And just what is a FOLS, anyway?

April 1, 2000

It's one of several sources of information on fiber in horizontal applications.


Deploying optical fiber all the way to the workstation is the best way to ensure your network's reliability, performance, and upgradability. It allows you to leverage the benefits that fiber brings to your backbones and risers-proven performance, capacity, speed, and reliability-all the way to your users. While the number of fiber-to-the-desk installations continues to rise, it is a choice that still raises some questions, as confusion still exists about the cost, ease of installation, up gradability, and lifetime benefits of installing fiber in the horizontal.

Each month in this column, we at the Telecommunications Industry Association Fiber Optic Local Area Network Section (TIA Fiber Optic LAN Section, or FOLS) address issues that readers like you have raised with our membership. However, the FOLS has much greater breadth than we can show here. Plus, there are a number of other resources that you can turn to for answers to your questions, information on evolving standards, and examples of how other users are deploying fiber in their installation. This month, therefore, we'd like to fully introduce ourselves and highlight some alternative sources of information (besides Lightwave, of course) that you may find useful in determining how fiber can benefit your application.

The Fiber Optics LAN Section was formed in 1993 to help users make informed decisions about the horizontal-cabling medium. The FOLS is a nonprofit consortium of companies dedicated to increasing the use of fiber-optic technology all the way to the desktop. Composed of the industry's leading fiber-optic cable, component, and electronics manufacturers, the FOLS strives to educate end users about the technical and economic benefits that optical transmission brings to LANs. Current members include 3M/Volition, Allied Telesyn, AMP Netconnect, Berk-Tek, Belden Wire & Cable, CommScope, Corning, Lancast, Lucent Technologies, Micro Linear, Ortronics, Panduit, Siecor, the Siemon Co., Sumitomo Electric Lightwave, and Transition Networks.

We want to become a resource for end users and network managers and help to facilitate the deployment of fiber-in-the-horizontal by supporting and publicizing issues driven by end-user demands.

For example, in 1998, based on input from our customers, FOLS members recognized the need for an optical-fiber-based network with a migration path from Ethernet to Fast Ethernet. This recognition resulted in the development of the Short Wavelength Fast Ethernet Alliance, which drafted the proposed 100Base-SX standard. Now in the final phase of comment resolution with TIA FO 2.2, the proposed 100Base-SX standard uses 850-nm wavelength optics to support Fast Ethernet speeds. This approach provides compatibility with 10Base-FL while controlling costs and minimizing risk for the user. In addition, the proposed standard provides fiber customers a means to upgrade to Fast Ethernet speeds today and install a fiber infrastructure that will support Gigabit Ethernet tomorrow, thus making future upgrades easy and affordable.

To help you stay informed on current fiber-to-the-desk topics, the FOLS also maintains a Website at, where you'll find:

  • Information on standards that affect premises cabling, including updates on the pending 100Base-SX Fast Ethernet standard.
  • Case histories profiling companies that have deployed fiber to the workstation.
  • Answers to frequently asked questions about the use of fiber in the horizontal.
  • White papers-we currently have one that addresses general fiber-to-the-desk issues and one that focuses on 100Base-SX.
  • A suppliers' guide listing companies that sell fiber-to-the-desk LAN components.
  • A research directory that profiles existing market research and links you to the companies that produced it.
  • Article links-direct links to articles in many industry publications that address the use of fiber in the horizontal.
  • Resource links to other Websites of interest.
  • An "ask-the-expert" forum where you can pose your own questions.
  • Membership information.
  • And, coming soon, interactive cost modeling that will allow you to see for yourself the cost implications of deploying fiber in the horizontal.

In addition to the information on our Website, there are other on-line resources that can serve as a good starting point if you are looking for data, training, or product information. Please keep in mind that this list is not all-inclusive and the FOLS does not endorse one site over any others.

  • BICSI ( is a not-for-profit telecommunications association that offers members technical publications, training conferences, and registration programs for low-voltage cabling distribution, design, and installation. By the year's end, BICSI will have more than 20,000 members representing 85 nations.
  • Cabling Installation & Maintenance ( is Lightwave's sister publication dedicated to premises-cabling issues.
  • Cable University's ( Website offers technical information, including free online training; FAQs;
    Dan Silver is chair of the TIA Fiber Optics LAN Section and marketing manager at 3M Telecom Div. (Austin, TX).

    The cabling medium you choose today represents a choice that your network will live with for many years to come. Making the "best" choice for your company requires a full understanding of the implications. We at the TIA FOLS are convinced that once you understand the advantages that optical fiber can bring to the horizontal cabling portion of your network, you'll agree that it's the better way to carry information.