An optical cable is made up of optical fibers and is typically used to connect various digital equipment like digital home theaters, CD/DVD players, gaming consoles and computers. Owing to their ability to transfer data at high speeds, optical cables are used with increasing frequency for computer networks and telecommunication systems.
The fiber inside an optical cable can be made of either of plastic, glass or both. The fiber is capable of transmitting light, as it is transparent and thin. An optical cable is constructed of thousands of such fibers, which is why these cables can transmit large amounts of data at extremely high speeds. Optical cables are available in a range of covering materials, depending upon the intended use of the cable. The uses of optical cable include power lines, telephone poles and submarine manufacturing, among others.
There are several kinds of optical cables available on the market, the most common ones being the single mode and multimode optical cables. Single mode cables are exclusively designed for application in multi-channel broadcasting system and long distance telecommunication networks. Multimode cables are ideal for short distance connections such as LAN and video surveillance systems. There are other kinds of optical cables as well, such as simplex, distribution, breakout, loose tube, ribbon, armored and aerial optical cables.
Optical cables have a few advantages over copper wire cables. Their primary advantage is that optical cables have larger data transfer capacities in a digital format and at greater speeds in comparison to wire cables. Secondly, they are low-maintenance and are less prone to electromagnetic interference. Also, optical cables are non-flammable as they do not require any electricity to pass through them. In contrast to copper cables, optical cables have minimum signal loss and are lightweight and extremely flexible.
In spite of their advanced technology, optical cables also have certain disadvantages. They are quite expensive to manufacture in comparison to copper cables. Moreover, fiber optical cables are extremely fragile in comparison to copper cables and require careful handling. Lastly, the glass present in the cables can be affected by various chemicals such as hydrogen, making them inappropriate for underwater usage.
Toslink is a standardized system of optical fiber connections that is used extensively in audio equipment. Toslink is a registered trademark of the Toshiba Corporation, who derived the name from “TOShiba-LINK,” though the official name of this particular standard is EIAJ optical. Even though Toslink supports diverse formats of media and technical specifications, the most common connection used for transmitting digital audio is EIAJ/JEITA RC-5720 (see Resources below).