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White Paper: Demystifying Fibre Optics: Part 1

As the demand for high-speed data transmission and higher resolution video increases, so has the demand for systems that will effectively and reliably transmit the signals over distance for a variety of applications. 

Otpicomm-Emcore released a whitepaper that addresses some common barriers to the standardisation of fibre optic transmission systems across a number of industries.  

The following whitepaper discusses the circumstances and applications where fibre would be the best choice for signal distribution, and covers some common misconceptions that are still quite pervasive among installers and systems integrators.

Applications where large format displays and high-resolution graphics are required, and industries such as the medical and control are already benefiting from the greater bandwidth that fibre optic transmission systems can provide. 

Contact us with any questions about the topics raised in the following whitepaper.

This whitepaper was originally posted on the Opticomm-EMCORE website. Read the orginial here.

When to Go With Fibre

While yesterday’s commercial integrators tended not to think of fibre optics as a transmission option, the 21st century integrator understands there are many scenarios in which it is not only a viable option, but the better one.

Today’s high-speed data and high-definition video distribution requires much greater bandwidth to meet the needs of customers. In fact, resolutions exceeding 1080p, such as 2K and 4K, are becoming commonplace in the medical field, command and control, and other applications where large format displays, multi-windowing environments, video walls, and other highest-resolution graphics are being utilised.

“There are a multitude of ‘pros’ with going with fibre,” says David S. Logsted PMP, CTS , an audio/visual consultant for Compass AudioVisual, Edgewood, N.M. “Bandwidth is more important for computer networks right now; as our video resolutions increase so do bandwidth requirements for transport of these signals.

The higher signals are generally beyond the capability of standard copper cabling and more suited to fibre. ”In addition to greater bandwidth requirements, uncompressed video, audio and data signals are now being sent over much longer distances. Fibre optics far surpasses copper for applications where tens or even thousands of computers, KVMs, surveillance cameras and video displays are being installed around a building, across a campus or across town.

Fibre can reliably carry high data rate signals a very long way, while copper is typically maxed at 100 metres. Opticomm-EMCORE, the video/audio/data transmission system division of EMCORE Corporation (NASDAQ: EMKR), for instance, has fibre solutions that can carry high data rate signals up to 120 kilometers without the use of repeaters.

“When runs are long – over 100’s of feet – or very long – over 1,000’s of feet – fibre is the absolute best or only choice,” says Curt Hayes, president of Audio Design, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Fla.

“We most often specify fibre for head-end to head-end connections of network switches, and for HDMI video distribution, when runs exceed 100 feet.”

Logsted says some prime examples where fibre is the best solution include:

  • Where a long distance exists between a venue’s source and switcher, switcher and destination, or direct run between source and destination
  • A scientific environment where the video source, a supercomputing system, is in a separate building some distance away from the visual analysis [visualisation] facility 
  • Communications between offshore oil rigs and the onshore locations
  • Secure environments such as government facilities, especially where data security (e.g., classified signals) is a requirement
  • Environments where cabling must be run through existing or minimal conduit, when insufficient conduit space exists for copper cabling.

Besides providing improved bandwidth and distance capabilities, fibre, unlike copper, is impervious to lightning strikes and other interference, such as electrical ground differentials and surge, so it is recommended for all secure connectivity between buildings.

Since fibre does not emanate, there is absolutely no cross-talk between cables, making it almost impossible to tap into the signal. This makes fibre an ideal solution when classified signals are involved. Since fibre is immune to electromagnetic and RF interference, it can run next to high current equipment and RF transmitters without a problem.

Opticomm-EMCORE, the video/audio/data transmission system division of EMCORE Corporation (NASDAQ: EMKR), for instance, has fibre solutions that can carry high data rate signals up to 120 kilometers without the use of repeaters.

I“With Gbps data rates, copper is getting limited in its capability to transport over long distances and it is difficult to get a good level of signal integrity,” says Alon Dagan, product line director for Opticomm-EMCORE.

“With fibre this is not an issue. So, when signal quality and immunity to noise such as radiation and round loops is a concern, fibre is dominant.” Fibre is lightweight, easier to pull through conduit, has a higher pull-strength – up to eight times greater than UTP copper cables – takes up less space, is very durable, and is less susceptible to environmental factors such as temperature, moisture, etc.

“Fibre optics is highly reliable and takes up a fraction of the space that copper does,” Dagan says. “Cat 5/6 is limited to 25 pounds pulling tension, while fibre optic cable can withstand up to 200 pounds pulling tension. Plus, the security of the signal path is much stronger as it is almost impossible to tap into optical signals.”

Common Misconceptions

So why aren’t more integrators making the switch to fibre? Even though they know that it can be better, some integrators still shy away from fibre out of a fear of facing an installation or technology that is new to them, they may think that fibre is only useful for long distance applications, or due to perceived higher costs. It is important that system integrators know that fibre is easy to install and is excellent for short distances applications as well, where bandwidth, speed, durability, reliability and security are considerations.

At one time fibre cables were more expensive than coaxial cables and fibre was considered difficult to terminate in the field, but Dagan says none of this is true and, in fact, fibre optic cables are now actually cheaper than copper. Pre-terminated fibre cables of almost any length are readily available in the marketplace, so for many applications there is no need to learn how to terminate fibre optic cables.

“Copper is getting more and more expensive as a material while glass, the main component of fibre, is not. In addition, production costs have come down as fibre technology has improved,” Dagan says. “Also, fibre optic components such as lasers have dramatically decreased in cost for the last 10 years and can be easily integrated as part of a bigger system with minimal impact on the overall cost.”

The pain of conversion is rapidly becoming less and less painful. If you haven’t looked at the various media converters on the market, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. On new construction, it’s rapidly becoming a moot point, but there are a lot of analog systems out there that are aging out and products such as Opticomm-EMCORE’s c-linx Series of 3G HD-SDI, DVI / VGA and HDMI converters/scalers can simplify conversion and remove cost barriers.

Another common misconception about fibre optic cables is that they do not support wireless systems when, actually, wireless depends on fibre for its communications backbone and increasingly the connection to the wireless antennas. Many of these antenna systems use multimode fibre because the distances are so short and the transceivers are much less expensive for multimode fibre.

Whereas corporate premises networks, or WiFi, systems require multiple antennas per floor connected to the network using fibre optic or copper cable. 

“The key is consistency,” Hayes says. “The integrator should keep his selections to a minimum and get very good at selling and installing them.”

In short, fibre has less latency and greater bandwidth over distance than copper cabling and can be a more reliable means of transmitting video, audio and data.

“A basic understanding of fibre optics fundamentals such as insertion loss, link budget and attenuation are important,” Dagan says. “Unlike copper, if fibre connection is not done correctly, a system will not work; yet this doesn’t mean that fibre is more complicated. If you compare the pros and cons, fibre is a de facto choice for a secure transmission path, over long or short distances, with high bandwidth data rates.”

Insertion Loss:  Loss of optical power resulting from the insertion of a device in an optical fibre
Optical Attenuation: Gradual loss of optical power through the fibre optics
Link Budget: The difference between the transmission output power and the receiver’s sensitivity

About Opticomm-EMCORE

This Whitepaper was originally posted on the Opticomm-EMCORE website. Read the original here.

Opticomm-EMCORE’s Optiva platform is future-proof due to its proprietary daisy-chain technology. When there are increased channel requirements, the Optiva platform allows for simple upgradeability and optimised bandwidth
allocation, using time-division multiplexing (TDM) technology.

New signals may be added to most products without the need for additional fibre, with the exception of DVI, 3G HD-SDI, component, VGA / RGBHV, GigE and USB, which may be added using additional fibre or optical multiplexing on a single fiber. The Optiva platform provides a single, unified solution for video/audio/data, satellite, microwave, wireless and radar applications.

Opticomm-EMCORE also has a line of fibre extenders on the openGear® platform, a flexible terminal equipment solution based on an open architecture, modular frame design, with DashBoard and SNMP for remote control and monitoring. 

The standard 19” rackmount enclosure holds up to 20 insert cards, providing the capacity to support the entire line of openGear® video/audio/data and satellite/microwavecards, as well as other openGear® standard cards. 

Opticomm-EMCORE’s VX Pro Series of micro extenders for 3G HD-SDI, DVI and HDMI are fully plug and play modules that allow full transparency (HDCP compliant) for the installer. With multimode fibre, the VX Pros are good for short distances
up to 300 metres while with singlemode fibre can run up to 10 kilometres.