news While one might expect some new wonder technology to be on the horizon, fibre optic broadband has nothing that is likely to replace it for as much as 50 years, telecoms expert Paul Budde has said.
Writing on his blog, buddeblog.com, the industry researcher and consultant pointed out that fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks were already being discussed back in the ’70s and ’80s, when the tech was seen as the next level of telecoms infrastructure needed for services like interactive and pay TV.
While a few early residential fibre pilot networks were built in that era, the timing was wrong, he said. And while the FTTH vision of that period was “valid”, it wasn’t until more recently that the vision finally started to be realised.
Now, some 40 years on, Budde has taken a look at what could lie in store in another 40 years’ time.
“And, no, there is nothing revolutionary on the horizon in relation to fixed telecoms infrastructure – nothing similar to, for example, the total replacement of copper and HFC by fibre networks,” said Budde.
While wireless will see more developments, he said, there will always be “the capacity problem” regarding spectrum, meaning it is “not suitable for mass-market high-quality video”.
Instead, it will be improvements in fibre technology, rather than a totally new technology, that is likely to drive change, Budde predicted.
“Change will be driven by developments in new types of fibre that are more cost-effective, he suggested.
This trend can already be seen in fibre optic networks that were installed 20 years ago, and are no longer economical to maintain.
Some submarine cables are now having to deal with the same issue, he points out. Yet 20-plus-year-old 2.5Gbit/s networks can these days be upgraded to 40Gbit/s or even as much 100+Gbit/s.
So what might lie ahead?
Budde quoted from Wikipedia on one new fibre technology with potential called photonic-crystal fibre:
“Photonic-crystal fibre (PCF) is a new class of optical fibre based on the properties of photonic crystals. Because of its ability to confine light in hollow cores or with confinement characteristics not possible in conventional optical fibre, PCF is now finding applications in fibre-optic communications, fibre lasers, nonlinear devices, high-power transmission, highly sensitive gas sensors, and other areas.”
PCF also exists in other specific types of categories allowing for different applications.
These new fibre optic cable technologies will remain viable “for at least the next 50 years”, Budde predicted, “bringing us to a timeframe equal to the one when we first started to talk about a commercial FTTH vision”.
On the other hand, while it is hard to make predictions about technologies that have not yet been imagined, “the next level could quite possibly be based on neurological-based communication based on our brainwaves”, he said.
“Who knows?” Budde concluded.
Image credit: Paul Budde