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Is Dark Fiber the Right Choice for You?

Nov 26, 2019 | Blog

Dark fiber is a popular choice for organizations that have a need for high capacity connectivity and want as much control over their connectivity as possible. However, it’s not a be-all and end-all solution for every type of business.

While many benefits can be had by utilizing dark fiber, it’s not the right choice for everyone. So how do you know if it’s right for your company? Let’s start first by defining dark fiber.

What Is Dark Fiber?

Dark fiber simply refers to unused network fiber that was typically installed when the original fiber network was first constructed. Service providers almost always install more fiber strands than needed to help future-proof fiber optic networks.

Dark fiber is simply fiber that’s turned off – it doesn’t have any light waves moving through it, so no data is being transferred.  And while dark fiber can be made available for everything from mega-corporations and municipalities to small-to-midsized businesses, it may not be the right choice.

exploring-dark-fiber-with-firstlightExploring the Benefits of Dark Fiber

Depending on needs, there are many potential benefits for utilizing dark fiber. However, 4 stand out for most businesses and organizations.

  1. Control

Leased dark fiber can be separated from the general network of a service provider, thus giving a company or entity complete control of what’s traveling through its internal fiber network.  In some cases, this could lead to improved latency, and at minimum, gives the customer the option to make changes on the network as they see fit.

  1. High Performance

Thanks to Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM), dark fiber can deliver super-fast speeds. By using different wavelengths, multiple signals can be transmitted at the same time over the same strand of fiber.

Dark fiber also requires less power than standards like copper and cable. Data is transferred from point to point in a straight line, which makes dark fiber more resistant to interference in the signal.

A good example of these performance gains is seen when connecting two data centers with a dark fiber point-to-point segment. In such a case, gains are typically seen in available bandwidth, link stability, latency times, and the next topic, security.

  1. Security

With its point-to-point connections, a dark fiber network never enters the realm of the public internet. In fact, the network isn’t even shared with third parties. Dark fiber is a dedicated line that can be self-managed, with a company in control of its own light-generation equipment. As such, dark fiber can offer heightened security of sensitive information.

  1. Scalability

Dark fiber offers the business or strategic partner complete control of the network. Unlike other parts of the network, it doesn’t always have to be on. So, if a company needs to scale up rapidly, a dark fiber line can be lit. When a company needs to scale down, excess dark fiber lines can be turned off.

Dark fiber can be lit and re-lit over and over, allowing the network to grow in lockstep with a business. Additionally, if another line is needed, the business can choose to add one. Keep in mind that a single fiberoptic cable can be split into 80 different channels, so expansion doesn’t have to mean the addition of multiple fiber lines.

advantages-of-dark-fiber-with-firstlightThe Disadvantages of Dark Fiber

As stated earlier, a dark fiber solution may not be the right choice for everyone. Here are 3 potential setbacks for implementing a dark fiber network.

  1. The Cost of Business

A company or entity will have to weigh the benefits of dark fiber against the overall costs. Fiber is expensive, and in many cases, especially when distance is taken into account, a business won’t see significant improvement in speed or latency that justifies the price tag.

It’s worth examining how well the existing network is performing against company goals, then seeing if the cost of a private dark fiber network is justified. Many companies may just need slight improvements to their existing network rather than a complete network overhaul.

  1. Availability

While many installation companies typically installed more fiber in the network than needed at the time, many did not. Also, this installation may have occurred over 20 years ago, and much of that fiber may now already be in use.

If a company is in a rural area or small town, dark fiber may not even exist. Typically, the denser the population of an area, the more chance there is for having available dark fiber. A lack of availability will also raise the price, as installing fiber isn’t exactly an inexpensive undertaking.

  1. Control

How can control be both an advantage and a disadvantage? It all depends on the company. By having a private network, the company or entity is taking on all the technical challenges that come with it, including the integration with existing infrastructure and platforms, maintenance, and repair.

The network will also need constant monitoring. Partnering with a strategic partner can ease the burden, but a company may also need to hire additional IT staff to help keep the private network running smoothly.

Ready to Talk Dark Fiber with an Expert?

FirstLight provides dark fiber solutions for companies that need high-capacity bandwidth, security, and control. By partnering with FirstLight, we can help determine the best network solution for your needs.

Contact us today to see if a dark fiber solution is right for you!