode fiber - Single-mode fiber has a much smaller core diameter than multi-mode, allowing only one path for light to be broadcast through. Single-mode is used for long distance transmission, well exceeding the limits of multi-mode, and is not limited by modal dispersion.

Different environments also require different types of cabling systems to ensure the fiber stays in good condition. Depending on where you are installing the cable, there are two basic types of fiber cabling systems that can be used:

Inside plant - Inside plant fiber cabling systems are designed for use inside a building where they generally have no contact with environmental variables. In a typical fiber inside plant cable system, individually coated fibers are positioned around a dielectric strength member core, and then surrounded by a subunit jacket. Aramid yarn(Kevlar) surrounds the individual subunits within the cable, reinforcing tensile strength.

Some inside plant fiber cabling systems have an outer strength member as well, meant to provide protection to the entire cable. For inside plant installation, fiber ribbon-cable systems are also frequently used. Ribbon cables have a flat ribbon-like configuration that allows installers to conserve conduit space as they install more cables in a particular conduit.

Outside plant - When installing fiber optic cable either outside or underground, an outside plant fiber optic cabling system is used. Outside plant fiber cabling systems are composed of individual gel-filled subunit buffer tubes which are placed around a central core strength member. Within each subunit buffer tube, buffer coated fibers are placed around a strength member.

A binder that contains a water-blocking compound encloses all of the subunit buffer tubes, which is then enclosed by an outer strength member usually composed of aramid yarn. Corrugated steel is used to provide physical protection and acts as an external strength member, placed between an inner MDPE jacket and an outer HDPE jacket.

So now that you have a general understanding of the different types of fiber optic cable, you can decide which specific devices are appropriate for your particular installation. For example, say you are having a fiber optic system installed to be run for more than 375 feet through a warehouse. This length is too long for a copper wire cable system to carry data, but multi-mode fiber can handle it easily. An indoor plant installation would be suitable for this situation, since the cable is being run indoors with no environmental variables to worry about.

In order to interface your new fiber optic system with an existing Ethernet system, you will either need to use a dedicated switch or media converter, or a switch with GBIC (gigabit interface converter) modules. This will convert electric signals to optical signals, and vice versa, allowing the seamless flow of data through both of the cable mediums.

Next, it is important to decide which method of protection you are going to use for the fiber optic cable. The two available options are: running the fiber through an innerduct to house and protect the fiber, or using armored fiber which has built in protection. Both are good methods of protection.

Pre-Installation Checklist: What you need to know

[] Installing fiber through innerduct, or is armored fiber a better way to go?
[] How far is the fiber cable being run; multi-mode or single-mode?
[] Which method of converting the two cable systems will be used so they may communicate?
[] Is this an indoor installation, outdoor installation, or both?

With any investment, it is important to know that you are getting the best value for your money. Low system cost, combined with a longer life expectancy than copper cabling makes fiber optic cabling the best value hands down when it comes to structured cabling. Fiber optic cabling offers a structured cabling system that is designed to accommodate future applications and technological advancements, making fiber optic cabling the "cabling of the future".

If you plan on installing a data cabling system that you want to last as long as possible and have unmatched performance, fiber optic cabling is the way to go. California has seen a rapid increase in businesses opting for fiber optic cabling over copper wire cabling. This has proven to be especially true in San Diego fiber optic cabling installations. For more information on the increase in fiber optic cabling in San Diego, there are multiple resources accessible online.

Xetra Networks Inc. is a San Diego Low Voltage and General Building contractor that designs and installs telecom solutions. We specialize in voice cabling, data cabling, fiber optic cabling, VOIP, wireless, computer rooms, server rooms, and surveillance systems in San Diego, as well as the entire southern California Region. Contact Xetra Networks today at Xetra Networks for a free consultation and estimate and let us be your friend in all of your IT solution needs.

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