An optical fiber (or fibre) is a glass or plastic fiber that carries light along its length. Fiber optics is the overlap of applied science and engineering concerned with the design and application of optical fibers. Optical fibers are widely used in fiber-optic communication, which permits transmission over longer distances and at higher data rates than other forms of communications. Fibers are used instead of metal wires because signals travel along them with less loss, and they are immune to electromagnetic interference. Optical fibers are also used to form sensors, and in a variety of other applications. Light is kept in the “core” of the optical fiber by total internal reflection. This causes the fiber to act as a waveguide. Fibers which support many propagation paths or transverse modes are called multimode fibers (MMF). Fibers which support only a single mode are called singlemode fibers (SMF). Multimode fibers generally have a large-diameter core, and are used for short-distance communication links or for applications where high power must be transmitted. Singlemode fibers are used for most communication links longer than 200 meters.
Joining lengths of optical fiber is more complex than joining electrical wire or cable. The ends of the fibers must be carefully cleaved, and then spliced together either mechanically or by fusing them together with an electric arc. Special connectors are used to make removable connections.