The Disadvantages of Optical Communication

Updated April 17, 2017

Telecommunications technology continues to change with the times. Telecommunications hardware began with copper wires as the means for analogue communications signals to be transmitted over distances. Today, the telecommunications infrastructure is made up of a combination of optical wires and microwave transmitters to relay communication around the world. While fibre optics have provided many positives to the telecommunications infrastructure, they also have disadvantages as a technology.

Fibre Optics

Fibre optic cables are a form of wire used in the worldwide telecommunications infrastructure to relay signals back and forth. These wires are made up of a bundle of thin glass tubes encased in a protective casing. The glass strands are used to transmit signals that have been encoded in light. These signals travel for greater distances with less degradation than metal wires. Fibre optic cables are also more secure for information transmission than traditional copper wires, because it is much more difficult to "tap" these glass filaments.


While fibre optic cables are able to transmit signals very quickly in comparison to older kinds of "wired" technology, optical cables also have disadvantages. Since the fibres within fibre optic cables are made of thin strands of glass, they are fragile. Fibre optic cables are vulnerable to breaks in their lines. A break may come from the line being bent or from being severed. Fibre optic cables are often buried underground, which makes them vulnerable to damage by homeowners digging a hole in their yard, or may be vulnerable to seismic events such as earthquakes, or to damage by animals.


Fibre optic cables can replace traditional copper wires, but the cost to transition your technology is high because you will need to hire a professional to complete this service for you. Since fibre optics are also difficult to install, the conversion project will also take more time than installing traditional wires. Whether you plan to do this for your home, business or for a city, these are other costs to consider.


You will also have to change the kind of equipment you use to transmit signals. Fibre optic cable requires that you first convert an electrical signal to an optical signal on one end, then transfer the optical signal to its destination, then have the optical signal reconverted into an electrical signal to be read by a device at the destination point. Investing in new equipment for your fibre optic upgrade may save you money in the long run, but you will have to consider the upgrade and investment justify the cost. Contact a local telecommunications company to request an estimate for how much a project like this will cost.

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About the Author

Victoria Martin has been a writer for more than 14 years. Her work has appeared in Jacksonville's "The Dialer World Magazine," San Francisco's "In Structure Magazine" and Northern California's weekly "The Word: Arts and Culture." Martin received her Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from Humboldt State University.