Copper Switch Off is the new norm. In short, investing in fiber optic communication technology and stop investing in copper-based communication systems is the Copper Switch Off. How and Why telecommunication companies decided to move towards investment in fiber optics? This article analyzes the history of communication/telecommunication and looks into the historical aspects of shifting towards optical technology.
Over the past 30 years, an undercurrent of developments has been happening in our world of communication. This change has started affecting our daily lives, which we can notice by the flood of enhanced communication devices that have reduced the terrestrial distances. Transmission of large amounts of information/data over vast distances with extreme clarity and reliability is real now.
This change in the communication scenario over 30 years was possible due to the development and deployment of fiber optic cables. We can say it is a revolution in the communication that our homo sapiens have ever gone through. This revolution was started by the replacement of copper communication wires with thin strands of glass fibers called optical fibers.
The use of light for communication obviously is not a new thing for Homo sapiens. Light has been used to communicate since the earliest recorded history. Earlier communication using light was slow and the techniques employed were not sophisticated, and the communication has been limited by climatic conditions.
Ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, Chinese, and Indians reflected the light on mirrors or shining objects to send specific signals that only their group members could decode. Sunlight is replaced by artificial light and over a period of time ON/OFF switches were introduced, but the overall concept remained the same. Some military ships use a kind of variation of this old technique for low-speed communication.
Alexander Graham Bell developed a photophone to send voice signals over the light beam. In his photophone sunlight was reflected off a mirror that vibrated to voice sound waves. He placed a photocell, which was the receiver, and connected it to an electric circuit that finally connected to a speaker. He could successfully send the signal and the ideas were good, but the technology was not put in place practically.
The invention of the Laser was a turning point in the history of communication. Lasers pushed for further studies for light communication in the air. Lasers provided a narrow band of light radiation that is bent with reflecting mirrors. Since light communication in the air required a clear line-of-sight, practical light communication by lasers was limited by fog and rain. Somehow, the necessity for low loss guiding medium was realized by the scientists.
The scientific community continued its effort to develop glass fiber that guides the light. The first low loss glass optical fiber was developed in 1970. Commercial manufacturing of 250-micrometer diameter fibers was done at Corning factory and the first fiber optic cable was made in the mid of 1970s. Many telecommunication companies started using optical fibers for shorter distance communication. Many companies started the refinement of optical glass fiber technology that eventually lead to the use of optical fibers for long-distance communication.
Bell announced the installation of approximately 978 kilometers of fiber optic cable in its Northeast U.S. corridor in 1980. In Canada, the Saskatchewan Telephone installed 3,600 kilometers of fiber optic cable. Fiber optic cables were first used for television signal transmission in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics.
There was no looking back since then for the fiber optic industry. From 1980, fiber optics gained popularity in the telecommunications world and has reached to the status of a widely accepted and proven technology today. Replacement of copper wires with the optical fiber cable is the new norm.