Replacing copper cable with glass

Posted by David Middlecamp on July 25, 2013 

At one time, phone companies bragged about how clear their sound was. Now talking on a cell phone can sound like being underwater.

Unfortunately, there was no way to share cute kitten photos on a rotary phone, so technology marched forward.

On Jan. 12, 1989, Telegram-Tribune reporter Phil Dirkx wrote about a big upgrade from copper to fiber-optic cable:

Phone line upgrade coming to Creston

PASO ROBLES — People in rural areas along Creston Road will soon sound and hear better.

At least when they're using the telephone.

Pacific Bell is installing a new fiber-optic telephone cable along Creston Road at a cost of $700,000.

The 15 1/2 miles of cable will make this the longest local fiber optics project on the Central Coast, said Pacific Bell's Vivien Lauster.

The new cable is being run from the company's central switching office at 15th and Park streets.

It will end at Highway 41 near Creston and should be ready by the end of March, Lauster said. "The installation of the fiber-optic cable will result in static and noise-free voice and data transmission for the 500 Pacific Bell customers," said Jim Bower, the company's Central Coast area manager.

As presently equipped it will be able to handle up [to] 2,688 simultaneous conversations, Lauster said.

That's two-and-a-half times more than the three copper cables it will replace.

But with other equipment, it could handle up to 127,00 simultaneous conversations, she said.

So it will be able to serve many additional customers as growth occurs in eastern Paso Robles.

The fiber-optic cable can carry many more conversations than copper-wire cable even though it is much thinner.

There are 36 glass-fiber strands in the fiber-optic cable. Each strand is about as thick as fine fishing line.

Conversation and data are transmitted along these strands by converting them into a series of laser light flashes.

Splicing the glass fiber strands is done with glue under a microscope in a specially constructed trailer.

The fiber-optic cable is also less expensive.

If the Creston Road cable were copper instead of glass fibers, it would cost $300,000 more, Lauster said.

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