How Does Fiber Optic Cabling Work?
Fiber optic cabling is used in communications to transmit data. Simply put, small pulses of light carry signals along the fibers. Chances are, you rely on these signals to talk on the phone, watch cable TV, or read this article on the Internet.
The glass strands used to make a fiber optic cable are barely thicker than a strand of human hair. A cable may contain one or hundreds of individual strands. The core, or center, of the glass strand is the pathway along which those pulses of light carry their messages. This core is surrounded by a layer of glass that reflects that light inward instead of outward. This helps ensure a strong signal, even when the cable twists and turns.
The Types of Fiber Optic Cabling
There are two main types of fiber optic cable:
- Single-mode fiber generates light via laser. Networks that use single-mode fiber typically use a technique called wave division multiplexing (WDM). This allows them to maximize the amount of “traffic” or data that the strand can carry.
- Multi-mode fiber generates light via LED. It is most often used for shorter distance communications. Typically, you find this type of fiber in a single building, a campus, or possibly in a small office park or shopping center. The care is larger than in single-mode, which limits the length of transmission but allows multiple light modes.
Many manufacturers use color coding on the jacket to distinguish single- and multi-mode fiber optics.
What Are the Advantages of Using Fiber Optics?
Fiber optics have three distinct advantages over wired cabling.
- Fewer signal boosters: With fiber cables, light travels much farther before it begins losing strength and needs a signal boost.
- Higher capacity: Compared to wired cable of a similar diameter, fiber optics have a much greater bandwidth. Ratings of 10 Gbps, 40 Gbps, and 100 Gbps are common with fiber cables, with newer technology putting that number in the terabytes per second range.
- Less interference: Fiber optics aren’t as susceptible to electromagnetic interference, which presents a problem for wired cables.
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How Much Does Fiber Optics Cost?
Costs vary widely according to where the fiber optics are installed and the purpose. The where encompasses both the specific install – under roadways, in a building, etc. – and basic geographical location, since labor costs vary widely depending on where you are. You may see fiber optic cable costs by the linear foot or the mile. Much also depends on the number of strands and whether the cable is single- or multi-mode.
- The cost per linear foot ranges between $1 and $6 including installation.
- 12-strand single-mode fiber optic costs between $8,500 and $10,000 per mile.
- 24-strand single-mode fiber optic costs between $2 and $3 per linear foot.
- 72-strand single-mode fiber optic costs between $10,000 and $12,000 per mile.
- 96-strand single-mode fiber optic costs between $2 and $4 per linear foot.
- 96-strand single-mode fiber optic costs between $20,000 and $30,000 per mile.
There is an additional charge for the conduit. Expect to pay between $2 and $4 per linear foot of conduit. For historical costs, check the United States Department of Transportation. You’ll find a wide array of projects. However, remember that these are bids for government projects and so are priced accordingly. In addition, the majority of items listed are for projects over a decade old.
Additional Fiber Optic Cabling Cost Considerations
A number of factors influence cost, including:
- Building size
- Distance between the building and the closest fiber line (this may be the biggest cost factor, if the distance is considerable)
- Existing conduits (the more there are, the lower your costs will be, assuming they have room for additional fiber)
- Physical obstacles between the building and the fiber, such as public roadways
- Space in the telco room or closet
- Existing power capability to ensure adequate power supply
- Available pathways the fiber can run into the building
What Does Installing Fiber Optic Cable Include?
A variety of factors go into determining install costs for fiber optic cabling, starting with labor. With most projects, labor accounts for at least half of your costs.
Next is materials. This includes the number of cables as well as the length. But also conduit, connectors, drops, and more. Closely related is the cost of machinery. Whether you lease or buy, this is a necessary expense for both underground and aerial installation.
There are also permit costs, inspections, mobilizing contractors, and the design.