The Mysteries of Dark Fiber Revealed
Dark Fiber. It calls to mind images of ZeroCool or Crash Override and a 90’s neon CG interpretation of the internet – that, or a Tom Clancy novel. In reality, Dark Fiber is both much simpler and altogether more amazing. The term was originally used when referring to the potential network capacity of telecommunication infrastructure. These days it is also used to refer to the now rather common practice of leasing fiber optic cables from a service provider or to the installations not owned or controlled by traditional carriers. What does that all really mean?Basically there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of laid, unused fiber optic lines running parallel to the data pipes that already exist.
But how or why did this happen? Several factors lent themselves to the creation of the Dark Fiber networks. In the grand scheme of things, running a fiber line is expensive, but mostly in terms of labor; from the civil engineers to the obtaining of permissions and the actual installation, labor takes up roughly 80% of the cost, while the actual fiber only about 10%. So for the sake of efficiency when one line is laid, several more are installed in case of expansion. That’s not all though. During the dot-com bubble a large number of companies built fiber networks with the hopes of cornering the market in telecommunications by providing a network big enough to take all existing traffic in an entire region. However, the need to increase capacity diminished as technology pushed data transfer by a factor of as much as 100. As a result, these companies folded, but the networks are still in place.
So what is Dark Fiber or a Dark Fiber Network good for? Well there are plenty of private applications, companies can lease or buy up lines of Dark Fiber and use them for internal networks, or even as their own fast-lane to the internet at large. Universities and businesses of technology are buying up large quantities of dark fiber for the purposes of research and development. Intercity networks are being used with significant savings to schools and governmental buildings. Allied Fiber is rolling out an industrious plan that relies on Dark Fiber Networks to build network-neutral fiber routes along railway lines owned by Norfolk Southern Railway. Utilizing something akin to on-ramps and off-ramps to bring better access and connectivity between cell towers and rural networks, Allied plans to distribute neutral colocations using modular buildings placed along Dark Fiber routes to bring big-city network hubs to second-tier markets. Even Google, Comcast and other telecom giants have their eyes on Dark Fiber Networks.
What’s next? Well, Dark Fiber already exists, so it’ll be a matter of buying it up and that’s not always easy. Telecommunication companies already lobbied to change the regulations requiring them to sell their Dark Fiber to competitors, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. More and more information is being broadcast down a single line of fiber, which brings more and more redundancy to the extra lines. In turn, this makes Dark Fiber cheaper each subsequent upgrade to the amount of data being moved. A few years ago a mile of dark fiber might have cost $1200, now days it’s something closer to $200. With the push for more and more accessible internet, the private sector has all the reason in the world to tap into the Dark Fiber Network and bring new and exciting innovations to the table, like Allied.
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