Fiber Optics: Reviving an Old Idea to Reduce Internet Congestion and Boost Speed

“Unable to download video. Please check your Internet connection.” Messages like these make using the Internet painful, but new fiber optic technology has the power to increase bandwidth, which will decrease congestion and prevent download errors. According toWebsite Magazine, faster Internet speeds will foster the consumer move away from traditional media sources like TV and toward online streaming. As this happens, it will change how consumers interact with advertising, a shift which should ultimately prove useful for SEO professionals.

More Colors

In the 1990s, scientists developed a method of increasing bandwidth by increasing the number of colors — essentially wavelengths of laser signals which carry data down optic fibers. Although this method worked perfectly for years, it’s not physically possible to increase the number of colors anymore. Unfortunately, just as the cables reached this physical limitation, consumers began to cry out for more bandwidth, and now, their needs are growing daily as an increasing number of people jump online with mobile devices and laptops. Many of these people are streaming videos, and faster download speeds are critical for companies trying to advertise effectively through online videos.

Distinctive Paths

Rather than increasing the number of colors sent down the cable, scientists are strategizing ways to send light through the fiber on distinctive paths. This allows several packets of data to travel down the fiber optic cable at the same time, instead of having data travel through the cable serially as was previously the case.

According to the American Institute of Physics, copper and cable systems carry data on a single channel. Fiber optics, in contrast, direct many different channels down a single glass fiber. Thanks to this, optical fiber can transmit data at 108 times the rate that copper and cable can.

Eight Blu-Rays per Second

Traditionally, optical fibers only have two modes (or channels), and in order to increase the number of channels running down a single fiber, scientists have turned to OAM (orbital angular momentum). Testing shows that two OAM modes over 10 wavelengths can transmit 1.6 terabits per second, according to Science Magazine. That is the equivalent of eight Blu-Ray DVDs per second.

OAM beams twist light so it moves along like a tornado rather than in a straight line. In the past, it was considered impossible to move OAM beams down fibers, but researchers from BU Engineering and USC have designed an optical fiber that can support OAM beams.

Quick and Affordable Activation

Fortunately, consumers won’t have to wait for new fiber optic lines or infrastructure before they can start enjoying these faster speeds. There are unused fiber optic lines all over that can be activated quickly and relatively cheaply. An effect of the late-1990s tech boom, the fiber optics were laid years ago by telecom carriers who had billions of dollars to invest in the endeavor. When network traffic failed to grow at the rates the telecom companies were anticipating, these fibers were relegated to disuse, but they’re being revived now. Telecom companies are already jumping on this revived trend, and consumers can even opt to get their FiOS coverage as well as coverage for other cell phone providers over fiber optic cables.

Room for Growth

Internet use in the United States grows by approximately 50 percent each year, according to the Wall Street Journal, but the demand for increased bandwidth has been especially strong lately as a growing number of consumers want to download videos (including brand journalism and content marketing videos) online. Analysts guess only 14 percent of the current fiber optics will be in use by the end of the year, and that leaves a lot of room for growth, not to mention monetary rewards for those in the online advertising industry in the near future.

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