Challenges to Fiber Optic Internet Cable Technology

Challenges to Fiber Optic Internet Cable Technology

Internet service is pervasive in modern society. It underpins much of modern communication, banking, entertainment, and business transactions. Recent estimates suggest that approximately 85 percent of U.S. homes have broadband Internet service.

Yet, much of that Internet service still depends on copper cables. While copper has served people well, shortages plague several industries.

Fiber optic Internet cable seems like an obvious solution. Glass is cheap because sand is abundant. That begs the question of what challenges to fiber optic Internet cable technology prevent its widespread adoption.

Keep reading for a quick overview of some of the main challenges to making fiber optic cables the standard.

Why Fiber Optics?

One might ask why, beyond copper shortages, a new technology is necessary at all. While copper gets the job done, it’s a substantially slower connection. The wires themselves can actually slow down signal transmission, while signals in fiber optic cable don’t mee that resistance.

Beyond that, fiber optic cables can carry far more individual signals than similar copper cables, which improves reliability. With the why out of the way, let’s look at what prevents adoption.

Existing Infrastructure

Internet service providers spent the last couple of decades building out an underground infrastructure to support the old-style cables. Replacing those cables means tearing out that old infrastructure or working around it.

While working around it may sound like the way to go, it also means working around underground power lines, water supply lines, and even drain pipes.

One possible solution is horizontal directional drilling. It’s a trenchless drilling approach. That method lets companies avoid surface obstacles and existing underground obstacles. 

Supply Problems

While the raw material of glass isn’t especially expensive, the actual supply of fiber optic cable capable of supporting Internet connections isn’t that big. There are a limited number of companies that produce it. The total production capacity of those companies remains limited.

As demand increases, as it has in recent years, the supply grows smaller and more expensive.

Covid Hangover

Covid also exacerbated all of the problems surrounding fiber optic technology adoption. Covid disrupted supply chains across the globe. It also limited production as quarantine orders kept workers out of manufacturing facilities.

Even companies that want to fill demand must deal with backlogs in their own supply chain and orders. That’s all before they can work toward meeting new demand.

The Covid hangover will wear off eventually. When business looks like business as usual again, fiber optic adoption will face fewer roadblocks.

Fiber Optic Internet Cable Is Possible, Eventually

The big challenges with fiber optic internet cable aren’t primarily technical. The technology itself is completely functional. Adoption, however, will continue to lag for practical reasons.

The limited supply of fiber optic cabling makes adoption hard. Supply chain disruption courtesy of Covid makes that problem worse.

Internet companies must also replace or work around existing infrastructure, which slows things down.

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Sheri gill