BT is testing new types of “hollow core” fiber optic cable at its research and development facility in Ipswich that could be more resistant to damage, provide faster service to customers and reduce the possibility of broadband outages. At first glance, this new cable seems to tick off any problems customers have with their home broadband connections.
According to BT, these “hollow core” fiber optic cables “have the potential to reduce the latency or signal delay caused by light passing through glass by up to 50 percent”. In short, these new cables have an air-filled hollow core (hence the name) – compared to the glass core used in the fiber optic cables currently in use in the UK. Whether air or glass inside the cable, its job is to guide the laser light.
What BT wants to solve with its new air-filled cables is the loss of strength that occurs with glass cables over long distances.
The latest attempt by the research and development labs, uncovered by the internet-obsessed blog ISPreview, uses a 10 km “hollow core” fiber optic cable to test. BT has already discovered that these cables make it possible to increase the distance between back-end processing in switches. BT researchers also believe these cables could play a key role in the infrastructure required to install 5G masts across the UK.
Many believe that 5G not only provides smartphones and tablets with broadband-like speeds on the go, but could also replace landline internet in millions of households. Since no fiber optic cable is required to your door, rural customers can enjoy tremendous speed gains without the major work of digging roads, driveways, and drilling holes in customers’ walls. A 5G powered Wi-Fi router can also be connected anywhere in the home as it is based on a small installed SIM card and not on a specific Ethernet socket.
Commenting on the ongoing trials, Professor Andrew Lord, Head of Optical Network Research at BT, said: “We are excited to begin testing hollow core fibers and discovering the potential and benefits of using this technology in specific scenarios. This new type of fiber optic cable could play an important role in the future of global communications infrastructure, ushering in a leap in performance and speed to step up with the demands of high-speed, low-latency communications powered by 5G networks and streaming hold, and more. “
Don’t expect Openreach vans to be installing this innovative new cable on your road anytime soon. Assuming the tests continue to show positive results, we would expect BT to use “hollow core” cables in future network connections to carry broadband over long distances, to connect rural customers, install new 5G masts, and more.
For home broadband customers, this likely means more Gigabit-enabled connections will come online in new areas across the UK and, fingers crossed, fewer outages and problems.