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What Is Fiber-Optic TV?

Coaxial cable is typically used during cable TV installation, but cannot carry a signal as well as fiber-optic cables.
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  • Written By: Amanda Lacasse
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2014
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Fiber-optic TV refers to television programming delivered through a fiber-optic network of cables, rather than antenna, satellite or cable transmissions. Fiber-optic cables consist of strands of glass the breadth of a human hair that carry digital signals along the length of the transmission line. Also known as optical fibers, hundreds of these finely spun glass fibers are bundled together within a protective sheath and transmit television program information through pulses of light. Fiber-optic TV requires the use of a special receiver, similar to cable TV, to interpret the signals from the optical cable and translate them into images on a customer's TV. Advantages of fiber-optic information transmission are many, including less expensive components, faster transmission speeds and clearer reception.

Fiber-optic TV represents a step up from conventional cable TV for minimal additional cost. Fiber optics consists of very thin glass strands bundled together within a protective covering. Light pulses carry data the length of the fiber-optic cable line, with less interference and at a faster rate than conventional copper wire. Glass is less subject to disruption and interference than metal, so the customer's reception is often more consistent and clearer than when using the copper lines of a cable TV provider.

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When switching to fiber-optic TV, the new cable will need to be run to the customer's home. The technician will check to make sure the current coaxial cable system can handle the fiber-optic TV signals generated by the fiber optic network. For each TV on the network, a box will need to be installed to decode the signal, much like standard cable TV. The fiber-optic TV signal can sometimes be so strong that the transmission needs to be dampened so it does not ruin the fiber box.

The advantages of fiber-optic TV include a lower-than-cable cost to set up the infrastructure, more lightweight components and very fast transmission speeds that are less likely to be sensitive to interference. Their flexibility, ability to carry digital signals and capacity for carrying a lot of information for long distances without adversely affecting signal quality also makes fiber optics suitable for other uses, such as telephone and Internet. Other applications that use fiber optics include medical screening tools such as endoscopes and mechanical inspection tools used in the aerospace industry.

The major disadvantage of fiber-optic TV and other telecommunication uses is the lack of availability. Despite surveys showing consumer interest in fiber-optic television, many areas of the U.S. do not have access to the service in 2011. At least one provider is concentrating on expanding services within those areas already using fiber-optic services rather than spreading the network to other markets.

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