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FiOS and You

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 11/5/2009

We look at fiber optic connections and how they're changing the world of Internet speeds across the world.

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    Introduction

    FiOS, it’s the TV commercial you see all the time and wonder if you can or can’t get it. But have you ever stopped to wonder what’s actually behind the high-speed FiOS connection? How it works? What technology makes it all possible? Then come along with us as we explore the wonderful, quasi-magical world of FiOS and the tech behind a great leap forward for Internet speed technology.

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    Well, What Is It?

    This is a valid question, what exactly is FiOS? FiOS is the proprietary fiber optic technology that is driving Verizon’s latest efforts to expand their high-speed Internet lines. However, the public and a large sector of the media has re-branded the FiOS name to generally mean Fiber-Optic connections here in the United States.

    A Fiber Optic connection is exactly what it sounds like. Fibers which have properties important to optical connections are strung together inside a cable that is run underground. These cables are then connected to your house’s telephone line system (or perhaps in the future an independent optical wire system) and that line system is connected to your modem which connects you to the Internet.

    The real appeal of these cables lies in the fact that they’re able to carry a much larger amount of information than a traditional DSL line or even a cable line, both of which piggyback existing technology to achieve Internet connectivity. While inside your house, the DSL lines and etc stay the same, but outside, the fiber optic cables take over and carry the information quickly to the central lines in the US.

    The fiber optic cable itself is a fascinating piece of technology which relies on a special property of optics to create a line capable of being bent while still transmitting light to the other side. But then, why does this particular technology afford such an increase in speed?

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    How Does it Work?

    A Fiber Optic cable is run underneath your home to a box outside your house through which a Cat5 cable is then run into. Here’s the chain of what happens in a fiber optic connection when you try to access a website.

    Your computer sends a signal through the Cat5e cable or Wirelessly to your router which then pings the server in question somewhere out in the world. When the router goes to ping the website you requested, rather than sending an electrical signal out through a copper wire, a transmitter sends out information as a beam of light which can be filtered through the fiber optic cable and then multiplexed when it reaches the larger “community” wire.

    Simply put, beams of light act as the electrical signals that were originally used to access the Internet. The same way electrical signals can be used to represent binary code and ping requests, so too can light be transmitted in bursts to the same effect.

    The end result is a high-fidelty, high-bandwidth connection that can be transmitted commercially and sold at a bargain once the technology to install this type of wire commercially is made cheaper.

    Overall, FiOS looks to be the future of the Internet connection and a bright future at that. As our internet speeds go up, so too does our ability to download and stream files over the internet. Perhaps Microsoft's pipe dream of 1080p streaming on the Xbox 360 isn't as far away as one would've originally thought.