What is Shared Fiber and How Does it Work?

A fiber-optic connection offers the fastest internet around, with upload speeds as fast as download. As great as that sounds – super-fast access to the cloud, reliable video conferencing and so on – your business, especially if you’re in a small town or rural area, is most likely getting internet through telephone lines (DSL) or coax cable.

Fiber-optic cable just isn’t widely available outside of major markets – and that’s because installing new fiber-optic cable is expensive. Very few companies want to take on the investment in construction and equipment. 

On top of that, the cost of dedicated internet access (DIA) can be cost prohibitive for companies, too. With DIA, companies pay to install dedicated fiber from the internet source to their location – and possibly between multiple company locations as well. This cost has historically put fiber-optic service out of reach for countless small businesses and organizations.  

Shared Fiber – Leveling the Playing Field

But . . . what if there was another way to do it?

What if there was a way that would more easily reward in internet service provider’s investment . . . and at the same time lower the cost-of-access for business?

That’s what shared fiber technology is all about. 

Shared Fiber – The Idea is Really Simple

The most distinguishing feature of shared fiber – also called PON, or Passive Optical Network – is its use of a single strand of optical fiber to support multiple destinations or customers. 

Unlike DIA – one dedicated fiber-optic strand for each customer – PON uses a single strand to serve up to 32 customers. Instead of DIA point-to-point architecture, PON implements a point-to-multipoint architecture. 

Of course, to do this, there also needs to be a way to separate the data and route it to the proper destination. PON uses unpowered fiber-optic splitters to separate and collect optical signals as they move through the network. In this way, PON moves data through a single strand to multiple end-points. By splitting the fiber at locations closer to the end user, PON also involves significantly less infrastructure than traditional dedicated fiber. And powered equipment is required only at the source and receiving ends of the signal.

“With shared fiber, available bandwidth of the network is easily allocated among the users, but one of the great things about the new PON technology is that it can be preset to permit each user a speed of their choice,” explains Dan Conrad, director and general manager overseeing rural fiber projects at Cable ONE Business. “In this way, a business only buys what they need.”

In so many ways, shared fiber technology is just more efficient, says Conrad, bringing power and capacity to businesses and markets hungry for the benefits of fiber-optic internet access.

A Brighter Future for Rural Markets

With PON or shared fiber technology, more businesses and organizations, particularly in rural communities, have the opportunity to experience the benefits of high speed internet through a fiber-optic network. For many users, getting fiber internet – even at just 1 Gbps – would represent an exponential leap forward, giving them internet access at least 100 times faster than what they have now. 

“PON technology makes it possible to deliver true symmetrical broadband in the most economical way because it requires less construction and equipment to reach each individual customer,” says Conrad. 

Closely related:  5 Key Advantages of PON Internet, a.k.a. Shared Fiber