Celebrating the Past, Present, and Future of Fiber
By Sergejs Makovejs & Sonya Raney
Published: April 12, 2022
Fiber optic cabling is at the heart of our modern connected world, transmitting massive amounts of data daily. But the fiber we have come to depend upon bears little resemblance to its predecessors from just 20 years ago. The history of fiber is rich, and things are just getting started.
The evolution of fiber
Fiber was invented more than 50 years ago – and while still relatively young when compared to other communications technologies, it has undergone numerous evolutions.
The first iteration was simple: it connected homes and businesses to one another and allowed a back-and-forth flow of data. In the 1990s and 2000s there was a strong preference for low fiber dispersion to reduce the number of components in the network, hence avoiding hefty capital infrastructure investments.
As applications that rely on fiber became more complex, so too did the fiber itself. Around 10 years ago, the telecommunications industry began rapidly accelerating, creating a demand for better integration of fiber into appliances and technologies and the latest “growth spurt” in fiber innovation. Fiber was no longer an afterthought but rather one of the first considerations when designing a network.
Today, the current state of fiber has taken integration to an entirely new level. Rather than just connecting disparate locations with long, straight cable runs, fiber now permeates facilities themselves. This required new kinds of optical fibers to withstand tight bends without incurring significant signal loss. Optical fiber attenuation is now also key to ensure high transmission data rates over long distances in the outside plant environment.
All of these evolutions are driven by one key consideration: a constantly increasing demand for bandwidth. Consumers and companies are using more and more data every day, and service providers must account for this demand without lag or signal loss. Just in the past few years, the remote work revolution sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically increased the demand and applied new pressure to offices, hotels, homes, and more. As we look to the next decade, fiber will only become more integral to how we stay connected.