Dark Fiber vs. Lit Fiber: A Comprehensive Guide

During various enterprise networking discussions, you have heard jargon terms such as lit fiber and dark fiber. But, you might not be sure what they are and how they affect you if you rely on fiber optic cables to deliver data to your business. 

Dark Fiber is best for large corporations and enterprises with high levels of internet demand in terms of security and speed, transmitting data from one location to another. It has low latency, fast speeds, and high security. It can carry more than just light signals on its cables.

Lit Fiber is best for businesses engaged in wholesale internet access, wholesale Internet Service Provider (ISP) services, or telecommunications. Its large bandwidth provides high-speed data or internet service delivered through fiber optic lines.

What is Dark Fiber? 

Dark fiber is a length of fiber optic cable with no equipment connected to it and isn’t transmitting any data. A business buys or leases a dark fiber cable from a dark fiber network provider and then fully manages it through deployment, traffic, security, and maintenance.

Unlike lit fiber, dark fiber lack lasers that send light through the fiber optic cables. Since no data is transmitted through it, no light waves are traveling through it; therefore, it’s ‘dark.’ It provides unlimited bandwidth to more than two locations with dedicated dark fiber.

What is Dark Fiber Used For? 

It wouldn’t be logical for a single or group of homeowners to utilize dark fiber. Dark fiber is mainly used in urban areas by large corporations and enterprises to transmit data. It is typically leased from an ISP to be managed privately.

By utilizing dark fiber, corporations can upgrade bandwidth by changing equipment interfaces without worrying or notifying the carrier about liability on a leased circuit. Dark fiber suits companies whose bandwidth changes unpredictably or rapidly for point-to-point connectivity. It provides a highly secure network, superfast speeds, and high-performance levels.

Pros of Dark Fiber 

Utilization of dark fiber comes with several advantages, including:

  • Security – unlike public access networks with several access points on various terminals and intermediate nodes, dark fiber is only accessible at the two endpoints of the fiber optic cable. This limits the potential of malicious attacks and reduces the need for additional security measures and firewalls.
  • Scalability – dark fiber offers you unlimited bandwidth that allows you to grow your bandwidth alongside your business. Scaling up is easy and quick with unlimited bandwidth.
  • Reliability – when a company buys or leases dark fiber, it’s the sole user of the network. Utilizing your in-house IT department team eliminates dependency on a provider. This lets you conveniently schedule maintenance, avoid costly service upgrades and long waits for capacity increase. With dark fiber, you’re in total control.

Cons of Dark Fiber 

Although dark fiber offers you unlimited bandwidth, it also comes with several cons, including:

  • Availability: Dark fiber is available primarily in urban areas as large corporations use it to transmit data. In rural areas where there is no fiber optic infrastructure, dark fiber is hard to come by.
  • Cost – installing dark fiber costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. When you purchase dark fiber, you are responsible for its deployment, security, traffic, troubleshooting, and maintenance. It also requires you to invest in expensive electronics that can be exorbitant to maintain.
  • Management – dark fiber is a private network that a company needs to undertake all the technicalities it comes with. It needs constant monitoring by an in-house IT department. Ensure your business has the resources, knowledge, enough staffing, and money to run and operate dark fiber seamlessly.

What is Lit Fiber? 

Lit fiber is a fiber optic infrastructure that is currently in use. It utilizes light impulses to transmit data through fiber optic cables. Lit fiber connections are installed, managed, and maintained by a business’s service provider.

A lit fiber service provides the bandwidth required for customer applications like file sharing, email, web hosting, VPN access, video, VOIP, and data backup. Lit fiber comes in several speeds ranging from wavelengths to Ethernet to DS3 over fiber optic lines.

In most cases, users have well-defined bandwidth needs, and the ISP takes the liability of managing the network backbone, ensuring uptime meets the Service Legal Agreement(SLA). Capacity across lit fiber scales from 1Gpbs to 100Gpbs across either dedicated or standard wavelengths.

What is Lit Fiber Used For? 

Everyone wants cutting-edge technology that offers the latest and greatest in network connectivity. It’s all about reliability, speed, and data capacity. It provides services like cloud applications and the speed they need to function.

A lit fiber optic infrastructure provides reliable connectivity speeds needed for serious computing. For most businesses, lit fiber provides the most convenient and flexible fiber optic connection. 

Over the lit fiber, data travels at the speed of light, giving you fast connectivity and high performance. Companies and businesses utilizing lit fiber are on the cutting edge of the telecom industry.

Pros of Lit Fiber  

When most businesses and homeowners want to tap into the power of fiber optics, they use lit fiber networks to do it. They take this option as it’s the most convenient. Below are the pros of lit fiber:

  • Convenience – unlike dark fiber, lit fiber has a broader coverage even in rural areas. When you are ready to connect to lit fiber, the process is quick and seamless without a long setup time associated with dark fiber connectivity.
  • Cheaper – with dark fiber, you are required to cover all the installation costs, from deployment to security, traffic, and maintenance. However, for lit fiber, the ISP covers the installation and maintenance costs so that you can focus on the growth of your business.  
  • Flexibility – with so many ISPs in the market, bandwidth is cheaper with megabit prices adjusting and getting cheaper with time. This allows you to purchase bandwidth that best suits your business needs.

Cons of Lit Fiber

Some of the disadvantages of using include:

  • Additional costs for more bandwidth – increasing your lit fiber bandwidth comes with extra costs. If you need to add more bandwidth, your ISP will increase the monthly fees.
  • Low-security levels – lit fiber has many terminals that increase the risk of malicious attacks. This puts your business at risk and can lead to data loss. To boost its security, you will need more additional firewalls.
  • Low scalability – unlike dark fiber that offers unlimited bandwidth, lit fiber offers metered bandwidth that restricts the scalability of your business. The inability to scale easily and quickly slows your business’s growth and affects its daily operations.

Is Dark Fiber or Lit Fiber Best for You and Your Business?

The major difference between dark fiber vs lit fiber lies in how much control you want to have over your network. For most businesses, lit fiber offers a more affordable and reliable solution. However, dark fiber is the best option if your business has a high demand for internet speed and security and wants a completely private connection.

Dark fiber offers an unlimited scalable bandwidth suitable for companies whose bandwidth changes unpredictably and rapidly. It provides you high-performance levels, more security, and relatively high speeds for seamless running of your business.

Being the most common fiber optic infrastructure, lit fiber offers more convenience and is a viable option for most businesses and homeowners. Unlike dark fiber, your lit fiber ISP is responsible for installing and maintaining the fiber network. 

While lit fiber cannot scale quickly and easily, the process of getting dark fiber is more prolonged and expensive. However, after the installation, you enjoy high-speed connectivity, low latency, and high performance. For any downtime in lit fiber, the issue might be from your ISP because the fiber is already laid.

Dark fiber and lit fiber offer diverse connectivity options; therefore, it’s crucial to consider what’s essential to your business. Whether it’s diverse routing, cost, capacity levels, dedicated bandwidth, and whether it will require scaling in the future. To learn more about dark fiber and lit fiber, contact Cteleco today.

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