The Boom in Optical Fiber Networking

What do 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Work From Home (WFH), and Big Data have in common? All these advancing technologies are reliant on fast data collection and transfer. Applications such as e-commerce, internet search, and multimedia all have a seemingly endless appetite for more bandwidth and lower latency. Optical fiber, with an endless capacity for bandwidth, is becoming the foundation of telecommunications networks worldwide.


In fact, multiple research organizations such as Motor Intelligence, Businesswire, PRNewswire, and others pegged the optical fiber market at around US$5 Billion in 2020 and steadily growing at about a 10% CAGR through 2028. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) predicts that more than half the global population is connected to the internet. As the foundational telecommunications networks rapidly migrate to fiber in order to meet bandwidth and latency demands, it is logical that enterprise, government, financial, medical, and education networks will closely follow suit.


Fiber Networks in the USA

With optical fiber becoming the standard transmission medium for telecommunications services, it is logical that the largest telecommunications companies own the largest optical fiber networks. AT&T leads the pack with Verizon in second place and investing heavily in new lines. Together, AT&T and Verizon own over 2.2 million miles of fiber in the United States. CenturyLink, Charter Communications and Frontier Communications round out the top five according to a report from S&P Global Market Intelligence.


Telecom and internet carriers are providing new optical networks and aggressively expanding existing optical networks. They are selling access to businesses and consumers at greater speeds, more reliability, and lower latency than previously possible. Many businesses are transitioning to optical fibers in their Local Area Networks (LAN) and Metropolitan Area Networks (MAN) to match the Wide Area Network (WAN) network characteristics being offered by the carrier.


Transitioning Private Networks

As private networks transition from copper to optical, they must re-evaluate many processes and tools currently deployed. Monitoring and security tools, for example, must be upgraded from electrical connections to optical connections. Bandwidth advancements in switching and transmission of optical signals must also be matched by the processing power of new tools to manage, monitor, and secure new networks.


Why is Fiber Growing?

The growth in optical networking is partly due to new networks and partly to expansion aimed at meeting the bandwidth and application needs of the internet society. However, much of the growth in the optical fiber market is the rapid transition from copper media. According to cables.com, there are many advantages of using optical cables over existing copper infrastructure.

  • Speed - Sending signals via light versus electrical pulses is faster. Optical signals can travel through glass strands at roughly 70% of the speed of light.

  • Less Noise - Optical fiber is immune to electrical interference causing noise and cross-talk that is commonly found with copper media.

  • Bandwidth - Fiber cables can carry much greater bandwidth than copper media. Speeds of 40Gbps to 100Gbps are common in optical deployments.

  • Distance - Optical signals can carry up to 50 kilometers (31 Miles) without repeaters. That is compared to copper which needs to be amplified every 5 miles or so.

  • Size and weight - Glass fiber strands are lighter and thinner simplifying deployment.

  • Security - Fiber cables must be cut and tapped in order to steal data. Of course, it is impossible to cut an optical cable surreptitiously.


New Fiber Monitoring Tools for High Bandwidth Optical Networks

As organizations adapt to new fiber optic switches and links, security, and monitoring tools must also adapt from copper interfaces to fiber-optic interfaces. The need for constant network monitoring and protection does not go away as the electrical to optical transition is made.


Passive optical TAPs have been available for some time allowing simple fiber connections to monitoring and security tools at speeds of 100Mbps to 10Gbps. However, the demand for bandwidth in the 40Gbps to 100Gbps requires multiple optical cables. Network Critical, a global innovator in advanced network security and optical monitoring tools, has developed a line of Multi-fiber Push On (MPO) TAPS for monitoring of 40Gbps and 100Gbps networks.


Network Critical’s MPO TAPs deliver higher density and performance while ensuring complete traffic visibility, zero packet loss, and no point of failure. These TAPs offer high bandwidth monitoring using up to 24 strands of fiber optic cable for 40Gbps to 100Gbps links. However, they also add the flexibility of adding breakout cables for monitoring 1Gbps to 10Gbps links as well. Therefore, the same MPO TAPs can be used today with existing 1Gbps/10Gbps links and easily transition to 40Gbps/100Gbps with no additional investment.


These MPO TAPs are completely passive with no IP/MAC address required. Therefore they are invisible to the network and also invisible to any potential hackers. Also, no power is required so there is never a worry about loss of functionality if rack power is lost.

Optical TAPs operate by splitting the light waves sending 100% of the data through a pre-selected subset of the light waves to the live network. The balance of the light spectrum is split off sending an exact copy of all live data to a monitoring tool. For example, a 50:50 split would have 50% of the light budget used for live network data and the other 50% of the available light budget sending a copy of the live data to a monitoring tool. Realizing that link distances and data integrity priorities vary, Network Critical offers custom split ratios of 50:50, 60:40, and 70:30.


Tools for an Optical World

An internet-connected and the application-oriented world is quickly becoming an optical infrastructure world. Be ready with the latest high-speed optical tools as they transition from copper accelerates. Network Critical’s optical fiber portfolio is leading the optical transition curve with the right security and monitoring products to help your organization stay ahead of the networking growth curve while staying in line with your network infrastructure budget. For more information go to www.networkcritical.com/contact-us.


BLOGS