Dark Fibre vs Lit Fibre | 2024 Guide | Neos Networks

Dark Fibre vs Lit Fibre

  • Neos Networks
Dark Fibre vs Lit Fibre

There is a lot of conversation about fibre – but what exactly is the difference between dark fibre and lit fibre, and which one is right for you?

There are several pros and cons for choosing either Dark Fibre vs Lit Fibre.

What is Dark Fibre?

Dark Fibre is simply a length of fibre optic cable which has no equipment connected to it and is not transmitting any data. A business will lease or buy this fibre from a network provider and then fully manage the equipment, deployment, security, traffic and maintenance themselves.

Dark Fibre capacity is limitless and it’s easily scalable. As the whole fibre is leased by and dedicated entirely to that business, it means they use the capacity how they choose. That includes taking advantage of technology like Dense Wave Multiplex Divisioning (DWDM) where equipment at the end of the fibre can split the light out into the various wavelengths of the spectrum to carry data and increasing capacity significantly – up to 400Gbps across a single fibre using 88 channels.

What are the benefits of using Dark Fibre?

The benefits offered by Dark Fibre are compelling, particularly for larger organisations:

  • Limitless capacity – so your future-proofed connection grows with your business and can handle large amounts of data
  • Full control – use and scale your capacity how you like, configuring the network to meet your specific needs
  • Complete security – your dedicated connection is not shared with anyone else and therefore less prone to security risks
  • Cost savings – if you use large amounts of bandwidth, dark fibre can be less expensive than managed services

What is Lit Fibre?

In contrast to this choosing a ‘lit’ option puts the onus on the network provider who will then be responsible for keeping the fibre lit and ensuring availability and capacity. Lit services like Ethernet and Optical Wavelengths tend to come with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which promises the business a certain level of availability and support – up to 99.95%. Capacity across Lit Fibre can scale from 10Gbps to 400Gpbs.

What are the benefits of using a layer 1 Lit Fibre service?

Whether Dark Fibre or Lit Fibre is best for your business will depend on your unique circumstances and needs. Lit Fibre also has its benefits:

  • Swift set-up – getting Lit Fibre up and running doesn’t take as much time as Dark Fibre
  • Less expense – although Lit Fibre still needs investment, it’s less costly than Dark Fibre
  • Less responsibility – when you lease Lit Fibre, any maintenance and repairs will be undertaken by the carrier, not you
  • Guaranteed availability – you’ll usually have a service level agreement with your carrier, putting the onus on them to ensure you’re always connected

Dark Fibre vs Lit Fibre

Whilst Lit Fibre lacks the ability to easily and quickly scale, the timescales of getting Dark Fibre set up are much longer and typically more costly.

With Dark Fibre, businesses are responsible for leasing the fibre as well as buying and maintaining the equipment and the IT staff needed to use the fibre. For Lit Fibre any downtime would be the issue of the carrier but can be a bit more restrictive in terms of routes as the fibre is already laid and connectivity to the premises depends on whether the network provider’s route runs there.

Dark Fibre and Lit Fibre offer very different options, so it is important to consider what is most important to your business – whether that is cost, diverse routing, dedicated bandwidth and the kind of levels of capacity and whether it will need scaling in the future.

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Dark Fibre FAQs

Take a look at our FAQs for Dark Fibre

  • What is Dark Fibre?

    A Dark Fibre network is essentially unused fibre optic cables with no service or traffic running on it – an unlit Point-to-Point connection. Unlike Ethernet or lit-fibre services, if you purchase the Dark Fibre, you will also need to deploy and manage the equipment needed to light it. You can find out more about what is Dark Fibre here and how it enables businesses to take control of their IT estate.

  • Who owns Dark Fibre?

    Businesses use Dark Fibre to create their own private optical network rather than leasing fixed bandwidth enabling businesses to control their own network. You’ll have heard of Dark Fibre, but just who owns Dark Fibre and is it something you should invest in?

  • How fast is Dark Fibre?

    Due to the high costs associated with Dark Fibre it would make the most sense to get the most capacity you can from the fibre. The question most people ask is how fast is Dark Fibre? Dark Fibre is virtually infinite and is simply down to what technology the business chooses to use.

  • Dark Fibre vs MPLS

    To start with, what is MPLS? Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a type of connectivity that is well known for ensuring reliable connectivity for real-time applications and Quality of Service (QoS) to keep critical business information flowing. High-availability MPLS offers support for services such as VoIP, virtual desktops, video conferencing and cloud applications and guarantees no loss of quality.

    MPLS can offer robust and reliable connectivity, yet Dark Fibre offers a level of network future-proofing that other means of connectivity can’t. We discuss the pros and cons of both Dark Fibre vs MPLS here.

  • Dark Fibre vs Ethernet

    Dark Fibre is as it sounds and refers to fibre that is unlit and unmanaged but owned or leased wholly by the business purchasing it whereas, Ethernet for business is where the bandwidth required is leased from a connectivity provider who manages the network. Here we address the differences between Dark Fibre vs Ethernet.

  • Dark Fibre vs Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM)

    Dark Fibre is, simply, an unlit glass fibre strand with no equipment attached to it. This gives businesses the option of using any protocol of their choice and their own equipment, whilst safe in the knowledge that only their traffic travels across that fibre strand. In this section we discuss Dark Fibre vs DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) and the benefits each can bring to your business.