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Fiber Optics Breakthrough Could Result In Doubling Of Capabilities

26 June 2015, 4:19 pm EDT By Christian de Looper Tech Times
A breakthrough in fiber-optics technology could result in the tech doubling its capabilities. While it is already hailed as an extremely fast way to transmit data, it is now set to get even faster.  ( Michael Smith | Getty Images )

Fiber optics are already being used for their advantages in speed, but researchers have announced an advance in the technology that will make it even faster.

The advance could end up doubling the maximum speed that fiber optic cables and circuits can handle, especially over long distances. The advances will also result in a significant reduction of cost.

Fiber optics - a fiber optic cable consists of a bundle of glass threads, each of which can transmit messages via light waves - are generally fast, but over distance they are significantly less fast and reliable. A way to think about it is to imagine a person shouting down a corridor, with the listener hearing less and less the further they are away. Not only that, but the words themselves are harder to distinguish because of the echo from the sound being reflected off the walls. In the same way, fiber optics essentially convert electricity to light, and then back to electricity at the other end of the cable. Every 60 miles, however, the light has to be converted to electricity and back to light again to "renew" the signal.

The new technology, which was detailed in a report in Science, is being described as a way to "predistort" data being sent over fiber optics by using a frequency comb, which basically uses signals that are precise and spaced evenly to encode information before it is transmitted. This basically embeds a kind of unique identifier in the data, enabling data to more accurately be transmitted over far greater distances.

In fact, the researchers say that a record was set with the technology being able to send data over 7,400 miles without it having to be regenerated. This research will help make a step toward the vision of an "all-optical network," which would be far less expensive than other networks and also able to transmit far more data. In fact, researchers were able to increase the power of laser up to 20 times. Until now, the more the power was increased, the more the data was distorted.

Of course, there will still be challenges in applying the new technology, and some scientists are skeptical.

"This is very interesting research, but there will be challenges applying this approach in the real world," said Alan Huang, a former researcher at Bell Labs, in an interview with The New York Times. "Their results will be more or less effective depending on the type of data transmitted."

Fiber optics first emerged during the 1980s as a way to transmit data far more effectively than other communication types. Since then researchers have been able to drastically improve the efficiency by transmitting multiple data streams over one cable using different frequencies. The technology is being increasingly used for consumer Internet access, with Google expanding its Google Fiber program.

Via: The New York Times

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