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The Use of Amplifiers in Fiber Optics

Most experienced network administrators, network engineers and cable technicians have a solid understanding of how fiber optics are used to transmit data / information.  While working with fiber hands on is a niche area reserved for those that specialize in cabling such as professional cable contractors and select employees from cable companies and phone companies. For anyone interested in learning a little more about fiber beyond text book theory this is a good article to better explain some interesting real world fiber optic facts.

Without fiber optic amplifiers, a signal on a network can only travel a limited distance. The average distance a signal can travel through a fiber optic cable without amplification is approximately 124 miles. This short range is not suitable for wide area networks, thus amplifiers are necessary in order to allow a network to function properly.

Three Places Amplifiers Are Commonly Used in Fiber Optics

There are three places where fiber optic amplifiers are most commonly used as it concerns fiber optic transmission. Amplifiers are used to boost the power of a signal before transmission over the optical cable even begins. This serves the purpose of extending the distance of the signal before any subsequent transmission is required. Line amplifiers are set up at carefully planned places along a network in order to maintain signal strength. It is these amplifiers that facilitate a signal’s long distance travel, and these amplifiers can keep the signal traveling for hundreds or even thousands of miles. Finally, Preamplifiers are used to raise signal levels upon reaching the input of optical receivers. The purpose of this is to facilitate adequate signal detection.

The Design of Fiber-Optic Amplifiers

Each type of amplifier is designed differently because they each serve different purposes. For instance, power amplifiers are designed to facilitate high gain. Preamplifiers are designed to keep noise to a minimum, and low noise levels are essential for these amplifiers to work properly. Because line amplifiers are required to enable signals to travel long distances over networks, they are constructed to keep noise levels low and allow for high gain.

Other places fiber optic amps are commonly located or used

There are other places on a network where fiber optic amplifiers are set up. A typical place other than the three aforementioned is in a switching node in order to make up for any loss that may occur in the switch fabric.

A Short History on Fiber-Optic Amplifiers

The invention of fiber-optic amplifiers is not a recent one. Most may think that it is, since the hype about fiber-optic networks has only been going on for the past 7 years or so. However, the first amplifiers were created in the year of 1987. These were called Semiconductor Optical Amplifiers, and they did not function well enough to impact signal transmission. These amplifiers were not nearly as advanced as they are now.

With the improvement of amplifiers over the years, a signal can travel over networks almost endlessly. These improvements were not made until recently, as researching and improving amplifiers was abandoned for the past couple of decades. Since attention has been given to amplifiers again, fiber-optic communication has improved dramatically and is becoming commonplace around the world.

Jason Kane from Orlando Florida writes about internet technology and fiber-optics from distributors like FluxLight.

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