What is Dark Fiber?

Thursday, April 11, 2024

For decades, industry insiders – from network operators to carriers – have recognized the advantages of high-bandwidth, scalable dark fiber. However, what was once the domain of telecom players is now captivating a broader audience. Businesses across diverse sectors are increasingly turning to dark fiber to bolster their networking and technology infrastructure, enticed by its promise of flexibility, security and performance. From professional service firms to healthcare systems, from government organizations to educational institutions, organizations from a range of industries are eagerly embracing the benefits of dark fiber to meet their networking needs. 

Dark Fiber vs. Lit Fiber

Before exploring dark fiber’s advantages, it’s important to answer a few questions. First, “What is dark fiber?” Put simply, dark fiber is pre-existing underground infrastructure that does not yet have the hardware or software that enables it to run services. While fiber optic cables that are actively sending data via light wavelengths are considered lit, the rest of the unused fibers laying in wait are deemed unlit—or dark. So what are the differences between dark fiber and lit fiber? Why would a company choose dark fiber versus lit fiber?

Dark fiber offers several advantages. First, dark fiber provides unparalleled scalability, allowing businesses to customize their bandwidth according to their evolving needs without being restricted by the limitations of lit fiber. Think of it as controlling your own (bandwidth) destiny. Unlike lit services, where upgrades frequently entail lengthy waiting periods caused by reliance on outside service providers, dark fiber empowers companies to swiftly grow their network as the demand grows. For instance, if a company desires an additional 100 gigabits of service across their fiber optic network to meet increased demand, they can seamlessly implement this upgrade without dependence on a network provider. By managing their infrastructure, companies can efficiently add capacity, whether it’s a same-day operation or a weekend endeavor. Dark fiber’s agility in increasing bandwidth ensures that businesses can adapt to evolving demands promptly. This agility extends to significant bandwidth requirements, such as the need for an extra 400 gigabytes of traffic. Dark fiber offers unparalleled flexibility and control, allowing businesses to efficiently scale their network infrastructure.

Secondly, dark fiber offers lower latency, ensuring faster and more reliable data transmission, which is critical for applications requiring real-time responsiveness. Unlike traditional commercial internet services, dark fiber offers a more direct path from end to end, eliminating unnecessary stops that can introduce delays. By opting for dark fiber, enterprises can guarantee the most efficient route for their data, enhancing performance and reducing response times. Moreover, dark fiber ensures private networking, enabling businesses to swiftly detect and resolve internal issues without relying on ISPs to troubleshoot potential obstacles. Opting for dark fiber enhances control and security over network operations, as companies retain full ownership and management of their infrastructure, minimizing dependence on external service providers. 

In terms of security, dark fiber stands out as an exceptionally secure option. With dark fiber, there’s a substantially reduced risk of interference from external sources. Dark fiber provides businesses unparalleled control and security, as they maintain authority over their facilities and utilize dedicated fibers, ensuring an additional layer of protection. This blend of low latency, private networking, and heightened security makes dark fiber an invaluable asset for organizations prioritizing speed, reliability, and responsiveness in their network infrastructure.

For companies seeking greater flexibility, performance, control, and security, dark fiber presents a compelling choice. Now that we’ve reviewed the advantages of dark fiber versus lit fiber, let’s explore how dark fiber works.

How does Dark Fiber Work? 

Dark fiber works by allowing companies or organizations to lease or purchase unused optical fibers within the fiber optic cable infrastructure. Businesses then install their own networking equipment, such as transmitters, receivers, amplifiers, and multiplexers, at each end of the fiber to activate and manage the transmission of data.

Once the networking equipment is installed and configured, data signals are sent through the fiber optic cables in the form of light pulses. These light pulses travel through the glass fibers, bouncing off the inner walls due to total internal reflection, until they reach their destination. At the receiving end, the light signals are converted back into digital data for processing by the connected devices.

How Is Dark Fiber Set Up?

When designing a dark fiber network, organizations have the freedom to select the technology that best aligns with their needs, whether it’s DWDM (Dense wavelength-division multiplexing) technology, MPLS (Multiprotocol label switching ), or Ethernet. This flexibility extends to various network configurations, including linear, point-to-point, ring configuration, multi-count, single pair, and full conduit setups, catering to specific organizational requirements. 

At FiberLight, we provide a diverse offering of dark fiber network solutions, ranging from straightforward two-fiber pair setups to sophisticated multi-route metro and long-haul options. Our dark fiber solutions are further enhanced by colocation facilities, which bolster the flexibility and scalability of customer network infrastructure. Meticulously designed to meet evolving market demands, our solutions address the needs of data centers, cloud service providers, 5G networks, quantum computing, AI advancements, and government security and regulatory mandates.

Use Cases for Dark Fiber vs. Lit Fiber

From a business standpoint, the advantages of dark fiber—flexible bandwidth, superior performance, and enhanced security—outweigh those of lit fiber across multiple industries. 

Network operators and carriers were among the earliest to recognize dark fiber’s utility, especially in regions lacking infrastructure. Leasing dark fiber from providers like FiberLight enabled network operators and carriers to effectively support their customers, and continues to meet their infrastructure needs.

Beyond the telecom industry, dark fiber offers distinct advantages for hyperscalers and data center providers, particularly those with multiple campuses. The rapid growth of cloud-based technologies and the demand for high-speed data transmission has driven a boom in data center construction, often across dispersed locations in remote areas. Deploying dark fiber connectivity enables these data centers to offer high-speed networking services across dispersed locations, with as much as a 100 gigabit connection, enhancing customer offerings and meeting evolving demands.

The benefits of dark fiber also extend to state and local government agencies, along with large enterprises seeking network expansion. For example, consider the regional school districts spanning the state of Texas, or a software company in California with multiple campuses separated by public rights of way or connectivity challenges. Dark fiber effectively bridges such gaps, allowing enterprises to interconnect campuses and provide high-speed networking services across locations.

In industries like finance, gaming, and healthcare, where speed matters, dark fiber’s lower latency proves invaluable. Dark fiber networking ensures swift transactions, seamless gaming experiences, and prompt transmission of medical data for timely diagnoses. With its unparalleled performance and flexibility, dark fiber serves as the backbone for robust and scalable networking solutions across diverse industries. 

As organizations seek the most reliable and efficient dark fiber solutions, it’s essential to understand why FiberLight shines as the superior choice for custom-built networks that drive business performance.

Why FiberLight for Dark Fiber? 

With over 20 years of experience in designing, constructing, and operating high-bandwidth networks, FiberLight stands at the forefront of dark fiber deployment. Our extensive construction background sets us apart, providing unmatched expertise, know-how, and dedication to our customers. Over the past two decades, we have demonstrated our capabilities in custom-building dark fiber networks across the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas, ensuring seamless operation for even the most critical applications.

FiberLight’s fiber-rich footprint spans key innovation hubs, solidifying our position as a leading industry provider. Supported by a dedicated Network Operations Center (NOC), we ensure continuous monitoring, troubleshooting, and incident resolution, guaranteeing the reliability and performance of our networks.

Moreover, FiberLight’s status as a network operator means that we have the industry experience, licensing expertise, and permitting capabilities to construct custom networks swiftly and efficiently for our customers. Our streamlined operational practices provide a one-stop solution, encompassing all aspects of construction, permitting, and legal requirements. Our experience translates into a business advantage for our customers by expediting the deployment process. 

The advantages of dark fiber are clear, and its unmatched speed, scalability, and security underscore its essential role across various industries. With FiberLight’s steadfast commitment to customer satisfaction and our extensive experience in designing, constructing, and deploying dark fiber networks, we lead the industry in providing dependable and adaptable solutions. FiberLight shines as the preferred choice for organizations seeking to future-proof their network infrastructure with dark fiber solutions.

To learn more about FiberLight’s dark fiber solutions, please visit Understanding Dark Fiber: 4 Advantages of Switching to the Dark Side.