fiber optic cables

How Fiber Optic Cables Work: An Explanation for Non-Engineers

Do you ever stop to think about how all of the technology around us works? Most people don't give it a second thought. We just take for granted that the light will come on when we flip on a light switch. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself how that actually happens? How do the electrons travel through the wire to turn on the light? In this blog post, we will explore how fiber optic cables work and what makes them so unique!

What is fiber optic cable?

Fiber-optic cables use fast-traveling pulses of light to transfer digital information.

Fiber optic cables are not like conventional cables that consist of wires made of copper or some other metal. They are made up of extremely thin strands of flexible glass or plastic. These strands are about the width of human hair!

The inside of the fiber optic cable is covered with a reflective material, or cladding. When light hits this material, it reflects off of the walls and travels down the length of the fiber.

The cladding has a lower index of refraction than the core. This means that when light hits the fiber's surface, it bounces off of the cladding and stays inside of the core.

Light travels through the fiber by bouncing off of the core walls. This is called total internal reflection. Unlike conventional wire cabling, the light in fiber optic cabling can travel long distances without being attenuated (or weakened).

Fiber optic cables can carry much more information than traditional copper wires because they can transmit multiple wavelengths of light.

How is data converted to optical?

To understand how fiber optic cables work, we first need to know how data is converted into an optical signal. When you send a text message, make a phone call, or stream a video, you are creating data that needs to be transmitted. This data is in the form of electrical signals. These electrical signals need to be converted into optical signals before being sent over long distances.

This conversion is done using a device called a transceiver. The transceiver converts the electrical signals into light pulses. These light pulses are then sent through the fiber optic cable. The light pulses travel through the fiber cable and are converted back into electrical signals at the other end by another transceiver. This process happens so quickly that you don't even notice it!

How is fiber optic cable used?

Fiber optic cables are used in a variety of applications, including long-distance telephone lines, cable television, and internet service. They are also being used more and more in medicine for things like endoscopes and fiber-optic lasers.


The move to work-from-home options has made the demand for high-speed broadband internet greater than ever. Fiber optic trunks are being installed in many business districts and residential areas to provide high-speed internet service. These trunks are made up of many smaller fiber optic cables that are bundled together. Circuit providers are scrambling to lay fiber as fast as possible to meet the high demand.


Fiber optic cable is also used in the automotive industry. Many new cars have fiber optic cables running throughout them. These cables are used for infotainment systems, backup cameras, and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).


You'll even find single-strand fiber in your home entertainment system! It is often used to connect DVD players, video game consoles, and Blu-ray player audio to your TV sound system.


Fiber optic cable is also used in many office buildings. It is often used to connect computers, printers, and other devices to the network. Fiber optic cable has become the standard for new construction because it can handle much more data than traditional copper cables.


Fiber optic cable is also used in manufacturing environments. These cables are often used to connect sensors, actuators, and other devices to the control system. Fiber optic cable is ideal for factories because it is immune to electromagnetic interference (EMI). This means that the signal will not be degraded by motors or welding equipment.

What are the disadvantages to fiber optic cable?

One of the disadvantages of fiber optic cable is that it is more expensive than traditional copper wire. Fiber optic cable also requires special equipment for installation and termination.

While fiber optic cable has many advantages, it is not always the best option for every application. Each situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if fiber optic cable is the right choice.

As fiber becomes more prevalent, the costs associated with fiber are expected to drop.

The future of fiber optics.

Fiber optic cables are becoming increasingly popular due to their many advantages over traditional metal cables. They are much thinner and lighter than metal cables, making them easier to install and less likely to cause damage. Fiber optic cables also have a much higher bandwidth than metal cables, meaning they can carry more data. And because they don't use electricity, they are safer to use in many applications.

As data demands continue to increase, the need for faster and more reliable communications systems will also increase. Fiber optics is poised to meet this demand. The combination of higher bandwidth and lower attenuation (or loss of signal strength) makes fiber optic cable the perfect solution for high-speed data communications.

Let's talk fiber!

If you'd like to know how fiber optic cables can add efficiency to your business, we'd love to chat! Our sales engineers love to get geeky about fiber but also know how to break it down into layman's terms.

Give us a call today to find out how to put fiber optic cable to work for you!

Reach out to us at or call 763-475-5500.

Similar posts

Get notified on new marketing insights

Be the first to know about new B2B SaaS Marketing insights to build or refine your marketing function with the tools and knowledge of today’s industry.