Plastic optical fibres could bring cheap super-fast broadband

January 13th, 2008 - 11:30 am ICT by admin  

London, Jan 13 (ANI): The days of copper wires for broadband Internet connection seem to be numbered, for homes and offices across Europe could soon be getting ultra high-speed broadband through cheap and easy-to-install plastic optical fibres.

The inventors of this breakthrough technology promise to provide 80pct of European homes with broadband up to 50 times faster than today’s ADSL within 15 years.

These plastic optical fibres will soon do away with the currently in use glass optical fibres, which being costlier, cannot be replaced with old-fashioned copper connections in offices and houses, as changing the whole wiring will be quite expensive.

Experts long-time prediction that costs of the optical fibres will come down and wireless services will replace cables, was finally realized when the European Union funded the researchers to develop the plastic optical fibres, which have been used in niche markets like security for years.

The project called POF-ALL (Paving the Optical Future with Affordable Lightning-fast Links) headed by researchers at the Instituto Superiore Mario Boella, affiliated with the Politecnico di Torino, in Torino, Italy, has reaped fruits only now.

Alessandro Nocivelli, an electrical engineer and founder of networking company Luceat, said that plastic optical fibres are one up over copper.

“Anybody can install a plastic optical fibreIt is even cheaper than copper wire when installed in big volumes, and it gives a remarkable increase in speed, New Scientist quoted him, as saying.

The 1-millimeter-thick plastic fibres being tough, flexible, and immune from electrical interference, can easily be threaded alongside existing electrical wiring, and do not need dedicated shielded channels like copper.

The plastic fibres, unlike fragile glass fibres, which require technicians to install them, can easily be connected by almost everyone. In fact they could be simply connected by sliding the cut end of a fibre into a device.

Nocivelli believes that these factors may cut down the costs of serving homes and businesses at the speeds allowed by optical fibre by up to 30 percent.

“That means [savings of] up to several billion euros if you consider the European Union as a whole,” he said.

However, the biggest drawback of plastic fibres is that they can dim and distort optical signals more rapidly than glass. But the researchers found a solution to it by optimising the transmission of data to keep signal quality as high as possible.

It has been shown through tests that the plastic fibre can attain speeds of 100 megabits per second through 300 metre long plastic fibres.

However, shorter fibres currently allow up to 1 gigabit per second and the team hopes to do that over 100 meters or more within a few months.

On the other hand, ADSL rates range from 1 to 24 megabits per second, and coaxial cable connections from 2 to 50 megabits per second.

Josef Haller, head of HomeFibre an Austrian company working on plastic optical technology for high-speed internal networks, applauded the approach.

“Positive is not strong enough. This offers a completely new way to install a high-speed network infrastructure serving the home, he said. (ANI)

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