How will fiber optics save the world?

Technology is often created to improve our life, making it easier and better, but sometimes the progresses affect our world, which is why telecom department is getting greener and greener replacing old school copper wires with fiber optic technologies.

Fiber optic offers a lot of advantages over copper cables, from faster Internet connection to the fact that fiber networks don’t need to be changed once installed because companies upgrade them by changing the technology that creates the electronic light pulses and not by replacing the fiber cables.

Furthermore, glass fiber optics are being used in so many fields besides telecommunication, because they offer lighting possibilities to medicine, light therapies and the automotive industry.

Now, did you know that fiber optic cables have some environmental benefits?

First of all, fiber optic cable systems waste less energy than coaxial cable systems. Investigations show that coaxial cables consume 3.5 watts to transmit data over 100 meters, while fiber optic systems just use even less than 1 watt to conduct light pulses over 300 meters.


Less energy means less generated heat, therefore fiber optic cables don’t need cooling systems to spend excess of energy to cool down the data and keep it at an appropriate temperature. This means that less air conditioning tools are needed, saving equipment and floor space.

Saving energy helps reducing CO2 emissions, fiber optic cables release just 7g of carbon dioxide for every Gigabits of data. According to a study made by Ecobilan in 2008, by installing fiber optic technology, in 30 years telecommunications businesses could reduce carbon dioxide emissions in 30 million tons just in Europe and that’s Fibre to the Home Council Europe’s plan.

Another benefit is that fiber-optic communication cables can be installed under oceans, needing fewer resources than underground terrestrial cable systems.

RoHS eco-friendly


Since 2003, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) has taken care that electrical and electronic equipment don’t contain more than agreed levels of heavy metals such as Lead, Mercury, Cadmium and Hexavalent Chromium, known for causing several diseases such as anemia or kidney damage and contaminating the environment.

RoSH also looks that the use of Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB) and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE), both Brominated Flame Retardants.

Fiber optic developing companies understand RoSH health and environmental concerns and they work to make fiber-optic systems more and more eco-friendly.

Less copper, more safety

But, how exactly will fiber optic save the world?

Coaxial cables are made of copper. And it is no secret for anybody that this metal’s extraction is highly contaminating and even dangerous.

According to University of Virginia Faculty Web copper mining affects the vegetation, water and biological life near the mining zones, due to the acid mine drainage caused by the oxidation of metal sulfides. Badly affected areas aren’t even able to sustain life. And not to talk about the damage suffered by humans, long exposure to this reddish-orange metal can cause lung cancer and heart diseases.

Also, let’s not forget the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped for more than two months in a gold and copper mine in Copiapó, Chile after the mine caved in. Rescue cost was of 20 million dollars and some of them suffered diseases like Silicosis, pneumonia and dental infections.

Nevertheless, fiber optic is made of a very pure glass and this glass is basically made from Silicon Dioxide, the second most abundant element on Earth after Oxygen. Silicon Dioxide (SiO2) is the principal component of sand and it also can be found in rocks, clay and even water, so planet is no running out of it anytime soon.

The process of extracting Silicon from silica sand consists in removing oxygen from it, by heating a mix of silica and carbon in a temperature higher than 2.000ºC.

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Companies taking green action

In July TELUS, a Canadian national telecom company, announced it had installed a 150km fiber optic network in Northern Vancouver Island, allowing schools, hospitals and businesses to have access to faster Internet. They even brought high speed internet to Kwakwaka’wakw communities that didn’t have Internet at all.

After four years of preliminary engineering and environmental reviews, TELUS decided to use specialized equipment that allowed to open narrow but deep trenches where the fiber optics was deployed, avoiding road-side logging saving thousands of trees.

The globally operating telecommunication company Telefonica announced they are planning to completely change the 6.600 copper networks they have in Spain to fiber-optic networks by 2020. They pretend to install super fast broadband in every Spanish city with more than 1000 habitants.

President Obama understood that Internet access is a necessity, so ConnectHome was created, a program that along with communities, private companies like Google and federal government will provide broadband Internet to 275.000 low-income households.

Programs like Fiber To The Home, Building or Neighborhood are being implemented by governments and telecommunications companies in several countries because high-speed Internet is the future and they know the future needs to be eco-friendly.

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