What Is It and How Does It Work?

Fibre optic cable is a modern marvel of technology, offering a fast, reliable, and secure method of data transmission. It has revolutionised how we communicate, offering a range of advantages compared to traditional copper wire. By using light to transfer data, fibre optic cables can transfer large amounts of information at the speed of light.

As the demand for data transmission increases, so does the need for understanding fibre optic cables. In this article, we discuss what fibre optic cable is, how it works, and the advantages it offers. We will also explore different types of fibre optic cables used in different applications.

What is fibre optic cable?

Fibre optic cable is a type of cable that uses light as a medium for transferring data. Fibre optic cables are made of thin strands of glass, known as optical fibres, which use light waves to transmit data. The strands of optical fibres run through the core.

The optical fibres are made of high-quality glass with very few impurities. Unlike copper wire, which expands and contracts with temperature changes, fibre optic cables do not expand or contract. This makes them immune to many of the issues that can plague copper wires. This unique property of fibre optic cables allows them to transmit data quickly and with high clarity over longer distances.

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How does fibre optic cable work?

Fibre optic cables can transmit data via light waves that travel down through the core of the cable. The core is made of glass that allows light to pass through. The core of the cable is surrounded by a cladding that helps keep the light inside the core and prevents the loss of light.

A jacket surrounds the cladding designed to protect the cable from damage. There are two primary types of fibre optic cables: single-mode and multimode. Single-mode fibre optic cable uses a narrow light beam that travels down a thin core inside the cable. This allows the light beam to stay confined inside the cable, travelling long distances without losing its brightness.

Advantages of using fibre optic cable

Fibre optic cables offer several advantages compared to copper wire. Some of the advantages include:

Speed: Data travels very quickly through fibre optic cables. Copper wire, on the other hand, moves data much more slowly.

Clarity: The clarity of data sent through a fibre optic cable is much higher than that of data sent over copper wire.

Security: Because data is transmitted via light, it is safe from damage due to electromagnetic interference. This is an important feature for businesses, as it prevents data breaches.

Distance: A fibre optic cable can cover much greater distances than copper wire.

Durability: Because fibre optic cables are made of durable materials, they are more resistant to damage than copper wire.

Installation: The installation of fibre optic cables is relatively simple, as the cables do not require the same high voltage and insulation as copper.

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Different types of fibre optic cable

Single-mode and multimode fibre optic cables are the different types of cable. Single-mode fibre optic cable uses a very narrow light beam that travels down a thin core inside the cable. This allows the light beam to stay confined inside the cable, travelling long distances without losing light.

Multimode fibre optic cable uses a wider light beam that travels down a thicker core inside the cable. This allows the beam to travel shorter distances because it becomes wider as it travels down the cable. Single-mode fibre optic cables are preferred for long-distance transmission because they can maintain the quality of signal over a longer distance.

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Fibre Optic Jacket Colour Codes

The TIA-598-C standard indicates that coloured-jacket cables are built solely for intra-building applications; while some optic cable jacket colours specify the varying degrees of fire resistance.

There are no outdoor cables in the TIA-598-C colour standard. This is because most of the cables used outside come with a black carbon component in their jackets, to protect them from harsh elements and solar radiation.

TIA-598-C covers the jacket-colour standards which apply to optic cables with only a single type of fibre.

An optic cable containing more than one type of fibre cannot be distinguished through colours alone.

In this case, it is a must to have printed identification on the jacket for necessary identification.  

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Applications of fibre optic cable

The uses of fibre optic cables are almost endless, as the technology is applicable in nearly every industry. Here are a few applications:

Telecommunications: Telecommunications providers rely on fibre optic cables to transmit information to customers.

Corporate Communications: Using fibre optic cables to link buildings in a corporate campus allows employees to communicate remotely via telephone and video conferencing or transfer data seamlessly over a long distance without loss of signal or risk of a security breach.

Education: Schools use fibre optic cables to transmit information between classrooms and to create a fully digital environment.

Health Care: Hospitals use fibre optic cables to transmit information between doctors, nurses, and patients.

Internet/Data Centers: Fibre optic cables are used to transmit between data centres.

Defence: Fibre optic cables are widely used for transmitting data in high-level security fields in aerospace and military applications. These cables are also used in the wiring of aircraft and hydrophones for seismic and SONAR applications.

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Testing of fibre optic cable

There are a few ways to test the functionality of a fibre optic cable. The first step is to inspect the cable to ensure, there are no visible flaws. Next, you will want to run a continuity test to ensure the cable is intact. Finally, you can perform a bend test to see if the cable can withstand the forces of installation.

Maintenance of fibre optic cable

To maintain the functionality of your fibre optic cables, you will need to perform regular maintenance. Here are a few tips for properly maintaining your cables:

Cleanliness: The first step in maintaining your fibre optic cables is to keep them clean. 1-micrometre dust particle on a single-mode core can block up to 1% of the light (a 0.05dB loss).

Protection: You will also want to protect the cables from damage. You can do this by keeping your cables away from doorways and walkways and by wearing protective footwear.

Testing: You should test the cables regularly to make sure they are in working order. You can do this by using a fibre optic test equipment such as a fault locator, power metre or OTDR.

Repair: If you notice any damage to your cables, you should repair them before they completely break.

Storage: Finally, you should store your cables correctly, keeping them away from extreme temperatures and humidity.


Fibre optic cables are one of the most important technologies of our generation. They offer businesses and individuals an efficient and reliable way of transmitting the information. As the demand for data transmission increases, so will the need for fibre optic cables. These cables offer high-speed data transfer over a long range and are widely used in a wide range of applications, including telecommunication, defence, health care, education, computer networking and security.