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Plastic Fiber Could Make Optical Networking a DIY Project 170

Posted by timothy
An anonymous reader writes "A new European project using plastic fiber and off-the-shelf components could make optical networking so cheap and simple that installation could be a DIY job for even a non-technical person. The object of EU-funded POF-ALL project is to find a technical solution to the rising cost of taking optical fiber right into the home." A mere "few hundred metres" of 100mbps (since plastic is thus far dimmer than glass) would suffice to wire any home I'm likely to occupy.
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Plastic Fiber Could Make Optical Networking a DIY Project

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  • So... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:15PM (#21974620) Homepage Journal
    What's the benefit of 100mbps plasti-fiber over gigabit cat-6?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, 100 millibits per second is several orders of magnitude slower than 1 gigabit per second regardless of what the physical medium is made of. The benefits must be something besides bandwidth.
      • Kindof like a pound of feathers and a pound of bricks riddle
      • by hazem (472289)
        The only two things I can think of are maybe that it's less susceptible to EM interference and probably doesn't expand and contract as much as copper will with changes in temperature.
    • It would appear to be easier and cheaper to make and work with once they get a streamlined process together.
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

      by longbot (789962) <longbottle@BLUEgmail.com minus berry> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:22PM (#21974750) Homepage
      Put bluntly, price. And I think it would be easy to extend it to gigabit at some point, with higher-grade plastics.

      Copper is much more expensive than plastic, and 8-wire CAT5 cabling is a lot harder to run than a plastic filament, to boot.
      • MOD Parent up please (Score:5, Interesting)

        by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:49PM (#21975220) Journal
        The simple fact is that Copper is about to become VERY expensive. China is buying it as well as working with all countries that have copper mines to aquire full access to the copper. The simple fact is that there is a limited amount of copper and China is about to use 1000x more than what it currently does. In addition, most societies are about to move to electrical cars which will require a lot of copper.

        Finally, copper does not go the long distances that Fiber does. I suspect that we will see a lot of uses for these in running from the green box to the home. In fact, I think that the delivery companies will have multiple cables to the home. Basically, dark fiber. It will enable some interesting services.
        • by paanta (640245) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @06:01PM (#21975420) Homepage
          Not that I think fiber isn't the future, but copper prices don't seem to have much to do with it. For in-home wiring, cable runs are short enough that the amount of copper involved is pretty frickin' small, especially compared to the copper in your electric car. Plus, with the housing market cooling off, copper prices are holding fairly steady. If it were really going to be in such hot demand, wouldn't speculators have already driven the price through the roof?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kythe (4779)
            Hmmm...for in-home runs, the cost of fiber isn't all that outlandish already. 25 meters of singlemode, duplex fiber terminated both ends by LC connectors starts at about $1/meter. True, that's about three times the price of bulk Cat5e, but it's still not exclusively the plaything of millionaires.

            The thing about this article that I think misses the point somewhat is that it's the stuff you connect to the ends of fiber that costs so darned much. Case in point: HDMI extenders that use fiber as the medium.
            • by Kythe (4779)
              Minor correction: Cat5e can be had for perhaps 1/6 the cost of fiber with LC connectors, not 1/3. Even so.
            • Nail-on-the-head! The cost of the medium is NOTHING compared to the current cost of the interfacing.

              You plug in a usb or firewire or CAT-x or RS-xxx with no problems at all but there AREN'T any optical interfaces built into any computers yet that _I_ know of. The only consumer-level optics I've seen so far are in audio (and higher-end stuff at that) and if you look at the optical/CAT-x converters you'll have quite a heart attack at the prices.
          • Run of copper at 100mbps = 99 Meters (if I remember my CAT5e specs)
            Run of plastic fibre in TFA = 300 Meters.

            If you are a telco looking for a last mile solution, where you buy hundreds of kilometers of the stuff, which do you pick as a last mile solution?

            Let's face it. for round the house, 802.11b/g/n will be plenty and it requires no crawling into roof spaces at all.
          • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:37PM (#21976804) Journal
            You mean like the 5 year spot chart here? [kitcometals.com] 400% increase in just a couple of years? It is doing just that, and that is before the real demand goes up; electrical motors for Cars as well as copper wiring going into chinese homes.
        • The simple fact is that Copper is about to become VERY expensive. China is buying it as well as working with all countries that have copper mines to aquire full access to the copper.

          However the US has a bunch of copper.

          Finally, copper does not go the long distances that Fiber does.

          Glass fiber goes further but TFA talks about plastic fiber and says it doesn't go nearly as far.

          Falcon
        • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @06:48PM (#21976044) Homepage
          The simple fact is that Copper is about to become VERY expensive.

          The simple fact is that plastic is about to become VERY VERY expensive. China is buying the petroleum that is used to make it as well as working with all countries that have oil reserves to acquire full access to the oil. The simple fact is that there is a limited amount of oil and China is about to use 1000x more than what it currently does.

          • Plastic is a byproduct of petroleum refinement. The components of crude oil used to make plastic are *NOT* the same as the ones used to produce gasoline.

            Also, we've got quite a bit of recyclable plastic sitting in landfills. More than we could ever possibly need. Likewise, there are a few new "plastic" materials on the horizon that can economically be produced from plants.

            NOT an issue.
            • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @08:19PM (#21977376)

              Also, we've got quite a bit of recyclable plastic sitting in landfills. More than we could ever possibly need. Likewise, there are a few new "plastic" materials on the horizon that can economically be produced from plants.

              Plastic was made out of plants, hemp was a good feed stock, before oil was used to make it. Which is part of the reason hemp was made illegal. In the mid 1930s, before the Marijuana Tax Act [wikipedia.org] of 1937 basically made hemp illegal, DuPont was granted patents on making plastic from oil.

              Falcon
              • Good point. People talk about about the rise of corporatism and undue influence upon our lawmakers, e.g. the DMCA, copyright extensions, corn and ethanol subsidies, and any number of more egregious abuses. However, if you look at the history of big business in the United States, such examples of overt corruption are nothing new. It's been going on for as long as there has been a Congress.
                • Good point. People talk about about the rise of corporatism and undue influence upon our lawmakers, e.g. the DMCA, copyright extensions, corn and ethanol subsidies, and any number of more egregious abuses. However, if you look at the history of big business in the United States, such examples of overt corruption are nothing new. It's been going on for as long as there has been a Congress.

                  Corporations were recognized as a problem almost as so as the USA was founded. Thomas Jefferson warned about the Co

        • by daem0n1x (748565)
          If copper becomes too expensive, we move to alluminum, or some other metal. All metals conduct electricity, some better, some worse.
      • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @06:26PM (#21975720)

        That may be true now but currently plastic is a petrochemical product. As oil prices rise so will the prices of plastic fibers. Copper will rise as well but at least in the US copper can be locally [unr.edu] mined thus reducing transportation costs.

        Falcon
        • Oil is expensive because it is being used for energy while it is running out. I would guess that about 85-95% of oil goes to energy. Since the bulk of this is for cars and trucks, we are about to see a MAJOR change. In particular, electrical cars and plug-in hybrids cars/truck will change this. IOW, in about 2-3 years, we are going to see oil start down, with a plummet most likely in about 5-8 years. In addition, once W. is gone and the tax cuts for ethanol is rolled out (please), then realism will take ho
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by falconwolf (725481)

            once W. is gone and the tax cuts for ethanol is rolled out (please), then realism will take hold of corn, and we will see corn being used in plastics.

            Even with the massive subsidies corn gets corn prices will still go up. A better feed stock for plastic is hemp [hempplastic.com]. But how well will Bioplastics [wikipedia.org] work for fiber?

            Falcon

      • by Doppler00 (534739)
        Have you ever seen a Cat5e or fiber cable before??? For one, cat5e only uses 22-24 awg. Very very small gauge. The mass of copper in it is mostly a negligible cost of the cable. And get this... the cat5e cable is covered in PLASTIC insulation. The individual wires and the outer set. Even if you use plastic fiber, it's still going to be brittle and will need padding and another layer of plastic to protect it when it gets pulled through walls.

        Like anything, the major cost isn't the materials, it's manufacturi
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by FrankSchwab (675585) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:26PM (#21974820) Journal
      At the very least, electrical isolation.

      Lightning hit my house (or very close to it) last year, and took out at least the ethernet port on every computer I had that was Cat5 connected at the time. Took out a few USB ports, and sent my router to the great network in the sky also.

      Plastic fiber wouldn't have that problem (until someone marries the plastic fiber with the Power over Ethernet spec).

      /frank

      • by Lumpy (12016)
        Polyphaser cat5e surge suppressors would have done the same thing. also properly grounding your switch would have also made a big difference as well.

        Although, If the strike is close enough, even $10,000,000 in fiber and lightning suppression will not save your equipment. you cant stop that EM pulse short of faraday caging your home.

        Fiber has it's uses! running video and data from the house to the guest house is a perfect use. It's easy to get a ground voltage potential difference between my home and the
      • by Kizeh (71312)
        That's actually one of the major reasons. At my university anything that goes between buildings is fiber because then you don't have to worry about lightning or even more static ground issues you run into. Just running copper from here to there is not nearly as simple as you'd think and by the time you factor in grounding and isolation equipment for copper, you're talking about a fair bit of money and space requirements.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by camperslo (704715)
      A better question is why are people associating brightness (loss) with speed?

      I would expect that the characteristics of the electrical/optical transceivers and modulation would set the speed, and the loss in the cable per unit length would limit how long it could be without some sort of repeaters.
      • A better question is why are people associating brightness (loss) with speed?

        I would expect that the characteristics of the electrical/optical transceivers and modulation would set the speed, and the loss in the cable per unit length would limit how long it could be without some sort of repeaters.


        Exactlty, since brightness is a measure of amplitude. The distance that could be travelled will utlimately depend on the initial brightness and the absorption by the cable. One advantage of optical over electrical,
        • by BSAtHome (455370)
          The biggest problem of any fiber over a distance is not amplitude (or attenuation), but the washout of the pulses because the fiber has a finite width. After a while, you still have a measurable amplitude, but one which has become a constant "on" light and no data modulation to see anymore. The thickness of the fiber is an important measure of how long you can make it without signal loss (think single-mode at 9 microns vs multi-mode at 50..75 microns). A one millimeter fiber will never carry data at gigaspe
      • Re:So... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Spazmania (174582) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:13PM (#21976412) Homepage
        The big problem impacting speed is dispersion. The light takes different paths down the cable with the net result that some of it travels more slowly than the rest. At the other end, its as if you received a blurry picture: you can't tell what the signal was supposed to be.

        If that doesn't make sense, let me explain it this way: light doesn't travel straight down a fiber optic cable. Instead, it bounces back and forth down the cable, first hitting the cladding at one side and then hitting the cladding at the other. That's why the light can go around curves; its not traveling straight, its bouncing back and forth off the walls. The index of refraction for the cladding material is much higher than the index of refraction for the fiber, so the light obeys a principle called "total internal reflection" instead of the cladding absorbing it.

        Some photons go pretty straight, rarely hitting the walls. Others bounce off the walls a lot. That changes distance they travel, which changes the time it takes them to reach the other end. With a thick plastic cable, the ones that bounce a lot will travel a much longer distance thus you have to space the changes in the signal further apart for them to be detectable at the other end of the cable.

        Make more sense now?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Andy Dodd (701)
        "A better question is why are people associating brightness (loss) with speed?"

        Probably thinking about RF channels, where SNR is a major factor in speed. With most fiber runs, it is not. Except for long-haul multi-kilometer runs, SNR is always pretty high.

        The problem is optical and modal dispersion.

        Optical dispersion is the same phenomenon as a prism - light travels different speeds depending on frequency. This causes pulses to spread. The higher the speed, the larger difference between min/max frequenc
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blhack (921171) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:33PM (#21974942)

      What's the benefit of 100mbps plasti-fiber over gigabit cat-6?
      With fiber, you have at most 2 wires to deal with per connection....1 for transmit, and one for receive. With cat 6e you have to deal with 8, and they are a pain in the ass to use.

      The problem with this, though, is that transmitting data isn't the only thing that Cat6 is used for. The fact that i have 8 little wires at my disposal running all over the building is a really great tool. I run POE (power over ethernet) on a few networking devices i have floating around. I also have used the White/Brown - Brown pair to run phones in a pinch (like when we end up having move gear in a room than we originally intended).

      Fiber doesn't do this...at all. Not to mention the fact that you can't run a tone generator over fiber to find a cable inside of a bundle on the other side of the building.

      Lets face it, folks, copper wiring isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Fiber is really great for long distance, high throughput links...but using it to wire everything in your house, or your office building is very very short-sighted.
      • Re:So... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:45PM (#21975184)

        Not to mention the fact that you can't run a tone generator over fiber to find a cable inside of a bundle on the other side of the building.
        All you have to do is stick in a test laser device such as this [lanshack.com] and wave the bundle over your hand until you 'see' which pair it is coming out of. You obviously don't want to look directly into the port/termination, but it is no more difficult (if not easier) than waving a tone wand around.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Alioth (221270)

          You obviously don't want to look directly into the port/termination

          Well, not with your remaining eye, certainly!
        • by blhack (921171)
          The device that you linked to is for finding cracks or "leaks" in a fiber cable, not for picking out a single one inside of a bundle.
      • by karnal (22275)
        I know you said "in a pinch" you've used wh/br-br pairs; however per spec you should use the blue-blue/white pairs. That way if you put it down in a regular keystone jack to spec the phone will appear on the middle pairs. Plug in computer and get 100mbps goodness - plug in phone and get dial tone.

        Of course, if you're seperating into 2 seperate jacks it's kind of a pain that way - but if you wire it using the blue/white-blue AND the white-brown/brown pairs put down in proper phone configuration you can get
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by avandesande (143899)
      With an upgrade of the end components you could easily get several orders of magnitude higher bandwidth over the existing fiber.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by AmPz (572913)
        No. That is incorrect.
        People seems to automatically associate fiber with high speeds and long distances.
        But in reality, plastic fiber does not have those capabilities. A plastic fiber intended for 100Mpbs will work with 100Mpbs, but it cannot be upgraded to higher speeds in the future. The multimode characteristics of the fiber limits the bandwidth.

        You only get the super high performance if you use single mode glass fiber. And that stuff is very expensive and complicated to work with. The end equipment is a
        • Oh, what things have come to when we are moaning that 100 Mbps is too damn slow for household use. Makes me remember the time when I upgraded from 300 bps to 1200 bps... (strokes beard and fumbles for walker...)
        • I am talking about multiplexing... I just believe there is more headroom to be had in the future with fiber vs copper.
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&uid=16190419&cmd=showdetailview&indexed=google [nih.gov]
        • by Kythe (4779)

          You only get the super high performance if you use single mode glass fiber. And that stuff is very expensive and complicated to work with. The end equipment is also quite expensive. The single mode glass fiber itself is cheap thou..

          And therein lies the rub.

          A 25 meter run of single-mode, duplex fiber pre-terminated with LC connectors (some of the more expensive connectors out there) starts at about $1 per meter. Certainly more expensive than a similar length of Cat5e pre-terminated with nice molded connecto

      • This is true only for ideal single-mode fiber.

        On single-mode glass fiber, bandwidth is primarily limited by the optical transceivers. However, on multi-mode fibers made of whatever material, speed becomes limited by modal dispersion: in multi-mode fibers, light can propagate at various angles along the fiber and this causes photons to arrive at the RX with various delays. As the speed ramps up, fewer photons are contained in mid-pulse while the previous pulse's slowest photons start overlapping the latest p
    • by Jessta (666101)

      What's the benefit of 100mbps plasti-fiber over gigabit cat-6?

      A major advantage of optic fiber on CAT6 is distance. CAT6 has a maximum distance of ~75 metres, but with optic fiber you can run connections upwards of 1km.
      • A major advantage of optic fiber on CAT6 is distance. CAT6 has a maximum distance of ~75 metres, but with optic fiber you can run connections upwards of 1km.

        However as TFA says plastic fiber does not have the distance range glass fiber has. Plastic fiber only can go a few hundred meters. That's more than Cat6 but it's not really that far.

        Falcon
    • by mi (197448)

      What's the benefit of 100mbps plasti-fiber over gigabit cat-6?

      Latency... AFAIK, optical connections have inherently lower latency than the electrical ones. The gain may be lost/reduced by the end-processing, of course...

      It may also be harder to intercept them undetectably, whatever that's worth for you.

  • 100 MBPS fiber?? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bbroerman (715822)
    Honestly, unless it becomes a lot cheaper than Cat-5 UTP, I think it's going to be a non-starter. Now, if it was 100 GBPS, that would be a different story...
  • "It's future-proof," confirms Nocivelli. You run at 100 Mbit/s today, 1 Gbit/s tomorrow and maybe 10 Gbit/s in the future."
    At 10Gb/sec the light from the fibre will probably hurt your eyes thus making his point of using plastifibre moot
    • by kevmatic (1133523)
      Who is going to stare at the output end of the fiber? The length of the fiber isn't going to light up, if that's what you're thinking. Just the ends. I'm not sure more bandwidth requires more light, anyway.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Fatal67 (244371)
      Shouldn't be looking in to the end of a fiber anyway. But if put it in a persons home, you have to make sure this can't happen. Someone will do it.

      When you unplug the end of the cable you are going to look in to, the loss of light will put the transceiver in to pulse mode. It'll go in to a 'find' mode.
      The laser is probably a class 1 to begin with. (Ciscos' CWDM gbics are class 1)

      Class 1 lasers are low-power lasers which do not normally pose a hazard.
      Class 2 lasers are low-power visible lasers or laser systems that cannot cause eye damage unless they are viewed directly for an extended period of time.
      Class 3 lasers are medium-power lasers and laser systems capable of causing eye damage with short duration exposures to the direct or specularly reflected beam. They are subdivided into two subclasses.
      Class 3a lasers normally do not present a hazard if viewed momentarily with an unaided eye, but may present a hazard if viewed using collecting optics.
      Class 3b lasers can present a hazard if viewed directly. This includes intrabeam viewing of specular reflections.
      Class 4 denotes high-power lasers and laser systems that may cause severe eye injury with short duration exposure to the direct or reflected beam. They may also cause severe skin damage and present a fire hazard.

      http://web.princeton.edu/sites/ehs/healthsafetyguide/E3.htm/ [princeton.edu]

  • Slightly off topic, but I've been looking for a decent (inexpensive) source for fiber optic cables for doing a small star-ceiling.

    I was actually thinking of using these guys [fiberopticproducts.com] - , but I would be interested if anybody could come up with alternative recommendations. I poked around a little and I can't seem to find any consumer sources for plastic fiber. (you know, other than the bait and tackle shop)
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:24PM (#21974796) Homepage Journal
    Does TOSLINK [wikipedia.org] optical audio not count as a DIY network? I didn't pay anyone to hook up my AV stuff.

    Because my favorite cable [flickr.com] is a TOS-LINK cable with a clear sheath, over the fiber optics.

    (Yes, I am a nerd with a favorite kind of cable.)

    Granted there it is a step up to go from a 6-foot cable to 100 feet, but it isn't that big of a deal. Bi-directional communication is another thing that would be needed to make a real network.

    Amazon.com [amazon.com] has a bunch of 100-foot fiber optic cables, so I don't think that fiber itself is the issue, getting the network cards cheap enough is more of an issue, I think.
    • by nuxx (10153)
      May I ask where you got that specific cable? I think it's pretty nifty looking...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by corsec67 (627446)
        Wal-Mart, actually. I already had a couple of TOS-Link cables, and then I saw that at Wal-Mart, and couldn't leave the store without it. The good news is that it is about $10-$15.

        Newegg [newegg.com] had them, but they are out of stock.

        They are called "RCA HD6HPL Optical Cable with Halo Connectors" for the 6-foot version, and the 3-foot version which apparently costs the same is the "RCA HD3HPL Optical Cable with Halo Connectors"

        Another cool thing about this cable is that they connector isn't rectangular, which if you ha
  • The article is Slashdotted and the summary doesn't address it, so... what are the advantages of 100Mbps plastic fiber over wired and wireless Ethernet?
    • by imbaczek (690596)
      there are none, since that fiber runs Ethernet?

      if you think about twisted pair Ethernet, copper is expensive and conducts electricity, which is good if you use Power over Ethernet and bad if your installation gets hit by lightning.
      • by ElMiguel (117685)
        Yeah, I was thinking about twisted pair ethernet. About getting hit by lightning, since the devices connected to a plastic fiber network would usually still need to get their power from a wall socket, I'm not sure how much more protected they would be.
    • The article (Score:4, Informative)

      by camperslo (704715) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:44PM (#21975144)
      Plastic fibre slashes optical network costs
        Wed, 01/09/2008 - 19:49 - Wire Services

      A new European project using plastic fiber and off-the-shelf components could make optical networking so cheap and simple that installation could be a DIY job for even a non-technical person.

      The object of EU-funded POF-ALL project is to find a technical solution to the rising cost of taking optical fiber right into the home.

      The project partners decided to focus on the cabling inside buildings, which would typically account for 30% of the cost of laying an optical fibre from the exchange into the home. This last hundred metres or so is known as the 'edge' network.

      "We realised that we could lower the cost of this edge installation by using a simpler technology," Alessandro Nocivelli, the founder and CEO of Luceat SpA, one of the partners in the project, said. "If we could employ a technology which is so simple to use that anyone can install it, that would relieve telecom companies of 30% of the cost of the access network, which means up to several billion euro if you consider the European Union as a whole."

      Plastic fibres use harmless green or red light that is easily visible to the eye, as opposed to glass fibres which use infrared laser light that could potentially cause eye damage.

      "I have a two-year-old child," says Nocivelli, "and I would never install a glass optical fibre in my own home, even though I have been working with glass optical fibers for many years."

      Plastic fibres are also much thicker than glass fibres, a millimetre or more, and can be handled without special tools or techniques.

      "You don't need to be trained to handle and install it. You just cut it with scissors, plug it in and it works. It's as easy as that," Nocivelli adds.

      On the downside, plastic fibres absorb light more than glass, which limits their useful length to a few hundred metres.

      They also have a lower data capacity than glass fibres, but that is not an issue for the cable that runs from a conventional glass fibre in the street into a house, or even for laying a network within a block of flats.

      The partners have built a system that uses green light to transmit 100 megabits a second over a distance of 300 metres, which is the speed telecom companies hope to offer their customers five to ten years from now, and 50 times as fast as a typical adsl broadband connection.

      Their second achievement is to transmit ten times faster still - one gigabit per second - over a 30m fibre, using red light.

      By the end of the project in June 2008, they expect to have extended that to 100m.

      "Then, of course, we will try to focus on longer distances," says Nocivelli. "We have already demonstrated that plastic fibre would be future-proof not only for the next ten years but for the next 30 years. With that speed in your home you could download a full DVD in thirty seconds."

      The POF-ALL members have not had to develop any novel technologies, as they have built their systems using the latest off-the-shelf components and the ingenuity and skill of the ten academic and industrial partners.

      Two products are already coming to the market. Luceat is commercialising an optical Ethernet switch (a router) using plastic fiber technology and the Fraunhofer Institute is looking for partners to market an integrated optical transceiver to work at one gigabit a second with plastic fiber.

      Home and office networks could be rewired with plastic optical fibre so simply and cheaply it could be a do-it-yourself job.

      "It's future-proof," confirms Nocivelli. You run at 100 Mbit/s today, 1 Gbit/s tomorrow and maybe 10 Gbit/s in the future."

      A follow-up project, POF-PLUS, is intended to further develop optoelectronic components for plastic fiber and is awaiting a final decision on EU funding.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by shdo (145775)
      well for one, nobody is sitting in there car taking my bandwidth or bypassing my firewall. i prefer wired to wireless and having a non-conducting cable is a positive so for me this is something i would do in a heartbeat.
      • well for one, nobody is sitting in there car taking my bandwidth or bypassing my firewall. i prefer wired to wireless and having a non-conducting cable is a positive so for me this is something i would do in a heartbeat.

        I was going to say security as well however I like having wireless access. With my laptop I can be outside and still have access without stringing cable.

        Falcon
    • Doesn't this [expletive] all over ethernet?

      Standard WiFi = 50m range max
      Standard Ethernet = 100m range max.
      From the article

      "The partners have built a system that uses green light to transmit 100 megabits a second over a distance of 300 metres, which is the speed telecom companies hope to offer their customers five to ten years from now, and 50 times as fast as a typical adsl broadband connection."

      They seem to be looking more at building to WAN connection but would be killer for in house as well.
      Would be i
  • by telchine (719345) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:34PM (#21974960)
    [quote]100mbps would suffice to wire any home I'm likely to occupy.[/quote]

    Yes, and I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.

    Also, 10 megabytes should be enough for anyone.
  • The Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:39PM (#21975066) Homepage Journal

    Plastic fibre slashes optical network costs
    Wed, 01/09/2008 - 19:49 - Wire Services
    A new European project using plastic fiber and off-the-shelf components could make optical networking so cheap and simple that installation could be a DIY job for even a non-technical person.
    The object of EU-funded POF-ALL project is to find a technical solution to the rising cost of taking optical fiber right into the home.
    The project partners decided to focus on the cabling inside buildings, which would typically account for 30% of the cost of laying an optical fibre from the exchange into the home. This last hundred metres or so is known as the 'edge' network.
    "We realised that we could lower the cost of this edge installation by using a simpler technology," Alessandro Nocivelli, the founder and CEO of Luceat SpA, one of the partners in the project, said. "If we could employ a technology which is so simple to use that anyone can install it, that would relieve telecom companies of 30% of the cost of the access network, which means up to several billion euro if you consider the European Union as a whole."
    Plastic fibres use harmless green or red light that is easily visible to the eye, as opposed to glass fibres which use infrared laser light that could potentially cause eye damage.
    "I have a two-year-old child," says Nocivelli, "and I would never install a glass optical fibre in my own home, even though I have been working with glass optical fibers for many years."
    Plastic fibres are also much thicker than glass fibres, a millimetre or more, and can be handled without special tools or techniques.
    "You don't need to be trained to handle and install it. You just cut it with scissors, plug it in and it works. It's as easy as that," Nocivelli adds.
    On the downside, plastic fibres absorb light more than glass, which limits their useful length to a few hundred metres.
    They also have a lower data capacity than glass fibres, but that is not an issue for the cable that runs from a conventional glass fibre in the street into a house, or even for laying a network within a block of flats.
    The partners have built a system that uses green light to transmit 100 megabits a second over a distance of 300 metres, which is the speed telecom companies hope to offer their customers five to ten years from now, and 50 times as fast as a typical adsl broadband connection.
    Their second achievement is to transmit ten times faster still - one gigabit per second - over a 30m fibre, using red light.
    By the end of the project in June 2008, they expect to have extended that to 100m.
    "Then, of course, we will try to focus on longer distances," says Nocivelli. "We have already demonstrated that plastic fibre would be future-proof not only for the next ten years but for the next 30 years. With that speed in your home you could download a full DVD in thirty seconds."
    The POF-ALL members have not had to develop any novel technologies, as they have built their systems using the latest off-the-shelf components and the ingenuity and skill of the ten academic and industrial partners.
    Two products are already coming to the market. Luceat is commercialising an optical Ethernet switch (a router) using plastic fiber technology and the Fraunhofer Institute is looking for partners to market an integrated optical transceiver to work at one gigabit a second with plastic fiber.
    Home and office networks could be rewired with plastic optical fibre so simply and cheaply it could be a do-it-yourself job.
    "It's future-proof," confirms Nocivelli. You run at 100 Mbit/s today, 1 Gbit/s tomorrow and maybe 10 Gbit/s in the future."
    A follow-up project, POF-PLUS, is intended to further develop optoelectronic components for plastic fiber and is awaiting a final decision on EU funding.
  • by the_rajah (749499) * on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:40PM (#21975070) Homepage
    since about 1985. I designed a system back then, using plastic fiber and off-the-shelf HP transmitter and receiver modules, to pass data between elevator controllers where they are in a coordinated group. Isolation was the main reason, but it's also very convenient. We're still producing the same system today. It's convenient that it uses visible light and termination is very easy since the fibers are relative large. We're using relatively low data rates and the maximum distance I've got to handle is less than 100 feet.
  • 1 They say that they can do 100mbits with green light now and hope to do 1Gbits with red light soon... I thought that the higher the frequency the higher the bandwidth?

    As to the benefits over Cat5 I can see a few.
    One is cost. Copper is getting more and more expensive plastic is cheap. Not only that but it should be lighter to ship and easier to install since it is smaller than CAT5.
    Then you have safety. You don't have to worry about shorts and other issues with fiber. Not a huge problem but I can see where
    • One is cost. Copper is getting more and more expensive plastic is cheap. Not only that but it should be lighter to ship and easier to install since it is smaller than CAT5.

      It's very possible for plastic get more expensive than copper. First most plastic in the US today is a petrochemical product. As oil is depleted the cost of plastic will rise. Secondly because of the depletion of oil transporting it become more expensive as well. However copper can be and is mined in the US.

      Falcon

      • by LWATCDR (28044)
        Not really. If the cost of oil gets high enough it will become cost effective to use other hydrocarbons for plastic production. Coal can be used to make anything oil is used to make. Plus it takes a good amount of energy to mine, transport, and smelt copper. So the cost of copper will most likely go even higher based on the cost of oil.

        It is extremely unlikely that plastic will ever be more expensive than copper if for no other reason than there is a lot more Hydrogen and Carbon on the earth than copper.
        • it takes a good amount of energy to mine, transport, and smelt copper. So the cost of copper will most likely go even higher based on the cost of oil.

          Energy can, and more and more will be, derived from renewable sources. However, as someone else pointed out before, copper from dumps and the power cable stung out 40 years ago may be a better source. The thing is is plastic can be made from renewable resources as well. Plastic can be made from plants, however I wonder how well bioplastics [wikipedia.org] will work for

          • by LWATCDR (28044)
            If energy is made from renewable resources then plastic can be made from air and water. Or as I pointed out coal, or as you pointed out from biomass. it is hard to make electronic grade copper from recycled material. Most if not all recycled copper is used for plumbing and other none electrical uses. And there are more and more uses for copper all the time. Everything from electrical motors in EV and Fuel Cell cars to transformers to traces on printed circuit boards. Aluminum isn't as good of a conductor fo
            • Aluminum isn't as good of a conductor for power transmission as copper. The reason that it is being used for power lines is that it is a lot cheaper.

              Thanks, I didn't know, or recall, that aluminum was used for power transmission.

              Falcon
  • by Bocaj (84920)
    With the rising cost of copper products, could plastic be a cheaper?
  • Spencer's Gifts has been selling these [coolstuffcheap.com] for cool bachelor pads since the 1970's, man. What next, are we going to use lava lamps and blacklights for data transmission, man?
  • by statemachine (840641) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:20PM (#21976536)
    For some reason, people have it stuck in their heads that plastic fiber is new. It's not. Also, it can carry 10Gb/s just fine. All the 100-300m links are class 1. In fact, I'm looking at a 50Km rated SFP that is Class 1. According to all the safety ratings, you can stare at its laser as long as you like. And wavelength has nothing to do with power. The 50Km SFP that I just mentioned is infrared.

    It looks like they're solving problems, badly, that have already been solved. MS Windows and their broken "shortcuts" if anyone remembers? If I didn't think it was just plain ignorance, I would claim this was a well-disguised FUD piece.
    • Off topic, but since you started.. :)

      Yes they are ignorant (MS), but not that ignorant, methinks. The main reason for not using symbolic (or hard, for that matter) links was that this requires a fundamental change in the filesystem - and was not nearly as easy to do with FAT (even the new VFAT, later renamed FAT16) filesystem.

      Since then, of course, the ".lnk" files have taken a role similar to the old ".pif" files (Program Information File, used to store meta-information about DOS programs in Windows) - in
  • The partners have built a system that uses green light to transmit 100 megabits a second over a distance of 300 metres, which is the speed telecom companies hope to offer their customers five to ten years from now, and 50 times as fast as a typical adsl broadband connection.

    Five to ten years from now? I think they mean last month. http://abonnez-vous.orange.fr/fibre/fibreres/avoirlafibre/Default.aspx?md=10 [orange.fr]

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