How fiber optics can provide growth and cost savings for your business Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2010

You know your business needs a fast, reliable system in order to keep up with the highly technological, ever-changing world of business. But the latest and greatest systems and programs are useless if you don’t have the bandwidth to support them.

To that end, if you’re still using a copper-based service, it’s probably time to look into fiber optics, which use light over glass to transfer data. Made of a very thin thread of glass surrounded in layers of protective coatings, fiber optics provide a much larger amount of bandwidth at longer distances than can copper.

“There are two types of fiber: single-mode, which is for long-distance transmission, typically used for businesses with multiple locations, and multimode, which is for shorter distances, typically used in the same building,” says Dave Elsbernd, a sales engineer for Time Warner Cable Business Class.

Smart Business spoke with Elsbernd about fiber optics and how they can help your business save — and make —more money.

What are the benefits of fiber?

Fiber provides many benefits over traditional copper services. Fiber optics are more scalable than traditional copper services.

There are no limitations to the amount of bandwidth you can transmit over fiber; it is only limited to the type of optics, or laser, that is transmitting the light on the fiber. Typical optics today transmit at one gigabit per second (Gbps) and 10 Gbps, and as technology advances, those speeds will certainly increase.

Fiber optics can be used for a variety of networking protocols other than traditional Ethernet services, such as SONET, which is used for TDM services and Fiber Channel, which is used for storage networking.

Also, because fiber optics cables are made of glass, they are less susceptible than metal cables to interference, and they are much thinner and lighter than metal wires. Data can be transmitted digitally rather than analogically.

Fiber also offers great scalability and reliability. Businesses are able to increase the bandwidth of the fiber without replacing the fiber itself. You would typically only need to replace the optics that transmit the signal on the fiber.

You can also implement a Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) solution over fiber optics to increase the capacity of the fiber. WDM is a technology that allows different frequencies to be transmitted over the fiber at the same time.

What exactly is Wavelength Division Multiplexing?

Wavelength Division Multiplexing is a technology that combines optical signals, called wavelengths, on a single fiber. WDM uses a multiplexer to combine signals being transmitted over the fiber and a demultiplexer to separate the wavelengths on the receiving end. There are two different types of WDM, dense and coarse wavelength division multiplexing.

Each type uses a different pattern to space the wavelengths, which determines how many channels you can use on the fiber.

Dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) is a technology that puts data from different sources together on an optical fiber, with each signal carried at the same time on its own separate light wavelength. Using DWDM, more than 80 separate wavelengths or channels of data can be multiplexed into a light stream and transmitted on a single optical fiber.

Coarse wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM) is a method of combining multiple signals on laser beams at various wavelengths for transmission along fiber optic cables. The number of channels is fewer than in DWDM.

If a company wants to implement fiber, how does it get started?

If a company wants to implement fiber, it should first evaluate its needs. What, exactly, do you need to do? Consolidate storage? Save on costs? Streamline user accessibility? Add backup or restore capabilities? Speed up access to information? All of the above?

Then you need to determine if your needs justify the cost of fiber. If the answer is yes, where is the fiber needed? Same building? Remote locations?

If the installation of the fiber is not in the same room or building, a specialist will likely need to be called in to give the company an estimate of running and splicing the fiber optic cable.

Are there any drawbacks to fiber?

Implementing fiber optics is typically more expensive than traditional copper wire solutions. Not only is the cost of the cable itself more expensive, it has to be fusion spliced, that is the method of connecting fibers together using heat, which is more expensive than connecting copper wires.

That being said, the technical benefits of fiber optics more than justify the cost. Once you have fiber optics in place, you will be technically set to grow your network as your business needs without the cost of replacing existing wires.

Dave Elsbernd is a sales engineer for Time Warner Cable Business Class. Reach him at or david.elsbernd@twcable.com or (513) 386-5544.