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View Full Version : fiber optical home networking

2007-03-27, 20:10
With fiber optics becoming more popular due to its high bandwidth capacity, it comes as no surprise that development for running fiber directly to the computer motherboard is in the works. IBM announced yesterday in a press release (http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/21278.wss) that it has developed a chip which supports a speed of 160 gigabits per second.

As it stands now the only computers using a direct fiber connection are high-end computers that are servers and are located in data rooms. IBM's announcement promises to make it cheap and compact enough to be available to the regular desktop computer. The question is: when will fiber to the computer become popular and standard for regular desktop computers?

Currently the way most computers receive their network data is by way of a network interface card, which looks like a standard RJ11 6P2C phone jack, but is instead a wider RJ45 8P8C jack. Networks use this type of connection, and most people who connect to the internet by way of a broadband modem or a wired router, also use this type of connection.

The speeds of routers and NICs limit the data transfer within a network. The slowest point in the network limits the speed of everything else. I've seen new NICs and routers which are now showing speeds of 10/100/1000 megabits per second. But one would have to upgrade every piece of equipment on the network to actually achieve those speeds. Do you want to buy a new router and new NICs for all your computers? I don't think it's worth it. So it will take years for people just to get up to the 1000 Mbps (Gigabit) speed by way of them upgrading their hardware, after their old hardware becomes obsolete. And for them to upgrade to IBM's fiber speed of 160 Gbps would take even longer. That would involve for them to have to get computers with fiber NICs, to get fiber routers, and to run fiber cables or jumpers instead of using the copper Cat 5 wiring of today's network cables.

There is a problem with running fiber jumpers/cables. It is expensive and delicate to work with. Also people will not be able to splice it themselves with ordinary equipment. So that means they will have to buy expensive precut fiber jumpers that are in lengths of 10, 25, 50, 100, 150, or 200 feet in length rather than be able to make their own. Currently as it stands Cat 5 cable is easy to work with. You can buy a crimping tool and cut it to whatever length you want with RJ45 connectors. You can strip the wires and create your own RJ45 jacks. Fiber cable is so small that it requires high precision machinery costing tens of thousands of dollars to splice. Furthermore it is delicate, with sharp bends causing a signal loss, so laying it in by using a staple gun would be a bad idea. And fiber jumpers are expensive. I see 10 foot jumpers for sale at Tiger Direct for 40 dollars. If one wanted to run fiber from one end of the house to the other it would be a difficult and expensive task. One would probably want to run it in a sturdy bulky microduct which protects it.

You see, the smallness of fiber and its high bandwidth capacity has an advantage when it comes to doing things like running fiber optic cables under oceans. But that smallness translates into an expensive delicateness which makes it impractical for usage in home networking, despite the bandwidth advantage.

Regardless, I hope that fiber optic NICs will become standard within five years on new computers, along with RJ45 NICs. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. But you can't expect computer manufacturers to put in anything that the customers don't demand due to the tight nature of their market. So hopefully enough consumers will become aware of fiber to the computer as something which they would like to see in their new computers. And that demand on their part, along with hype such as what IBM is doing, and with the large bandwidth speeds that fiber offers, will cause it to become a standard offering on new computers.

2007-04-05, 12:48
That sounds like a wet dream for me. Now where is my Gigabit broadband?