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What are the Different Types of Fiber-Optic Components?

By Mal Baxter
Updated May 17, 2024
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Fiber-optics networks replace copper wire networks with components that are more efficient and cost-effective. These networks essentially comprise transmitters, optical cable network systems, and receivers. The many fiber-optic components needed to create a network include connectors, adapters, and cable assemblies. Others include hardware rack mounts, wall mounts, and switches and couplers. Related devices modulate and increase signal strength, manage frequencies, and filter signals.

Sophisticated optical networks rely on fiber-optic components of two types: active and passive. Active components require external power sources, while passive components work autonomously. Transceivers send light information through glass, plastic, or composite reflective tubes with varying levels of attenuation, or signal loss; light from the wave becomes scattered or obstructed through the many precise connections required for a functional network. Multiplexers add multiple beams through a single fiber while attenuators and filters strengthen degraded signals over long distances. Converters, circulators, and isolators are only the beginning of other components available.

A large variety of cable styles and materials are available. These may include variations in bundling suitable for various placement conditions, which may include outdoor, underground, suboceanic, and even on poles. Other fiber-optic components include the many styles of connectors and jacks used to align and organize cabling for the precision fits required by networks. The cables are physically supported through the use of pull boxes that relieve tension, and cable trays for uninterrupted stable support.

A fiber-optics network serves to transmit a beam of light that carries binary, or digital information such as that used for telephone and computer networks. The transmitter sends or modulates a light signal; a receiver decodes it. A photodiode converts the signal to electronic information. These are all typically part of the same component. Other fiber-optic components include switches that route signals through intended input and output ports; connectors that attach components reliably, the way a telephone or television line plugs into the wall; and various accessory collars, screws, and bayonets.

Other supporting fiber-optic components consist of devices to organize the light signal. Multiplexers combine different signals into a single output; attenuators, or pump lasers, boost the signals. Repeaters are paired receiver-transmitters that carry transmissions over greater distances. Laser diodes are semiconductors that emit a single powerful beam of light through single-mode fibers, while light-emitting diodes (LEDs) emit light over multimode fiber links in an interwoven rainbow of wavelengths. An optical time domain reflectometer (OTDR) detects backscattered light to locate and compensate for faults in the optical fiber.

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