Let’s say you got really excited when fiber optic communication became available and decided to lay extensive lines throughout your company.

Before long, however, you realize that you only need a few and wonder what to do with the rest.

The unused optical fibers are what are called “dark fiber.” Dark, because the fibers are unlit, unlike optical fibers that send light pulses while transmitting the information.

Strands of dark fiber can be sold or leased to individuals or companies wishing to set up fiber-optic communication channels.

Over the years, the definition of dark fiber has evolved. Now, it refers to the growing process of leasing fiber optic cables from a network provider or fiber infrastructure that is not operated by big carriers. Even if they are in use, they are still called “dark fiber.” 

Other interesting terms…

Read More about “Dark Fiber”

What is Dark Fiber For?

Dark fiber serves as an allowance for network companies to make sure they have enough fiber optic cables. Overestimating fiber optic cable requirements is necessary because companies need to ensure they can avoid the need to bury new fiber networks should more users crop up.

Ways of Setting Up a Dark Fiber Network

While there may be multiple ways of setting up a dark fiber network, the most common methods are point-to-point or point-to-multipoint configurations. A wireless network can connect to a single network (point-to-point) or several networks (point-to-multipoint) in different locations.

While point-to-point setups are easier to establish, point-to-multipoint networks have at least three additional benefits than the former, namely:

  • Lower costs to implement and maintain
  • More flexibility in installation
  • Strong security with good encryption

Who Needs a Dark Fiber Network?

While most organizations can definitely benefit from dark fiber networks, not all may necessarily need one. A strong candidate for dark fiber use is a company that needs to:

  • Connect several buildings to a centralized corporate office
  • Provide secure remote workspaces
  • Acquire high and similar upload and download bandwidth for each port 
  • Comply with strict security regulations

Who Benefits from Dark Fiber Use?

While ordinary individuals can buy dark fiber affordably, businesses whose operations rely heavily on Internet connectivity benefit from it more. Most organizations prefer dark fiber networks since they are separate from their primary systems, enabling direct control. Operating their own fiber-optic network is much more economical since they can benefit from enhanced network speed and prevent overuse of bandwidth, which can decrease the efficiency of their operations. With dark fiber, they only need to upgrade their equipment to boost their network speed and capacity readily.

Since dark fiber networks are underground, they are also widely used for research and monitoring, such as for research on earthquakes in California, the Alaskan Arctic permafrost, and other oceanic studies.

While dark fiber may have been considered only as a cushion for network providers initially, its use has become common these days as it helps businesses answer most of their operational needs.

Potential Pitfalls of Dark Fiber

As with anything in life, there are various disadvantages that come with dark fiber. The main limitation is that anyone taking on dark fiber is responsible for every aspect of a dark fiber network, from establishing the network to the maintenance and troubleshooting that comes with it. 

For businesses to implement a dark fiber network, it is crucial that there is an advanced team endowed with high-level technical abilities. Additionally, it is of utmost importance that an organization, or individual, fully assess the costs involved to ensure dark fiber is worth the time and effort invested.

For large organizations with vast networks, a dark fiber network can be a viable option; however, if network size and data transmission are not large enough, this would not be worth the investment. The ultimate expense to consider here would be on-premise equipment needed to run the fiber.

Lastly, location plays a role. If an organization or individual is not in an area with an unused cable, they will not be able to connect to a dark fiber strand.