Fiber to the X, explained: Your options for bridging the last mile to your building
With the speed and data carrying capacity of optical fibers, more and more businesses are turning to fiber networks to keep up with their ever-increasing bandwidth needs.
Think of fiber optic networks like trees. There is the trunk —the swaths of dark fiber running through a metropolitan area— which branch out to neighborhoods and then, ultimately, to specific buildings. Neighborhoods and buildings can either be connected to the trunk, or dark fiber backbone, with copper or fiber.
Since dark fiber is readily accessible in most metropolitan areas, businesses like yours have the potential for unprecedented reliability, security and speed. But these benefits can be partially —or completely— negated if you connect your facility to the dark fiber backbone with copper rather than dark fiber.
To give you an idea of the difference between copper and fiber, consider this: Fiber has the potential to carry as many as 2.5 million simultaneous calls, while copper can handle about six.
If you connect your building with copper, you will bottleneck your network’s potential bandwidth. To maintain the speed and reliability of the fiber in the trunk, you must continue the fiber all the way into your building.
This type of direct connection is called “fiber to the premises.” But there are plenty of other setups for connecting your building to the dark fiber network: Fiber to the cabinet, fiber to the node, fiber to the building. Or, more broadly, “fiber to the x” (FTTX).
Fiber to the X: The differences between FTTP, FTTC and FTTN
“Fiber to the X” (FTTX) is a broad term encompassing all possible ways to connect your business to the dark fiber backbone. It describes the “last mile” of your fiber optic network, or how your building is physically connected to the backbone.
The “X” refers to the point at which the fiber ends. To go back to the tree metaphor, it describes whether your branches are made of copper or fiber. At one extreme, you could have fiber directly connecting every single room in your building. At the other, you could bridge the last couple miles with copper cable.
The way you connect your access network to the metropolitan network will impact its performance, so it’s important to understand the subtle —but crucial— differences between different FTTX configurations.
FTTP: Fiber to the premises
In an FTTP network, the fiber would extend all the way into your building. Then you would use riser (fiber to be installed vertically, from floor to floor) and plenum (fiber to be installed horizontally, from room to room) fiber to create secure, reliable intra-building connections.
Because FTTP networks bridge the entire last mile with fiber, they will provide your business the greatest speed, capacity and security.
FTTC: Fiber to the cabinet
Fiber would end at the street cabinet —a distribution point for multiple connections— in a FTTC setup. Copper would carry the connection to your building, a distance of around 1,000 feet. Although a short distance, unshielded twisted-pair copper can only carry gigabit service for a little over 300 feet before losing strength.
FTTN: Fiber to the node / neighborhood
In an FTTN network, copper bridges the entire distance from the node to your building. The node, also referred to as the common network box, serves an entire area and can be a mile or more from your building.
While the cheapest of the three FTTX configurations, FTTN offers the least benefits in terms of speed, reliability and scalability.
Your network is only as strong as the line connecting it to the dark fiber backbone. For maximum speed, security and scalability, you need to bridge the last mile entirely with fiber, as in a FTTP network.
Fiber can carry signals as far as 40 miles before losing significant signal strength. And while gigabit internet is standard for optical fiber networks, copper cables can only care a gigabit signal for a little north of 300 feet. No wonder the global demand for fiber has increased more than 40% since 2012.
Fiber optic networks rely on light to transmit data. Light can carry as much as 10,000 times more information than radio frequencies, according to Cisco. There is virtually no limit to the amount of data that can be transmitted over optical fibers.
The data-carrying capacity of fiber is limited only by your transceiving equipment — the equipment transmitting and receiving data for your network. As technology improves, the sky is the limit.
Fiber optic networks are not only a competitive differentiator for businesses, they also offer greater flexibility as you can scale your network up as your business grows. And with complete control of your network, you can ensure maximum data security and reliability.
To learn more and decide if fiber is the right solution for you, check out our desktop guide to fiber networking. You’ll learn what to consider when planning an IT infrastructure, how to finance fiber and which industries will benefit the most from a fiber network. Download the guide now.