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Fiber Optic Timeline

Created by the Fiber Optic Association as an educational project to help document

 the history of the development of fiber optics for communications.

Dates, of course, are often approximate, as putting a firm date on the introduction of a new technology is often impossible!

If you have additions (especially images), corrections or comments, please send them to FOA.





Transmit images by fiber optics

Narinder Kapany from NY Times
NY Times

Narinder Kapany and Harold Hopkins (separately) make bundles of fibers to transmit images.

Abraham Van Heel suggested cladding the fibers to reduce attenuation.

Laser transmission through fiber optics  
Elias Snitzer and Will Hicks  of American Optical demonstrate a laser beam directed through a thin glass fiber.


Using fiber for data

Charles Kao from NY Times
NY Times

Charles Kao reveals on how to make low loss fiber suitable for communications using an optical cladding over a pure glass core and removing impurities, plus ideally singlemode operation. (Awarded Nobel Prize in 2009)


Semiconductor lasers

Semiconductor lasers demonstrated by both Ioffe Physical Institute in Leningrad and Bell Labs (Alferov and Kroemer share Nobel Prize for their discovery in 2000)


Low loss fiber Manufacturing Method Developed at Corning
Corning development of optical fiber

Donald Keck, Peter Schultz and  Robert Maurer at Corning develop vapor deposition method to make high purity low loss fibers



Ethernet was invented at Xerox Palo Alto Research Labs using coax cable. Digital Equipment joined Xerox to standardize Ethernet under IEEE as 803.3 in 1983.


Semiconductor lasers

Connecting computers

Laser Diode Labs offers first commercial semiconductor lasers

NORAD uses fiber to connect computers at Cheyenne Mountain.

  CATV fiber link trials
  Teleprompter tests fiber optic CATV
   link in Manahattan


Fiber optic field trials begin


April: AT&T installs first telecom link in coal tunnels under Chicago, Illinois (left)

3 weeks later, GTE sends live telephone calls through fiber in Long Beach, CA

July: British Post Office tests link at Martlesham Heath, UK


Fiber to the home

Fiber to the home trials begun Japan and France, costs were very high


Integrated Circuits for Digital Phone Systems

Integrated circuit (IC) PCM codecs and SLICs introduced that allow inexpensive conversion of telephone lines to digital, paving way for fiber optics.


First Ethernet “standard”

Xerox, the inventor, joined Intel and computer manufacturer Digital Equipment Corp. to publish first standard for Ethernet. IEEE would take over standardization for Ethernet and publish the first standard in 1983.


First TV coverage of event using fiber optics

Fiber transmits TV for Winter Olympics at Lake Placid


First large backbones in US


AT&T PR photo showing the advantages of fiber optics

AT&T starts East and West coast backbones in US – 45Mb/s with 850nm lasers in multimode fiber.

Fiber begins replacing communications satellites.


EIA standards for fiber optics

The Electronics Industry Association (EIA)takes on task of developing standards for fiber optics, merges with US Telecom Suppliers Association (USTSA) to create the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) to write standards.


Long haul telecom converts to singlemode fiber

Fiber optic product for CATV networks

British Telecom in UK and MCI in US commit to nationwide networks on singlemode fiber

Times Fiber introduces MiniHub for CATV networks


US National Bureau of Standards project for fiber optic power standard

IEEE published Ethernet Standard

AT&T Tests Undersea Cable

The US National Bureau of Standards initiates a project to create an optical power transfer standard for fiber optics

IEEE published Ethernet Standard under committee 802.3 after taking over from Xerox, Intel and DEC. Ethernet became the dominant LAN and Internet standard.

In 1983, AT&T Bell Labs tested the first undersea fiber optic cable in ~5km deep water in the Atlantic. (Video)


Ceramic ferrules for connectors

D4 connector

BT Installs First Submarine Cable

Kyocera introduces ceramic ferrules for connectors that are precise enough for singlemode fiber. The NEC D4 connector was probably the first connector to use the ceramic ferrule. ST and SC follow.

BT lays first submarine cable to carry commercial traffic to the Isle of Wight and a year later BT installs a cable from England to Belgium


IBM introduces Token Ring

IBM introduces Token Ring network for LANs at 4Mb/s with ring architecture and a 3-byte “token” to allow access. Standardized by IEEE as 802.5 in 1989.


DEC VAXstation Graphic Terminal

DEC VAXstation Graphic Terminal introduced with fiber optic link to VAX computer for bandwidth/length requirements


FOGM Fiber Optic Guided Missile


Raytheon develops the fiber optic guided missile (FOG-M) controlled by a two-way fiber optic data link. The fiber is payed out from a bobbin in the back of the missile.



Standards work begins on synchronous optical networks for fiber optics, SONET in US and SDH internationally. Eventually superseded by carrier Ethernet.


Fiber Optic LANs

FOIRL (Fiber Optic Inter-Repeater Link) becomes first standard fiber optic LAN (!EEE 802.3d) It is followed by 10baseFL/FB/FP in 1993.


Undersea cables


AM fiber optic CATV system

DFB Laser

AT&T lays TAT-8, first transatlantic fiber optic cable. It lasts for 13 years.

General Optronics introduces AM CATV fiber optic system, first affordable CATV fiber system, leads to hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) CATV networks.

Distributed feedback (DFB) laser invented by Herwig Kogelnik of Bell Labs years earlier finally becomes commercially available - it's narrow linewidth and stable wavelength makes longer distance and WDM possible.


Ethernet over Twisted Pair

World Wide Web

IEEE standardizes Ethernet over twisted pair cabling as 10Base-T.

Tim Berners-Lee at CERN develops basis for WWW: Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Hyptertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), and Uniform Resource Locator, URL. That same year, Berners-Lee posted the first web page on what he called the World Wide Web.


Structured Cabling Standards

What we now call structured cabling developed using balanced transmission over twisted pair phone wires and modular phone connectors for 10Mb/s Ethernet with a fiber optic option. Standardized by TIA 568 in 1991. Adopted internationally as ISO/IEC 11801 in 1995.


WWW Browser

Passive Optical Network (PON)

Fiber Optic LAN -FDDI

FDDI Connector

Marc Andreessen, at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, developed the first web browser, Mosaic. The Internet is ready for take-off!

10base-FP (Fiber Passive) Ethernet LAN based on a passive splitter approved as IEEE 802.3J – first standard passive optical network using passive star coupler

FDDI (Fiber Distributed Data Interface) becomes first commercial 100Mb/s LAN using dual ring architecture. Part of the ANSI standard is a unique FDDI duplex connector.


Internet goes public

The Internet becomes mainstream, starting a new generation of communications and commerce.


Fiber Optic Association (FOA) founded

FOA logo

Hybrid Fiber-Coax Fiber Networks for CATV/Broadband

Fiber LAN – Fast Ethernet

Fiber amplifiers extend long haul networks, allow WDM

FOA started by a dozen instructors at Fiber U conference as professional association for fiber optics

The inventions of DFB lasers and cable modems allows CATV companies to build hybrid fiber-coax networks capable of broadband service to subscribers.

IEEE 802.3 standardizes several versions of 100Mb/s Ethernet using twisted pair and fiber optics.

Fiber amplifiers allowed regeneration of fiber optic signals without converting back to electrical signals, greatly extending fiber’s distance capacity and facilitating wavelength division multiplexing.


DOCSIS standard for CATV Broadband Networks

Using cable modems and hybrid fiber coax networks, CATV systems begin offering fast, always-on Internet service, dominating the market for broadband.


Dot Com “Bubble”

The advent of the Internet and deregulation of the US telecom market led to an overgrown market – a bubble – that burst in 2001.



Hollow Core fibers

First Submarine Cables To Use Fiber Amplifiers

Wavelength division multiplexing systems introduced

University of Bath demonstrates hollow core fibers where light is guided by the structure of the fiber not the refractive index of the core and cladding.

TAT-12 installed using fiber amplifiers


Data Centers

The growth of the Internet and the need to store and distribute vast amounts of data leads to the design of giant data centers around the world.


Fiber U Online

fiber U

Gigabit Ethernet Fiber LAN

Submarine Cables Use WDM

In 1998, FOTEC, the originator of Fiber U, begins offering online self-study programs on fiber optics. Fiber U moved to FOA in the early 2000s.

Gigabit Ethernet using short wavelength VCSEL sources introduced. Twisted pair versions follow.

First submaring cables use wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM)


“Internet of Things” term coined

Kevin Ashton of P&G and later MIT coined the term Internet of Things to describe the concept of connected devices


MPO array connector standardized


MPO to 12 ST connectors

TIA releases 12/24 fiber array connector standard, theoretically covers up to 72 fibers.


OS2 low water peak singlemode fiber standardized

3G Cellular


OS2 low water peak singlemode fiber allowed coarse wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM) over a broad wavelength range.

3G cellular standards were a big jump up in bandwidth to >1Mb/s, making the smartphone feasible.


“DotCom/fiber optic bubble bursts

The dotcom/fiber optic bubble of the late 1990s burst in 2001 causing a 70% decline in the fiber optic industry that took nearly a decade to recover. The bust also left much dark fiber, as much as 90% of that installed in the prior 5 years.


OM3 multimode fiber

TIA standardizes OM3 multimode fiber with higher bandwidth than regular 50/125 fibers for faster networks.


10 Gigabit Ethernet Fiber LAN

And Pluggable Modules For Transceivers


It took only another 4 years to increase fiber optic Ethernet speeds 10 times to 10G – and introduce pluggable modules for transceivers


EPON standard LAN used for FTTH

PON version of Ethernet published by IEEE 802.3 commiittee


BPON standard for FTTH

Verizon FiOS FTTH


ITU-T G.983 BPON (Broadband Passive Optical Network) standardized

 Verizon begins first FiOS FTTH network in Keller TX


GPON standard for FTTH

ITU-T G.984 BPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) standardized. Since introduction it has been updated several times to include 10G PONs.


Fiber To The Home (FTTH)

Fiber To The Home (FTTH) networks, mostly based on passive optical networks (PONs) using optical splitters to connect multiple subscribers on one fiber, begin deployment worldwide.


Bend insensitive singlemode fiber

Bend insensitive singlemode fiber was introduced to reduce losses caused by stress on the fibers. It would lead to the development of microcables and high fiber count cables.


QPSK encoding extends fiber to 500km at 100Gb/s

Quadrature phase-shift keying moves from amplitude to phase modulation to allow longer fiber lengths.




Apple introduces iPhone, starts boom in cellular use of smart devices.


Coherent fiber optic communications

Ciena introduces a coherent fiber optic system for long haul fiber at 100Gb/s and higher.


Bend insensitive multimode fiber

Bend insensitive multimode fiber was introduced to reduce losses caused by stress on the fibers. It became the de factor standard for multimode fiber.


100 Gigabit Ethernet Fiber LAN


Ethernet speeds were upped another 10 times – 100G using multi-lane parallel optics for MM fiber and WDM for SM fiber. 40G options were also developed, including an option for short links on Cat 8 UTP copper cables.


Google Fiber Project Unveiled


Over 1100 communities responded to Google’s invitation to become the first Google Fiber city with gigabit Internet FTTH service. Kansas City won the initial competition and construction began in 2011.


4G and LTE cellular systems

4G and LTE cellular systems provided a big jump in bandwidth over 3G at a good time as smartphone usage grows exponentially


10GPON standard for FTTH

ITU G.987/8 standard for 10G passive optical network, can work as overlay for GPON using WDM


Wireless small cells

Using low power small cells to add capacity to urban wireless networks

2012 Gigabit FTTH

The Electricity Power Board of Chattanooga, TN offers first gigabit FTTH broadband network


Austin, TX becomes second Google Fiber City

Over the next few years, Google fiber also added Provo, and Salt Lake City, UT, Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, NC, San Antonio and Huntsville.


Open Compute Project (OCP) group started

OCP was started by Facebook in 2009 to standardize data center product design and make designs open source. Designs are popular especially in hyperscale data centers.


OM4 multimode fiber

TIA standardizes OM4 multimode fiber with higher bandwidth for faster networks.


Google Fiber stops expansion

OM5 multimode fiber for short waqvelength WDM

Bell Labs demos 1Tb/s over singlemode fiber

Google fiber announced it would stop expansion but continue offering service to cities where it was operating.

OM5 fiber was specified for bandwidth in the range of 850-950nm to allow wavelength division multiplexing with VCSELs.

Nokia Bell Labs and Tech Univ Munich demonstrates transmission of 1 terabits/sec over singlemode fiber, approaching the Shannon limit.


Fiber optic microcables reduce size

Corning Microcable

Microcables use bend-insensitive fibers to pack more fibers into smaller cables, easing installation


High count fiber optic cables

high fiber count cable

Fiber optic cables with very high fiber counts introduced, 1728/3456 and 6912 fibers introduced for use in data centers and dense metropolitan areas.


5G cellular wireless networks

Carriers begin installing 5G wireless cellular networks requiring installation of large fiber optic backbones for connections.


Fiber networks prove resilient during pandemic

Working from home using videoconferencing adds enormous traffic to the Internet, but fiber optic communications systems continue to work without glitches.


400 Gigabit Ethernet

400G also offers option to multiplex multiple channels of 25/50/100G data


Hollow core fiber offers “faster” transmission

Hollow core fiber becomes commercially available, promoted because light travels almost 50% faster in the hollow core than in glass core fiber.


 Who knows!



Corning: 50 Years of Fiber  

Fiber Optic Chronology, Jeff Hecht  

CATV Timeline  

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