Synchronous Optical Networking

What Does Synchronous Optical Networking Mean?

Synchronous optical networking (SONET) is a standardized digital communication protocol that is used to transmit a large volume of data over relatively long distances using a fiber optic medium. With SONET, multiple digital data streams are transferred at the same time over optical fiber using LEDs and laser beams.


SONET is a product of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Techopedia Explains Synchronous Optical Networking

SONET is not that different from other technologies, but hardware was manufactured to provide better configuration and reliable services to its users. SONET may use a re-generator for long haul distances. This device boosts signals that have already traveled for a long distance. Signals are transmitted into electrical signals and then re-generated into high-power signals. Add drop multiplexers (ADMs) are also common parts of SONET. ADMs are designed to fully support the network architecture of SONET.

SONET supports multiple data streams at the same time. It was designed to provide efficient services in telecommunication systems and therefore became widely adopted. SONET uses standardized rates so that all kinds of organizations can be interconnected.

In packet-oriented networks, a single packet normally consists of two parts: the data header and the payload. During transmission, the data header is transferred first and then the payload is transmitted. With SONET, however, a slight change is made. The header is termed as overhead and is not transmitted before the payload. Instead, it is interwoven with the payload during the process of transmission. The transmission alternates between overhead and payload until the completion of the transmission process.


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Margaret Rouse 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 explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…