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Fiber optic networks are one of the most widely used frameworks for telecommunications networks worldwide. Broadband networks rely on fiber optics to take advantage of the bandwidth offered by them and enjoy high speeds with a very low delay in signal transmission. Fiber optic networks fulfill the primary requirements of applications in use today, which include extremely high transmission bandwidth and very low latency through the use of light pulses which act as electronic carrier waves for the smooth transfer of information.

Fiber optic technology enables a number of advantages including longer lifespan, high security, information capacity, and reliability. Besides, networks that are set up with fiber optic technology experience lower attenuation and interference. Fiber optic networks are an important research area and it would be a learning experience to opt for electronic projects that further explore the future of fiber optic networks.

Fiber optics has evolved over four generations, from the use of semiconductor lasers to start with, transitioning into wave division multiplexing (WDM) and dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) in the fourth and fifth generation of optical cable technology. Optical fibers are available in the form of step index optical fibers that allows a single light path, multimode step index optical fibers which allow several paths of light and graded index optical fibers for a marked reduction in the dispersion of light.

The future of fiber optics will focus on few key trends in the nature of the signal transferred, hardware technology in use, and bandwidth improvements as discussed below:

  • Intelligent Optical Networks for Dynamic Bandwidth Requirements – Dynamic allocation of bandwidth is a mandatory requirement for most data networks.  However, it is difficult to adapt to the rapid growth of data services through traditional optical networks, which depend on manual network configuration. To address the unpredictability in the nature of bandwidth allocation, intelligent optical networks will be available in future.
  • Advancements in Optical Fiber Material – As opposed to the glass fibers used presently, optical fibers built with polymer promise more advanced signal processing, which can be done with ease and are much less expensive. Polymer fibers offer many more benefits in comparison to wireless communication systems, glass fibers, and copper cables.
  • High Transmission Frequency – Technologies such as Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) will pave way for multi-terabit optical networks, which will offer much higher bandwidths at a reduced cost.
  • Complete Reliance on Optical Medium for Transmission – In future, communication is expected to be completely reliant on the advancements of the optical domain, without the need for electrical signal manipulation. This is in contrast to the present signal processing method, where optical signals are first converted to electrical signals before the processing takes place and the signals proceed to their destination, where they are converted back to optical signals. The advantage of the novel approach which eliminates the conversion of signals from the optical to the electrical domain and vice versa will enable the achievement of high data rates since the delays in networks will be eliminated.

Based on the advancements in the technology, infrastructure, and planning involved in fiber-optic networks, the future will manifest the following influential trends.

  • Optical and Wireless Technology Convergence – Optical technology and wireless technology will go through a convergence and create a significant advantage for users in terms of increased bandwidth capacity. In future, users will be able to receive the signal in wireless mode, and the method will guarantee flexibility and efficiency. Technological advances will enable multi-channel wireless signals over long distances and several switches.
  • Bi-Directional Data Rates – Very high bi-directional data rates and data transmission speeds will be possible for homes and businesses.  Mass manufacturing of components will reduce costs considerably through the use of multi-channel transceivers for data exchange and a significant increase in the transceiver vertical capacity modulation rate.
  • Wavelength Division Multiplexing – Optical communication that takes advantage of the 1.0-micron band is an area of exploration that will open up new channels for communication. Data transmission will take place through wavelength division multiplexing in the optical fiber. During this process, a single optical fiber will be used to multiplex different colors and wavelengths of light for carrying different signals. The 1.0-micron band will enable congestion free information transmission.
  • Exploration of the Terahertz Band – The terahertz band will also be another area of exploration in spite of its high range of frequencies. Although the terahertz band frequency is too small for semiconductor lasers, and too high to handle using conventional electronics means, new scientific research is underway. Successful research initiatives that will help unlock the power of the terahertz band will open up new applications in the medical, material science, telecommunications, and security domains. One other advantage of the Terahertz band is its ability to pierce through plastic, clothing, or paper while being safe for humans, opening up the possibility of analyzing substances which cannot be handled by the X-Ray technology in use presently. The use of terahertz technology is rather restricted due to its bulky nature and the expenses involved. Breakthrough in telecommunications technologies will enable more flexibility and low cost in the context of Terahertz receivers and transmitters.

The next few years will see rapid advancements in optic fiber technology which will be largely driven by consumer demand for greater telecommunications capacity. The demand for comprehensive, high-speed Internet services at low costs will propel research into the optical fiber and take it to the next level by fine tuning the inherent characteristics of the medium. Optical fiber is long-lasting and very easy to upgrade. It is much stronger than copper cables and has a high degree of sensitivity and endurance.

In the near future, optic fiber is very likely to deliver extremely superfast broadband with a tremendous increase in information capacity. These infrastructural advances will allow even better connectivity between people across professional domains and access to scientific and educational information in different formats will become opt for electronics projects more convenient than ever. Advanced hardware will make it possible to make use of applications and services that were not possible through traditional infrastructure.

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