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What Is a Fiber-Optic Splitter?

Cindy Quarters
Cindy Quarters

Fiber optics is a type of technology that uses an optical signal instead of an electrical one to send data from one place to another. The cable is made either of glass or plastic coated in plastic, instead of the copper wire that was commonly used in the past. A fiber-optic splitter is a device that takes a single fiber optics signal and divides it into multiple signals.

The use of fiber optic technology has become increasingly popular for several reasons. Fiber optic cables are much less sensitive to electrical interference, making them more reliable than older types of cabling. They are also able to carry very large amounts of data in comparison with what older systems can handle. This makes them much more efficient, despite the facts that there are some drawbacks to the system. The cables require a thicker covering to protect the optical cables and they also need to have repeaters installed to boost the signal strength in order for the system to work, two hindrances to the use of this technology.

Fiber-optic technology can enable signals to run in both directions.
Fiber-optic technology can enable signals to run in both directions.

Despite the limitations, fiber optics technology is in use for both home and commercial applications. Phone companies in many nations use fiber optics cables to carry long distance telephone transmissions. Due to the cost, however, they are not commonly used for local calling. The system requires both boosters and splitters in order to send the signals to the appropriate location, adding to the cost and complexity. One frequent use of a fiber-optic splitter in the home is to split a television signal so that it goes to more than one TV.

The most common type of fiber-optic splitter splits the output evenly, with half the signal going to one leg of the output and half going to the other. It is possible to get splitters that use a different split ratio, putting a larger amount of the signal to one side of the splitter than the other. Splitters are identified with a number that represents the signal division, such as 50/50 if the split is even, or 80/20 if 80% of the signal goes to one side and only 20% to the other.

Some types of the fiber-optic splitter are actually able to work in either direction. This means that if the device is installed in one way, it acts as a splitter and divides the incoming signal into two parts, sending out two separate outputs. If it is installed in reverse, it acts as a coupler, taking two incoming signals and combing them into a single output. Not every fiber-optic splitter can be used this way, but those that can are labeled as reversible or as coupler/splitters.

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    • Fiber-optic technology can enable signals to run in both directions.
      By: Witold Krasowski
      Fiber-optic technology can enable signals to run in both directions.