Problems

8. Problems With Fiber Optics

8.1 System Reconfiguration
8.2 Limitations in Local Area Networks
8.3 Economic Evaluation

8.1 System Reconfiguration

Although fiber optics are renowned for their efficiencies and loads of advantages, there are a few drawbacks in them and one of them is system reconfiguration. Converting existing hardware and software for the use of fiber optics does take a lot of time and money which also reduces the turnover for any profit making firm in the market. Sometimes it may be more convenient to transmit high speed computer data serially ( one bit after another ) than sending several bits at a time in parallel over separate wires. This changeover requires modification in both hardware and software. Minor differences can cause old programs to crash and make data in old files unreadable. Even though the need for such modifications can be reduced by designing fiber optic systems with interfaces that look just like electric ones, it would not make most efficient use of fiber transmission capacity and would increase costs.

8.2 Limitations in Local Area Networks

In Local Area Networks, fiber optics is not used as widely as one would expect. One reason is the implementation requires great deal of changes in current networks and systems. This requires a lot of time and effort which the management is not willing to sacrifice. People are comfortable with what they have and don't want to change. Although most problems regarding program changing can be solved, the solutions to it will take much longer than expected. Thus, any new program has to be a big improvement over the old one to justify a significant change (although the great improvement usually means that the old program does not work).

Another fundamental problem in fiber optic LANs is the change in technology. The hardware and software to make LAN run efficiently add up to an expensive package. If many terminals in a building must be in constant touch with each other and a variety of other hardware, such as printers and storage devices, LAN will be cost efficient. However, if the real need is to keep the terminals in touch with a mainframe computer, it would be cheaper to run cables between them and the mainframe. If the terminals need to talk to each other, ordinary telephone lines could very well be used as telephone lines are much cheaper than fiber optics.

8.3 Economic Evaluation

The major practical problem with fiber optics is that it usually costs more than ordinary wires. All costs elements involved in economic evaluation can be grouped into two main classes; which are investment costs and operation costs. The investment costs usually includes expenditures related to acquiring and owning properties and plants, in this case changing wires to fiber optic cables. All investment costs should be considered, such as those incurred for equipment and materials (also including storage and handling costs), engineering costs and miscellaneous costs. Operation costs include the usage of fiber optics and the wear and tear of it. The higher costs of fiber is often not by itself. Fiber optic cables are much cheaper than coaxial cables. The main difference comes when all the other components of fiber optics add up, such as transmitters, receivers, couplers and connectors. Fiber systems require separate transmitters and receivers because they cannot directly use the electrical output of computer devices; that signal must be converted into optical form and then converted back into electrical form. Fiber optic connectors and couplers are more expensive than any other electrical components. These costs are the ones that add up and form the major disadvantage of fiber optics.