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Fibre Optic generic

A new scientific breakthrough could pave the way for the fastest ever fibre speeds, by ensuring maximum performance across an entire cable network.

One of the biggest barriers to guaranteeing performance along the entirety of a fibre infrastructure is a drop-off in speed over long distances, known as the distortion effect.

This problem can currently be solved by adding boosters known as repeaters along the network that help to fire up the signal and ensure it reaches its destination, but these are costly to both implement and run, meaning providers who do use them need to pass on costs to businesses and consumers.

However, a team in the US have now broken ground on a way to help solve the problem - something they began work on last year.

"With fibre optics, after a certain point, the more power you add to the signal, the more distortion you get, in effect preventing a longer reach," explained Nikola Alic, co-Author of the study, which was carried out at the Qualcomm Institute at the University of California in San Diego.

"Our approach removes this power limit, which in turn extends how far signals can travel in optical fibre without needing a repeater."

Their approach involves using standard amplifiers, rather than expensive repeaters, to help push data along the fibre network; something they demonstrated in a live trial, where information was smoothly passed along a 7,400-mile long fibre optic cable without the data being compromised.

The team working on the project, known as the Photonics Systems Group, were also successful in minimising crosstalk, which occurs when the information being passed down the line is split up and corrupted due to cross-communication.

Stojan Radic, UC San Diego Professor, commented: "Crosstalk between communication channels within a fibre optic cable obeys fixed physical laws. It’s not random. We now have a better understanding of the physics of the crosstalk. In this study, we present a method for leveraging the crosstalk to remove the power barrier for optical fibre."

Further studies will now take place to determine the efficacy of the method in a variety of environments, but the team says the principle theory could change the way that broadband infrastructure providers lay new cables, allowing them to save money and time and theoretically pass the cost savings on to consumers.

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