Basics of Fiber Optics

Lesson 1: Introduction, Overview, Standards, Safety

Why use fiber optics?
AT&T Bell Labs photo from the 1970s

Objectives: From this lesson you should learn:
What does “fiber optics” mean
How fiber was developed and used in communications
The difference between “outside plant” and “premises” fiber optics
Some advantages of fiber optics
What standards cover fiber optics
How to work with fiber safely

That Bell Labs photo from the infancy of fiber optics was used to illustrate that one tiny optical fiber could carry more communications signals than a giant copper cable. Today one singlemode fiber could carry the same amount of communications as 1000 of those old copper cables! Fiber offers thousands of times more bandwidth than copper cables and can go more than 1000 times further before needing repeaters - both of which contribute to the immense economic advantage of fiber optics over copper. You can do a similar analysis for using wireless transmission also, but wireless is limited by the available wireless spectrum which is overcrowded because of everyone's desire to use more mobile devices. Fiber's advantages has led to its use as the backbone of all of today's communications, telecom, Internet, CATV, etc. - even wireless where towers are connected on fiber and antennas are using fiber up the towers too.

What is “Fiber Optics”?
Fiber optics refers to the technology of transmitting light down thin strands of highly transparent optical fibers, usually glass but sometimes plastic. Fiber optics is used in communications, lighting, medicine, optical inspections and to make sensors. The FOA is primarily interested in communications fiber optics, so this lesson will focus on that aspect of its application. In addition, you will be introduced to international standards for fiber optic components and systems. And finally, we want to start making you aware of the safety aspects of dealing with fiber optics because it is extremely important to understand what it takes to work safely with fiber.
This lesson has two primary aims, to familiarize you with the applications of fiber optics and a bit of its history and to make you aware of the safety aspects (including some of the most famous myths of fiber optics.)

Student Assignment:
Watch the videos and/or read the references and take the quiz.

YouTube Videos
FOA Lecture 1: Fiber Optics & Communications 
FOA Lecture 2: Safety When Working With Fiber Optics  

Online FOA Reference:
Basic overview   
Fiber Optic Standards
Fiber Optic Safety  

Book Chapter:
            FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics, Chapter 1

Test Your Knowledge:
Online Quiz
Textbook: take the Quiz at the end of Chapter 1 and check your answers

Optional - Extra Credit Reading
See the breadth of standards for fiber optic components and systems  

Next:  Lesson 2: Fiber Optic Jargon - The Language of Fiber Optics           

Return to Lesson Plan


Table of Contents: The FOA Reference Guide To Fiber Optics

(C)2012-14, The Fiber Optic Association, Inc.