Latency in Fiber Optic Networks

Posted by Kevin Miller on Mon, Aug 1, 2011 @ 11:08 AM

The term latency refers to the time delay in a particular system. For communications systems, latency is an important factor, because transmission delays can affect the quality and reliability of the system. In the case of fiber optic networks, latency is the time delay that affects light as it travels through the fiber optic network.

The speed of light in a vacuum is the ideal maximum speed for a fiber optic system, but given the delays caused by refraction within the fiber optic cable, transmission speed is considerably less in fiber optic systems. Also, the latency increases over the distance traveled, so this must also be factored in to compute the latency for any fiber optic route.

The quality of fiber optic cable is an important factor in reducing latency in a network. If the cable is of low quality, then the light tends to be delayed as it travels through it. So it is important to start with the highest quality cable, and keep the network well maintained. The best way to maintain the quality of the network is to make cable runs as straight and normal as possible.

Latency Testing Platforms

Another way to minimize latency in a fiber optic network is through careful design and construction. Each time a fiber optic cable is turned or routed it decreases the speed of the signal. Although it is impossible to make all networks straight and flat, it is important to maximize the potential speed of the light flowing through the fiber optic cable at all times.

There are other methods of reducing latency in networks that have become industry standard. Amplifiers or regenerators can also be employed to boost signal speeds at points along the network to counter the effects of latency. Amplification can also add its own latency, however, so its use must be carefully considered and added using precise engineering standards.

Minimizing latency is critical for high speed networks that serve mission critical functions like telecommunications or financial services. If latency in a system is allowed to reach high levels, then the time delays in the data being processed will fail to make use of the available cycles in the data processing systems handling the data. This can cause decreased reliability or quality of service, or ultimately system failure.

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All fiber optic networks must address latency in their design and construction. Using the highest quality components, and applying engineering principles for proper design, latency can be minimized and effectively handled in today’s fiber optic networks.

Topics: latency