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What Is a Fiber-Optic Router?

Cat 5 cable with RJ45 plug.
Fiber-optic routers are more expensive than most other routers, but they are also much faster.
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  • Written By: Solomon Branch
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2014
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A fiber-optic router is a router that uses fiber-optic cable to transport a data signal. It is much faster than any other type of router, but is more expensive. These routers are most often used in larger offices or institutions, as well as across the Internet.

Routers transport computer network activity to other computers. It can divide the traffic into networks and send it where it needs to go, much like the post office can separate mail and deliver it to specific addresses. Routers are used to guide computer traffic in large and small networks. The majority of home and small network routers are either category-5 (cat-5) or category-6 (cat-6) cable routers, which move data up to speeds of 1000 megabits per second. Fiber-optic routers can handle speeds up to 10,000 megabits per second.

Unlike cat-5 and cat-6 cables, which are made of metal and plastic, a fiber-optic cable is a bundle of glass threads, each of which can transmit data over the cable by a laser transmitter that turns frequency signals into pulses of light. The light is then turned back into data that the computer can read on the receiving end. A fiber-optic cable has much more bandwidth than cat-5 or cat-6 cables so it can transport more data, much like an eight lane highway can move more cars than a two lane highway. Fiber-optic cables also have less susceptibility to interference than metal cables, and they can carry the signal longer without a boost.

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A fiber-optic router has to move the data that a fiber-optic cable provides, so it is more complex than one that can only utilize cat-5 or cat-6, and they are also more expensive as a result. Many times a router will have both options available. For example, the router may have several ports for cat-5 or cat-6 cables, but will also have a slot for a fiber-optic cable.

In addition to cost, the main disadvantage of fiber-optic routers is expense and difficulty in installation. The fiber-optic cables can also break more easily than metal wires, and they don’t splice as easily. Even though speeds can reach up to 10,000 megabits per second with a fiber-optic router, there are still limitations. Many networks are connected to other networks that don’t support the high speed, effectively eliminating many of the benefits of having fiber optics installed.

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Terrificli
Post 2

@Vincenzo -- A good compromise is a router that receives a fiber optic, high speed signal but connects with other computers through WiFi connections. While the speed of WiFi isn't quite up to that of pure fiber optics, it is usually more than fast enough.

But there's something to keep in mind. Those WiFi connections seem to get "confused" from time to time and boot computers off the network. That means the routers have to be reset every now and again.

The most reliable connection is through traditional wires hooking up to a router. For now, that is the setup that makes the most sense for a lot of businesses.

Vincenzo
Post 1

These things are a bear to configure. Clearly, this is an emerging technology and things will get easier with time. The networks will be more reliable, too.

Most offices are still sticking with good old metal wire routers and with good reason. Those work well and the speed is usually more than sufficient. The reliability and cost of those traditional routers usually make them more desirable.

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