Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT


Optical polymer fibres bringing broadband multimedia into the home

19 May 2004 Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT

Fibreglass cables made from silica glass have already been in use for several years in telecommunications and data networks as the broadband successor to classic copper cables. This technology has been adopted for multimedia cabling for buildings and plants, such as business parks. A recent example is the recently inaugurated Formula 1 track in Bahrain, where 40 video cameras, 45 signal lamps, 820 loudspeakers and 800 telephone extensions had to be networked with a management system.

However, a more cost-effective alternative has now presented itself for broadband applications in the commercial and private sectors: POF (plastic optical fibre or polymer optical fibre). This fibre consists of a transparent plastic, eg, plexiglass, and is more flexible and much easier to handle than fibreglass. The international FiberComm Conference, that took place in Munich this month, demonstrated how POFs can be used to network residential houses and hospitals and how the technologies and architectures can be applied.

The entry of this digital standard into private households has increased the need for high-performance but cost-effective home networks as extensions to cable networks and wireless LAN. So-called 'fibre in the home' (FITH) networks have been developed to network all electronic devices in the home - PCs, televisions, games consoles, ovens, airconditioning units and other domestic appliances. They are based on plastic optical fibres, transmitting up to 3 Gbps over short distances and up to 400 Mbps over a distance of 100 metres.

In areas requiring data transmission rates and a range similar to that of fibreglass, such as the networking of high-rise buildings or large building complexes, so-called 'graded index POFs' (GI POFs) can be used. Whereas one copper cable can only achieve a data transmission rate of 1 Gbps over about 50 m, GI POFs can achieve the same rate over several hundred metres and can be laid together with electricity power cables in a channel, given their insensitivity to electromagnetic disturbance. This makes polymer optical fibres suitable for cable television (CATV) and other interactive multimedia services of the future: high-speed access to the Internet, telephony via the Internet (Voice-over IP), digital TV and pay-per-view television (pay-per-channel) are all possible with reverse-channel capable optical networks within a single cable.

However, graded index plastic optical fibres are not only suitable for cabling in residential houses and offices. It was in December last year that the Sakakibara Hospital in Japan was inaugurated, with all the computers for the doctors, nurses and technicians linked together via an optical network, as well as the PCs at patient bedsides. This case also demonstrated the advantages of POFs: extensive range, cost-effective, flexible and robust installation, tap-proof and insensitive to electromagnetic disturbance.

The annual FiberComm Conference provides a comprehensive overview of optical information and communication technology.

For more information see www.fibercomm.de





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