Fiber Optics Summarized

Before proceeding too far from the beginning of DWDM, it may be appropriate to look at the fiber optic world and its relationship to the demand of the industry. Moreover, the types of fiber in use determine the capacity being delivered today, so a quick review of the variations of fiber may help to define the overall benefits of the multiplexing schemes on the glass.

Fiber has been used in North America since the 1960s. The carriers recognized the limitation of the copper cable they had been installing for years. First, the copper was very expensive. Moreover, it was also highly susceptible to noise and interference (both Radio Frequency Interference [RFI] and Electromagnetic Interference [EMI]). The carriers tried to get more capacity on the wires to make the cable plant more efficient and cost effective. However, modulation techniques left the carriers wanting more. Most of the cabling systems were installed by using some form of analog transmission system. In the late 1950s and into the 1960s, the Bell System developed a digital modulation technique, which could take advantage of the limited bandwidth and capacities of the copper cables.

Radio-based systems were also in heavy use on the carriers' networks. The limited frequencies, radio interference, and line-of-sight demands of radio all led to frustration. As a result, the use of fiber optics became very attractive to the carriers. Fiber is made up of glass, which is an inert material that is unaffected by electromagnetic and RFI. The thickness of the glass is used to determine the throughput and the light capacities in a carrier-based network. Two primary types of fiber were developed over the years to support the communications demands of the network. These two types are multimode fiber and single mode fiber. Multimode fiber is thicker and therefore limited in its bandwidth. Single mode is thinner and purer, so it has greater capacities.

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