It sounds like a super hero with very interesting powers, or something that can weaken a super hero (think kryptonite). However, dark fiber is very real and is responsible for both facilitating and powering many of our communications technologies including interactive voice response. So what is dark fiber and how is it relevant to communications?
According to Wikipedia, dark fiber is the common name given to fiber-optic cables that have been installed but are not being used. Installing fiber optic cable is an extensive undertaking that requires civil engineering work to execute. To effectively and efficiently install dark fiber, one must plan, route, obtain permissions for, create ducts and channels for, install and finally connect the fiber.
Many companies that install dark fiber will install much more than necessary for potential expansion at a later date. Instead of having to go through a comprehensive installation process every time a customer wants to expand their telecom network or fiber optic capacity, this fiber is in place and available for use.
A large amount of dark fiber was installed during the dot-com bubble in anticipation of the exponentially increased usage that was predicted. However, it never came and the so-called bubble burst in late 2000, leaving massive networks of dark fiber unused in its wake.
There is a massive amount of dark (or unlit) fiber in the United States. Previously, telecommunications refused to sell dark fiber to the end user because they were operating under the assumption that it would basically be selling off large portions of their business. However, in the early 2000s, the thinking changed and many Telco companies warmed up to the idea of selling dark fiber (in essence, becoming dark fiber providers).
Selling or renting dark fiber to other businesses became part of some companies’ overall business model. Dark fiber has also become an integral part of business operations for companies and institutions in new markets that hadn’t previously existed. Research and educational institutions have begun buying large quantities of dark fiber to power their servers and telecommunications facilities directly instead of going through third-party providers.
Google has also successfully built a global fiber optic network, purchasing dark fiber in mass quantities worldwide. Google uses massive amounts of bandwidth crawling the Internet and indexing websites for its search network. Owning their own dark fiber is crucial to conduct business operations as swiftly and succinctly as they do. They don’t have to rely on a third-party service provider to gain access to a large amount of fiber optics, enabling them to operate much faster.
So how does this effect IVR? Companies like Plum Voice need to have access to large amounts of fiber-optic cable to conduct their hosting operations successfully. Companies in the Telco realm can either go through a third-party provider to get access to the fiber or attempt to purchase it themselves. Either way, this fiber is vital to maintaining Telco operations, including interactive voice response.