February 15, 2016

New hardware to expand fast fibre-to-the-home

(February 15, 2016)  The cost of deploying fast fibre connections straight to homes could be dramatically reduced by new hardware designed and tested by UCL researchers. 

The innovative technology will help address the challenges of providing households with high bandwidths while future-proofing infrastructure against the exponentially growing demand for data.

While major advances have been made in core optical fibre networks, they often terminate in cabinets far from the end consumers. The so called ‘last mile’ which connects households to the global Internet via the cabinet, is still almost exclusively built with copper cables as the optical receiver needed to read fibre-optic signals is too expensive to have in every home.

Lead researcher, Dr Sezer Erkilinc (UCL Electronic & Electrical Engineering), said: “We have designed a simplified optical receiver that could be mass-produced cheaply while maintaining the quality of the optical signal. The average data transmission rates of copper cables connecting homes today are about 300 Mb/s and will soon become a major bottleneck in keeping up with data demands, which will likely reach about 5-10 Gb/s by 2025. Our technology can support speeds up to 10 Gb/s, making it truly future-proof.”

For the study, published today in the Journal of Lightwave Technology, scientists from the UCL Optical Networks Group and UNLOC programme developed a new way to solve the ‘last mile problem’ of delivering fibre connections direct to households with true fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband technology. They simplified the design of the optical receiver, improving sensitivity and network reach compared to existing technology. Once commercialised, it will lower the cost of installing and maintaining active components between the central cabinet and homes.

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