At cities the phone lines have deteriorated because they are old, cable companies may have constantly deteriorating service and 4G services may be overencumbered. On the back country cable and phone lines may be too long to provide good ADSL and 4G services may be too far.
In these two extremes people have really good idea why they might want fiber connections. But especially in Finland there are lots of conurbation where both phone lines and 4G work just fine.
Say you live on such area where both 4G and copper works. Why should you upgrade on fiber?
In Finland we are going to slowly roll behind on internet connection speeds. Considering that internet speeds may and likely reflect on the general well-being of people it is worrying. I want you to believe that I seek for the general well-being with this post although I just want a neat fiber connection for myself. That is not a reason why you should upgrade but it is an explanation why I wrote this post.
It is finally the time to do so
G.652 / OS2, low water peak single mode fiber. Packaged in modern cable coats that were developed around copper cables. It is not the last evolutionary step that fiber cables take. But look at the video "How It's Made, Fiber Optics." below:
When you saw that glass core called 'preform' in that video. You should understand one thing about that molten piece of glass. The method used to create a preform is called "modified chemical vapor deposition".
In MCVD they deposit and fuse chemicals layer by layer onto a glass tube while the whole thing is under fire and rotating on a lathe. The traveling flame under the tube causes the chemicals to react and the tube collapses into pure form of silica.
Ordinary glass windows aren't very transparent when stacked due to impurities in the glass. The optical glass manufactured for producing optical fibers is extremely pure in other hand. It is so pure that a light signal travelling in the medium loses less than half of the signal strength as it travels 15 kilometers through the fiber.
The materials mixed are phosphorous silicon and germanium, and probably couple others. Especially the PSG is common in the computer manufacturing industry. It's reasonable to believe the processing of these materials is near or as good as it gets.
I'm not buying either myself that this is as far as it can go. But you and I have to acknowledge that this is pretty far.
- These cables can live for longer than 30 years in the terrain after they've been installed.
- Most undersea cables and existing fiber-to-the-home installations are single mode fiber now. This causes the technology to proceed under the terms of currently deployed cables for a long while.
- The hardware in the ends of the cables will keep upgrading, ensuring the fiber lines will be capable to step up in the bandwidth when the current 1Gbps and 10Gbps speeds become insufficient.
At any point in time when something is deployed something could quickly come and replace it. Before you argue that you don't upgrade now because you're waiting for a next generation of fiber cabling or a magical Tbps internet-messaging pony consider that:
- Even with the current cabling you will get Tbps connection rates some day. It's not a dead-end cabling solution like a twisted-pair copper line was.
- Even if better fiber cable comes to supersede the currently deployed fiber, it will take decades before the hardware is going to require the new form of fiber for technical reasons.
POTS wires are not enough?
So why the existing telephone lines cannot support more bandwidth than they provide now? This is something I asked myself. I have not obtained satisfactory answer. But I got something.
First thing is the range and signal attenuation. This is equivalent to how far do you hear when someone yells on the another end?
You remember that I told signal strength halves on fiber optic cable over 15Km? This means that if you have a fiber cable of 15Km and you push in 10Watt signal, you will see a signal worth 5Watts from the another end.
Basically you need a good enough laser and a receiver that can tell there's a signal. The current power budget in fiber-to-the-home systems is measured in 25dB. This means that the receiving end can recognize the signal even if it was 1/300th of the input. This gives you a theoretical range of 60 kilometers. Please note that you lose couple kilometers because the connectors in between heavily eat into the power budget. 30km ranges at FTTH installs are perfectly possible although rare.
Next comes the bandwidth. I don't know how short light pulses you can grab and receive, but I understand it's related to the frequency, bandwidth and the noise.
There's not just one frequency of light you can transmit with a single fiber optic cable. It's common to transmit several different light bands through a single cable. The current technology uses relatively narrow bands of what are available to it. It already gives you 1Gbps to 10Gbps bandwidths in both directions.
Also, if the cable is undamaged, the only light that receivers see originate from the transmitters. Meaning the only noise in the connection originates from known sources.
Now how does copper compare here? Well it also has theoretically unlimited bandwidth. But there are few things that make it a dead-end technology.
The problem is that any copper cable can both transmit and receive radio signals. All the noise from the other things are heard in the cable, including power lines. It's not a clean communication line. It's more like an ocean. Your signal in the cable gets blended into all the other signals it receives on the path.
This is a problem you really face when designing any electronic equipment. For example, a stepper motor can chatter so much that it causes an unrelated switch to signal that it's pressed down although it isn't.
This wouldn't be necessarily bad, but say you chatter in the end of the twisted pair cable, how long until the signal has halved?
About 400 meters. Also remember that noise? It means that when the signal strength goes below certain tresshold it will be just an another drop in the communications ocean that can be heard in the cable.
Also you cannot put in a too strong signal because more power you put in more electromagnetic noise you produce yourself!
It's been said that 5 kilometers and your ADSL line barely does 1Mbps. There's variations to this rule though. If your line is good it can do 7Mbps over 5 kilometers like it does here at my home.
Remember the connector-loss budget mentioned above btw? Copper lines are governed by similar rules. The perceived attenuation depends on how many times the phone line has been spliced and cut as well.
This is btw. also a problem with Cat 6A cabling. If you happen to mishandle or do the installation wrong then they won't reach the nominated transfer rates. Twist or otherwise mishandle those cables a bit and you turn your 1Gbps line to 10Mbps line. It's been believed that only 40% of cat 6A installations reach the specified data transfer rates.
4G and the wirelessocalypse
Radio communication is basically electromagnetic radiation. It has ironically turned out to be better communication medium than the old twister pair copper cables.
But the problem is that you share the bandwidth of 4G with your neighbour and pretty much everything else. It can handle lots of abuse but eventually these systems simply don't have enough capacity to serve everyone in your neighbourhood even if your neighbourhood was small.
The radio bandwidths are extremely regulated because there would be chaos if they weren't. The current hardware is already limited by the regulations and existing use of radio as broadcasting device. But the whole air around us is a precious resource.
Eventually (in 3 to 10 years), the neighbourhood needs more bandwidth than what these radio towers can deliver. There will be simply too many devices and too much communication in a dense area. Would you like to wait until then or upgrade your network before that happens?
If you hate being corded even at home, remember you can also get yourself a near-field WiFi that delivers 300Mbps to the handhelds you keep at your home. Having fiber coming to the house doesn't mean that you would have to connect a cable to everything that connects to the network.
"But it's still going to get cheaper!"
There's a truth that some of the hardware related to fiber infrastructure has been getting cheaper and keeps getting cheaper.
But the fiber cable itself isn't going to get much cheaper than it is. Actually the install costs are five to ten times more than the cost of the optical fiber cable. Some of this is going to improve over time but there's still the same plain old work required to install the cable that is going to cost the most.
Also the crew installing these things need a training. The cables and tools aren't exactly safe even if there's no high voltages involved. Your best bet to lower the costs are to start hobby groups around the subject of fiber networking so that the knowledge about cabling gets common. But otherwise there are costs associated to deploying fiber lines that simply won't lower because they are determined by the labor and skills required during installation.
Waiting may not be a bad idea though
I don't think it's going to change much whether you're upgrading to fiber in a year or in 5 years. I'm also sure you're not going to need it. Fiber optic cable is just completely a plain luxury -product.
You can avoid it just like you can avoid phone lines, water toilets or power grids. I'm also sure it'll be romantic, a bit like dining in candlelight!
Just like defecating into bushes, cooking with open fire and hunting with bows.