Return of Fiber Good News for Components Biz

Despite the benefits of fiber optic networking, widespread implementation of the technology hasn't occurred as quickly as many expected. Fiber optics have been adopted by the telecom industry in long-haul applications, but wide market adoption in additional market segments has stumbled, due primarily to expense.

However, demand for more and faster data access is spurring a renewed interest in fiber optics, according to several reports. A December article in The Wall Street Journal notes:

    Data-heavy devices like Apple's iPhone and iPad have put growing strain on cellular networks, particularly the connections between cell towers and land-based networks, where bottlenecks often form.

    Meanwhile, Web video services, such as those offered by Netflix, and so-called cloud computing, in which data are stored off site and accessed via the Internet, are placing a premium on fast connections.

    While there is a still an abundance of the long-haul fiber that connects cities to one another, there is an increasing demand to replace slower copper cables with faster fiber in much of the “last mile” of the Internet—the direct connections to users.

Costs associated with the required electro-optic conversion process, together with connectors that require skilled technicians to successfully terminate, have discouraged broad market conversion to fiber, according to a recent report by connector market research firm Bishop & Associates.

However, as the market begins to reach system requirements for 10+ Gbit/s channels, fiber is again gaining attention as a viable alternative. High-performance copper cable assembles suffer as length increases. Precision passive cable assemblies can improve performance, but they add cost and are available from only a limited supplier base. Active copper cables with integrated signaling-conditioning features improve high-speed and distance characteristics but also add more cost as well as consume power. Fiber optic links are beginning to approach cost parity with copper in many applications.

In addition to a variety of standard fiber optic connector types, manufacturers have introduced new products that provide system designers more options than ever before, reports Bishop. Small form-factor pluggable modules including SFP+ and QSFP+ enable the choice of copper or fiber I/O at any point from initial installation to future upgrades, without modifying the equipment. Active optical cables mate with standard copper connectors on the I/O panel but convert the signal to optical for transmission via fiber. The expanding universe of fiber optic components is providing increased design flexibility to new as well as upgraded equipment.

In the connector market, multimode fiber optic connectors hold the largest share of the market at 28.4 percent, Bishop reports, followed by singlemode at 21.8 percent. Other connector categories include SFF, multi-fiber, SFF pluggable, high-reliability connectors, fiber optic contacts, and adapters/couplers.

Market researcher Strategy Analytics reports that the increased uptake of tunable lasers supporting high-speed networks will also drive component makers towards profitability, with further photonic integration for all-optical networks holding promise for the future. The market for optoelectronic components (transmission lasers, pump lasers, and photo-detectors) is projected by Strategy Analytics to reach $3.88 billion through 2013.

In the greater Boston area where I live, {complink 5926|Verizon Communications Inc.} has been making a big push for FiOS by offering discounted rates in return for a two-year agreement. Our reluctance to switch hasn't been about the technology, but more about the bundles of service Verizon offers compared with local competitor {complink 1220|Comcast Corp.}. We use both for various services, but it soon will make sense to consolidate our services under a single vendor. I'll let you know about our experience with fiber if we switch.

4 comments on “Return of Fiber Good News for Components Biz

  1. AnalyzeThis
    January 7, 2011

    Although we've been talking about the “last mile” problem for years, it's clear that service improved steadily the last decade. 10 years ago, even slow cable Internet access was exotic, and now not only is it available to the majority of U.S. issues, but it is higher bandwidth service than it was even 3-4 years ago.

    FiOS still has a ways to go in terms of its availability, but technologies like that will get there in time. And as for the infrastructure to support these connections… well… as you hint at, there's still unused fiber out there in some areas that were originally deployed during the first (or second) dot-com boom.

    That being said, I think it will take longer for fiber to be deployed in the more rural areas of the country: cable had the advantage of already having some of the infrastructure in place thanks to television service and they were able to piggyback on that to some extent.

    Yes, there are tons of challenges that have yet to be solved and even now you still have some less developed of the country slumming it on barely-better-than-dial-up connections. But it's very encouraging to take a look back at the progress we've made over the past ten years: if we can even experience 50% of that boost during the next ten, we'll be in good shape.

  2. DataCrunch
    January 9, 2011

    I think we are just scratching the surface as it relates to data bandwidth requirements for households.  Wait a few years when all our TVs are downloading streaming videos from YouTube, interactive online gaming, smart homes and remote monitoring, web browsing and web feeds, and who knows what else, as well as a plethora of other handheld consumer devices connecting to the same network also consuming volumes of data.    In the future will fiber optics still be a good alternative for high quality broadband to meet our demands?  Time will tell.

  3. Parser
    January 10, 2011

    Any new technology or homecoming of the old one is very appreciable in the poor economy. Optical fiber is, as you pointed out, an excellent example. Cox Communication, a cable TV provider, has an optical fiber across USA. They offer all services and the end user may not know about it because it is switched to copper wire just before it enters a house or apartment complex. The push of internet movie rentals, Amazon, iTunes and Netflix with HD content are pushing the networks to the limits. Then of course come cell towers internet providers. The comeback of the optical fiber is certainly a good news for business and for the unemployed. 


  4. Mydesign
    January 10, 2011

         You are very right Dave, we are scratching only the peripheral areas, As the technology advanced very much, now a day’s everything becomes online and hence the need of bandwidth also increasing. Optical fiber network can be an alternate solution for the bandwidth requirements.

         Optical fibers are widely used in communications, which permits transmission of signals over longer distances at a higher bandwidth than any other forms of communication medium. Fibers are used because signals can travel along them with less loss and they are very immune to electromagnetic interference. Fibers are also used for illumination and are wrapped in bundles, so that they can be used to carry images, thus allowing viewing in tight spaces. Optical fiber can be used as a medium for telecommunication and networking because it is very flexible and can be bundled as cables. It is especially advantageous for long-distance communications, because light propagates through the fiber with little attenuation compared to cables. Each fiber can carry many independent channels, each with a different wavelength of light.

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