Optical Communication

What Does Optical Communication Mean?

Optical communication is any type of communication in which light is used to carry the signal to the remote end, instead of electrical current. Optical communication relies on optical fibers to carry signals to their destinations. A modulator/demodulator, a transmitter/receiver, a light signal and a transparent channel are the building blocks of the optical communications system.


Because of its numerous advantages over electrical transmission, optical fibers have largely replaced copper wire communications in core networks in the developed world.

Techopedia Explains Optical Communication

Since the development of low-loss optical fiber cables in the 1970s, optical communications became one of the most popular methods of communication. Optical communication systems consist of the following components:

  1. Transmitter: Converts and transmits an electronic signal into a light signal. The most commonly used transmitters are semiconductor devices, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser diodes.
  2. Receivers: Typically consist of a photo-detector, which converts light into electricity using the photoelectric effect. The photo detector is typically a semiconductor-based photodiode.
  3. Optical Fiber: Consists of a core, cladding and a buffer through which the cladding guides the light along the core by using total internal reflection.

The main benefits of optical communication include high bandwidth, exceptionally low loss, great transmission range and no electromagnetic interference. The cons of optic communication include the high cost of cable, transmitter/receiver and other support equipment, and the skill and expertise required during cable installation and interconnection.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.