A Local Area Network (LAN) is a type of computer network that interconnects multiple computers and computer-driven devices in a particular physical location such as schools, residences, laboratories, business zone, etc. Until the earlier years of 2000’s, most LANS used copper cables. However, due to the benefits and popularity of fiber optics, many LANS are now using fiber optic cables. Copper cables are a lot cheaper when compared to fiber optic cables, but have several drawbacks in terms of performance. All these drawbacks are perfectly addressed by fiber optic cables, which can be a good investment in the long term. As a result, now they have become the backbone of LANs. When copper cables run for 100 meters, the fiber optics can run up to 2000 meters offering more than 100 Mb/s of data transmission speed. This post discusses LAN architecture over fiber optics, common types of fiber optic LAN networks, and their benefits.
An Overview of LAN
A LAN enables interconnection and intercommunication between two or more computers in a specific networking range. Some common examples of LAN are office intercom, inter-campus computer networks, etc.
Today, a typical LAN architecture may feature fiber optic cables, ethernet media converters, network switches, transmitters, receivers, etc. However, there are several networks that still use copper cables. In such networks, the length of the existing network is extended using fiber optics. Fiber to Copper media converters enables to develop the connectivity in such networks. The following are two types of LAN, based on the type of transmission media used in the network.
- Traditional LAN: The traditional LAN utilizes copper cables and possesses layer-based architecture. The devices in the LAN are connected to the switches in the distribution layer. Then the switches from the distribution layer are connected to the access layer. This layer-to-layer connection is done by using copper coaxial cables.
- Passive Optical LAN: Passive optical LANs are built entirely using cables. However, passive optical LAN is intricate, as it works on the concept of optical network terminals (ONT) and passive optical splitters. Network switches act as passive splitters, whereas the commercial media converters act as optical network terminals in a real-time application of passive optical LAN.
The LAN architecture differs based on the type of LAN. Let us discuss LAN architecture over fiber optics connectivity.
Design of Fiber Optics LAN (FO LAN)
The fiber optic LAN (FO LAN) architecture is relatively straight forward, where connections rely on Ethernet and Wi-Fi. These two protocols or both of these together can be implemented in a fiber optics network. The architecture of the premise LAN system is described below.
- The LAN networks can carry information over Ethernet or Wi-Fi. An internet zone is created at the transmission location and is then connected to a server. A firewall safeguards this internet connection.
- All secondary devices in the network are interconnected and connected to the server computer. Fiber optic cables are used for ensuing these connections. A computer generates electronic signals, and fiber optic cables can carry only optical signals. In such condition, a commercial media converter is used to ensure the conversion of electronic signals to optical pulses.
The fiber optic networks in LANs must be designed effectively to offer consistent results. Several considerations go into the design and installation of these networks. Let’s start with the designing of a fiber optic network in the next section.
How to Design a Fiber Optic Network for Your LAN?
Designing a fiber optic network involves several considerations such as the level of seamless connectivity needed, signal strength, amount of data transfer, and the time taken, among other factors. Here are some aspects to consider when designing a fiber optic network.
- First, define your objective and scope to build a new network or even exted the current legacy network. It could be because you need scalability for future expansions in the same or different areas.
- Seamless connectivity and high-speed internet is the need of the hour for many businesses working on a global level or for mission-critical applications. This could also be a reason to switch to fiber optics.
- Choosing the right equipment is important, especially of the geographical distance that encompasses cities or countries with undersea cables. This would require a high-level fiber optic design and architecture, inter-device relation and communication, hardware robustness, signal strength, and data flow at a given time.
- Once this is decided, and the cost model is worked out, you can draw a layout encompassing maps and actual geographic locations, including the topographies.
- Such a layout can offer ideas of how the cables would be installed, if any PoE devices are required in some areas, and if any actual construction or infrastructure is required such as a wall, casing, and so on.
- The equipment and devices must be weather friendly and withstand a range of temperatures, moisture, vibrations, and so on. This is because a cable can run underwater, underground, and in all kinds of nature-related situations.
- Visiting these locations physically is an important aspect to design a robust network.
- It is also necessary to comply with the government rules and standards in each location as you may need to obtain certain permissions and licenses for digging, and so on.
- By and large, accurate requirement gathering from the end-user plays a huge role in this process.
Steps Involved in Installing a Fiber Optic Network
Once a design is finalized, the installation is the next phase. Before we delve further, consider the size and area or the distance you need to cover for the entire network to be in place. It could be spanning cities or just over a distance of a couple of kilometers. Here are the installation steps:
- When finalizing the devices and communication equipment you need to work closely with various vendors and manufacturers and also with technology professionals.
- Your documentation should be flawless in the design and installation process and serve as the reference material. Also, it is essential to create a project checklist after having worked upon all possible parameters.
- Develop a test and inspection plan beforehand and ensure it is executed before the network becomes functional.
- Develop documentation and manuals for testing and restoration and ensure the actual installation process is safe for everyone.
- Training the staff for using the network is also an important aspect.
- Communication with the concerned teams is key and it is important to keep everyone concerned in the loop.
- After checking all the above aspects and get the cabling done, you start with the actual implementation process.
- The basic step to installing a fiber optic network is to trace your network terminal.
- Connect this terminal to the fiber jack or the network box.
- Now that the gateway connection is established, plug the power cord to the fiber jack and connect the other end to a power plug.
- Once the router is switched on, the LED lights would indicate the same. It may take a few seconds for the lights to stabilize and gain a solid color.
- Now, your network should be operational. So, connect your device, such as a laptop to this network to test it.
There are different types of LAN technologies used today, if you plan to build a fiber optic LAN, make sure to source all the devices from a reliable manufacturer and supplier. Most times, installation kits are available along with a user manual which makes your job easy and cost-effective. VERSITRON is a leading manufacturer of copper to fiber connectivity products of various types and configurations for data, voice, and video applications. The company also offers several fiber optic solutions including audio/video installation kits depending upon your application requirement.