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An optical fiber (or fiber) is a glass or plastic fiber designed to guide light along its length. Fiber optics is the overlap of applied science and engineering concerned with the design and application of optical fibers. Optical fibers are widely used in fiber-optic communication, which permits transmission over longer distances and at higher data rates than other forms of communications. Fibers are used instead of metal wires because signals travel along them with less loss, and they are immune to electromagnetic interference. Optical fibers are also used to form sensors, and in a variety of other applications.
Over short distances, such as networking within a building, fiber saves space in cable ducts because a single fiber can carry much more data than a single electrical cable. Fiber is also immune to electrical interference, which prevents cross-talk between signals in different cables and pickup of environmental noise. Also, wiretapping is more difficult compared to electrical connections, and there are concentric dual core fibers that are said to be tap-proof. Because they are non-electrical, fiber cables can bridge very high electrical potential differences and can be used in environments where explosive fumes are present, without danger of ignition.
Although fibers can be made out of transparent plastic, glass, or a combination of the two, the fibers used in long-distance telecommunications applications are always glass, because of the lower optical attenuation. Both multi-mode and single-mode fibers are used in communications, with multi-mode fiber used mostly for short distances (up to 500 m), and single-mode fiber used for longer distance links. Because of the tighter tolerances required to couple light into and between single-mode fibers (core diameter about 10 micrometers), single-mode transmitters, receivers, amplifiers and other components are generally more expensive than multi-mode components.
Optical Fiber is used by many telecommunications companies to transmit telephone signals, Internet communication, and cable television signals. Due to much lower attenuation and interference, optical fiber has large advantages over existing copper wire in long-distance and high-demand applications. However, infrastructure development within cities was relatively difficult and time-consuming, and fiber-optic systems were complex and expensive to install and operate. Due to these difficulties, fiber-optic communication systems have primarily been installed in long-distance applications, where they can be used to their full transmission capacity, offsetting the increased cost. Since the year 2000, the prices for fiber-optic communications have dropped considerably. The price for rolling out fiber to the home has currently become more cost-effective than that of rolling out a copper based network.
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