An optical fiber (or optical fibre) is a flexible, transparent fiber made by drawing glass (silica) or plastic.
Optical fibers typically include a transparent core surrounded by a transparent cladding material with a lower index of refraction. Light is kept in the core by the phenomenon of total internal reflection which causes the fiber to act as a waveguide. Fibers that support many propagation paths or transverse modes are called multi-mode fibers (MMF), while those that support a single mode are called single-mode fibers (SMF). Multi-mode fibers generally have a wider core diameter and are used for short-distance communication links and for applications where high power must be transmitted.
An important aspect of a fiber optic communication is that of extension of the fiber optic cables such that the losses brought about by joining two different cables is kept to a minimum. Joining lengths of optical fiber often proves to be more complex than joining electrical wire or cable and involves careful cleaving of the fibers, perfect alignment of the fiber cores, and the splicing of these aligned fiber cores. For applications that demand a permanent connection a mechanical splice which holds the ends of the fibers together mechanically could be used or a fusion splice that uses heat to fuse the ends of the fibers together could be used. Temporary or semi-permanent connections are made by means of specialized optical fiber connectors.