Dark fiber can sound intimidating to the imaginative. Perhaps these strands are related to a fantastical other realm and malevolent in intent. Nevertheless, dark fiber is only scary from the point of view of an unused resource. Dark fiber refers to unused fiber optic cable.
What is dark fiber?
Ever had the cable or phone company dig up your parking lot or the lovely landscape at your business to upgrade or fix connectivity? It’s a hassle for you and for the company. So, instead of hiring crews to dig great big swaths of land again and again, the companies often lay down more lines than are initially called for, to meet potential network capacity. Many of the fiber assets available today reflect the optimism of the telecom boom of the late 1990s.
The unused fiber left on the market by a subsequent telecom bust has been labeled dark fiber. Not because these fiber optic strands are particularly nefarious, but rather because they are not in use; there is no data being sent in the form of light pulses on the cable lines.
Dark fiber cable strands can be leased to individuals or companies to establish connections. It only makes sense. The cable company was looking to future-proof, but wants to earn money in the meantime.
How is dark fiber accessed?
Technology today makes it possible to access and package the extra, unused capacity. The individual client can lease unused strands of fiber optic cable to create a privately operated network. The client can then tailor the wavelength and network traffic speed to adapt to the service platform of their choice. Users can overlay any protocol needed while retaining the flexibility to expand and control their network connectivity needs.
Buying dark fiber puts the customer in control of the cable itself, but also gives them responsibility for remote monitoring, maintenance, and repair.
Dark fiber advantages
Enterprises needing high bandwidth fiber optic connectivity can see many benefits from leasing dark fiber:
- Dark networks have a higher capacity (multiple data signals can even be transmitted simultaneously at different wavelengths)
- Separate from the main network, dark fiber is controlled by the client
- A proprietary network is highly secure and configuration can be customized
Who uses dark fiber?
The underlying infrastructure for dark fiber optic cable is essentially the same as lit fiber. Yet, instead of constructing a new connectivity network or partnering with a network operator, those who go the dark fiber route see lower infrastructure costs and greater control. For those lacking the resources to manage a network on their own, many dark fiber-optic providers offer managed wavelength services that include support and expertise.
A communications service provider might expand its service or offer more accessibility in a particular area by piggybacking on a dark fiber network.
In a separate use case, financial institutions managing technological innovations might want to implement a variety of interfaces above the standard options from a carrier. By electing to use dark fiber, the enterprise gains the ability to customize its network connections and greater control over equipment employed.
Municipalities with low-latency applications might also find cost savings in dark fiber as they gain direct control of the transmissions and related equipment.
Edison Carrier Solutions, a business unit of Southern California Edison, has more than 5,000 miles of fiber optic network available in a 50,000 square mile service area. For more than 20 years, the company has been providing critical connectivity of standard single mode fiber in point-to-point or ring configurations as lease options.