When people need to install a new fiber system, most of the cost is in the planning and installation – not the fiber itself. By installing additional fiber that remains unused, an extremely cost-effective method of future-proofing your network is created. It’s called dark fiber, and most experts recommend adding it during fiber installation.
Dark Means Literally Dark
A dark fiber is defined as one that remains unpowered, unlit, and unused. It lies dormant in the channel designed for it, waiting on a need for expanding communications.
Fiber optics works by sending pulses of light over tiny filaments that are about the thickness of a human hair. Each strand can carry a massive number of telephone calls or data, but each must be connected to the infrastructure, or it stays dark, only noticed on engineering plans.
The Future Is Data
The Information Age is fully upon us. Around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are presently produced every day. And it isn’t expected to shrink. Ninety percent of all the data produced in the world was produced in the last two years.
What does this mean? As we look to the future, we see that data transfer needs will appear to increase exponentially. Virtually all organizations that require data transfer should expect their need to grow significantly over the next 10 years. If your data needs aren’t growing, then neither are you!
Fiber Is Relatively Cheap
The cost to install fiber is mostly about planning and channel construction, including:
— Civil engineering of the route
— Cost to bury fiber cable
— Disruption to business
A large portion of installing a fiber optic network is the planning involved, including access points, safe channels, bandwidth, and future needs. Running the cable can be costly and can also be disruptive to business operations.
One study showed that 90% of the fiber optic cost was incurred in the planning and labor and the cable itself was just 10% of the final price. If dark fiber is installed at the same time as a network is run, the price increase is negligible compared to running additional cable later. Even a 50% increase in cost of the fiber cable in this example would only increase the project cost by 5%.
In fact, it’s standard now to install additional capacity when fiber is initially run. About half the fibers in new installations are typically left unused at first. Most organizations are expected to need far more bandwidth in the future, so adding it when it costs pennies on the dollar simply makes sense.
Benefits Don’t Stop at Cost
Many large organizations installed substantial dark fiber networks in the last two decades. Not only was this for expected bandwidth increases and scalability, but leasing dark fibers turned out to be a moneymaker.
Another benefit is a steep drop in latency. If a fiber can be connected from point to point, it creates exceptionally low latency, a crucial benefit for organizations that depend on extremely rapid communications. A single fiber can be run up to 100 miles in some cases.
Finally, having dark fiber increases reliability. If a fiber has an issue, connecting a pre-existing dark one is extremely easy and quick. The cabling can be aerial or buried and usually has a lifetime of about four or five decades. If you’re planning on installing fiber optics, definitely ask about dark fiber!