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Network Connectivity

Embracing the Dark Side: How Dark Fiber Supports the Evolving Demands of the Digital Economy

Dark or ‘unlit’ fiber – that is pre-existing but unused optical fiber which can be leased from a Network Service Provider – has been a private network option for businesses globally for some time. However, as the digital economy proliferates, the value dark fiber can bring to an organization’s IT infrastructure is being realized now more than ever before.

As the need for greater capacity for scaling as well as optimized connectivity for privacy and speed escalates – in line digital transformation initiatives being carried out along with innovation across digital technologies – the demand for unlit fiber-optic infrastructure to support these shifts is escalating. 

To understand how service providers are embracing the dark side of technology in the face of today’s evolving digital climate, we explore the developing IT trends and concepts that beckon the support of dark fiber, and take a look at the key benefits of sourcing on this type of network easily and quickly.

Evolving IT concepts pushing demand for dark fiber networks

Set to grow by a double-digit CAGR from 2020, and reach $13.51 billion by 2028, the dark fiber networks market is on the rise, and we have evolving IT trends and innovation to thank for that.

The market has experienced notable growth for around a decade as IP traffic has ramped up and the use of dark fiber has become more popular, particularly among service providers who have sought to capture the ever-increasing demand for network bandwidth.

In 2020, growing investments in ‘Fiber to the x’ (FTTx) deployment became largely responsible for the growth in the dark fiber market, and they are expected to continue making significant contributions to the demand for dark fiber over the next three years, according to Technavio.

FTTx deployments are network architectures that help to deliver broadband connections to homes, businesses, and other premises, and use optical fiber technology to provide significantly more bandwidth and enable robust video, internet, and voice services for end-users.

The rise of digitization in the form cloud, IoT, automation, and smart city applications has also increased the demand for enhanced connectivity options, according to CommScope, which is bolstering the desire for fiber optic networks that can provide high-bandwidth, low-latency, future-proof solutions to support the next wave of IT innovation.

What’s more, the arrival of 5G is prompting greater requirement of dark fiber, now and likely more so in the future when the service is rolled out completely. Particularly as more and more data is produced, transported, and analyzed, organizations will want to build a solid network foundation that gives them speed and reliability. 

In 2019, GasLINE’s Managing Director, Wolfram Rinner, predicted that dark fiber was essentially the infrastructure for the future, saying, “Given the future 5G requirements in terms of latency, data columns, and reliability, fiber optics are undoubtedly the most future-proof and ideally scalable medium for data transfer.”

Tapping into the benefits of dark fiber

Service providers all over the world have, and are continuing to, embrace the dark side of tech by tapping into all that dark fiber has to offer its operators.

The dark fiber market is reinforced primarily by North America, a region that was quick to adopt the dark fiber concept in the early days of its inception, and today accounts for more than 40% of the overall global market value.

However, Asia Pacific is emerging as the fastest growing market for this unlit optical fiber as a high penetration of fiber optic networks transpires in countries like Japan, China, South Korea, and Australia, who all see the significant potential in offering dark fiber for high-speed Internet service.

From a customer’s perspective, access to high-bandwidth, low-latency connections certainly isn’t the only benefit that comes with incorporating dark fiber into your organization’s network strategy.

For one, procuring dark fiber enables private access to unused infrastructure, which gives the user full control over the network equipment and connection settings, and affords them the freedom to build, deploy, manage, and secure everything on their terms.

Because of this control, businesses can decide the type of transmission technology, protocols, and features they would prefer for their network as it’s a service that they won’t be sharing with others – unlike public internet infrastructure, for example. 

This privacy also enables users of dark fiber to enhance security on their data network, as no other equipment should be able to intercept the data that is being transmitted across the optical fiber. Though this can’t always be guaranteed, private connectivity can reduce security risks. 

Sourcing dark fiber can also enable fast scalability as a user’s data and speed capabilities are limited only by the equipment they use for their dark fiber network, and can be scaled up or down depending on the amount of bandwidth that’s required. In turn, this enables benefits such as cost control as users can shape their bandwidth around their requirements which may need to flex and change at various times. 

For businesses with rapidly expanding data requirements or those whose requirements might not be met using standard networks, exploring the market for dark fiber has proven to be a viable and valuable option for businesses globally. 

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