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Nubia Piqueras Grosso

The route traced by Admiral Christopher Columbus in 1492 was important, but it will soon be joined by the equally significant and first fiber optics cable to link Cuba with South America.

Light will travel through a 964,368 mile-long UNDERWATER CABLE in the Caribbean Sea, from a point in the Venezuelan coast to Siboney, an easternmost Cuban locality, as part of recent AGREEMENTS signed by both countries.

This fiber optics project is expected to offer high speed, lower cost services, allowing Venezuela to interconnect with Caribbean countries neighboring Cuba, while the island will be connected with nations like Colombia and Brazil.

The submarine cable will allow the exchange of digital information, including fax, audio, text, videoconference, TV, telephone, webpage access and any other kind of data within milliseconds.

Optical fiber technology dates from 1977, when a test system using the new technology was installed. However, there was a previous proposal of using an optical guide for communication.

A Little Bit of History

After World War I, and in the wake of the great Cuban Telephone American Telephone and Telegraph Company merger, a long-distance telephone line system between Cuba and the US was created, including the installation of an underwater cable between Havana and Key West.

It allowed direct communication with New York and Jacksonville first, and later to Avalon city, California, in what became the world's largest telephone line of 5, 468 miles, which was also the base for radio broadcast between both countries.

This underwater CABLE was modernized in late 20th century to offer telephone and other services. However, the US seizure of funds from payments due to the Cuban telephone company has caused this link to remain inactive in the bottom of the Florida Strait.

Nowadays, all communications from and to Cuba, including data transmission by Internet, are via satellite, pushing up the price of services and limiting the flow due to low speed because of changing atmospheric conditions and higher costs of access to satellites.

An Ideal Solution

In view of the impossibility to transmit messages at high speed and with broad coverage, scientists and technicians devised optical fiber, a technology using materials which are lighter, more economical and thinner than copper.

OPTICAL FIBER consists of a guide of light, where the signal is less attenuated than copper. Information is not lost in the fiber, and several different signals at different frequencies can be issued at the same time by the cable.

Therefore, in a decade or so, fiber optics has become one of the most advanced technologies to transmit information. This new material has helped revolutionize the processes of telecommunication.

Its acceptance is also due to its reliability, and it is immune to electromagnetic interference which affects radio waves. It also has large bandwidth, which increases transmission capacity and reduces the cost per channel.

A six-fiber cable can carry the signal of more than 5,000 channels or main lines. A similar service to the same number of users in a conventional system of copper cables requires 10,000 pairs of cables.

Other advantages of OPTICAL FIBER are the facility of installation, as well as its rapid, unlimited, continuous, smooth Internet access, as well as its compatibility with digital technology and the abundance of raw material in nature for its manufacture.

However, it may also have its weak spots: the cost of installation is high; fibers are weak and cannot be tied when broken. Another spot is the high cost of connection interfaces and other fiber network elements used to install "the last mile" to the final user, often made with copper cables.

In spite of all this, APPLICATIONS of fiber optics are ever increasing, as it is a technology boasting circuits of glass or plastic filaments, which are low in thickness, but able to carry beam of light-shaped messages.

It has applications in TELEPHONE and in other sectors, including industrial automation, computer science, cable TV systems and transmission of high resolution astronomic image information, among others.

The most simple application of optical fiber is to carry light to places otherwise difficult to illuminate, like a dental cavity drilled by a dentist. It is also used in laser or endoscopic surgery.

If fiber optics has turned out to be the leader of the "digital era,"

will it all stop here or are scientists to surprise us with a new, even better technological device?

Source: Prensa Latina

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