Saturday, 19 June 2021

Create air-filled fiber cables up to 50% faster

The 5G networks , to operate at peak performance, need to have an infrastructure of optical fiber connecting the antennas to the backbone. However, most of the current deployment with 5G NSA still uses the 4G infrastructure, so it cannot yet deliver its full potential. However, an innovation could accelerate that deployment.

This innovation is being tested by BT in the UK, with a new type of optical fiber called "hollow core fiber", or hollow fiber cables. With it, data travels 50% faster than those normally used for 5G networks.

Air-filled fiber: lowering latency

The cable has been developed by Lumenisity, following research carried out by the University of Southampton. Both companies have tested a 10-kilometer fiber cable to see how they can take advantage of its features. Thus, in addition to speed, they found that latency also improved. Although the company is not yet in a position to mass produce cables with this technology, the prototype is perfectly functional and they know how to mass develop it.



BT, like other operators, often deploys single-mode optical fiber, which is made of glass fibers that carry information using pulses of light emitted by a laser. Glass, however, is more resistant than air, causing light signals moving along the cables to move more slowly than they should.

Lumenisity cables have, as the name suggests, an air-filled hollow core, which runs the entire length of the cable and is surrounded by glass. Thanks to this, the signals travel at speeds very close to those of light thanks to the fact that there is hardly any resistance in their path, so they arrive at their destination earlier.

5G could be greatly benefited from these cables

5G would be one of the great beneficiaries of this type of fiber. To achieve high speeds and low latency it is necessary to make use of the mmWave and small cells, filling the cities with antennas. By achieving the same performance with antennas that are further spaced apart, the number of antennas can be reduced, reducing costs and speeding up deployments.

The first commercial use of this hollow fiber was in the London Stock Exchange, in a cable that goes from the exchange itself to the Interxion telecommunications node, with the aim of reducing latency as much as possible, since differences of microseconds can amount to millions in profit or loss. In this case, they reduced latency by a third.

The next step will be to build cables with lengths greater than 10 km that they are currently using, since currently they can only guarantee improved performance over distances less than 10 km.


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