Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New plastic optical fiber could solve the "last mile" conundrum

Solving the "last mile" problem is a goal both the telecommunication and cable industries have pursued for years without discovering a single, easily implementable solution. Now, researchers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology think they have developed a new type of plastic optical fiber that could potentially be used to provide low-cost fiber connectivity from the consumer to the provider.

Plastic optical fiber isn't as fast as traditional glass, but its 2.5GB/s transfer speed still represents a meteoric leap beyond copper. Currently, the majority of optical fiber is prone to breakage (being made from glass), cannot bend, and can be difficult to connect. The Korea Times reports that the new plastic fiber can be easily bent and connected to additional lines, making it useful in hard-to-reach homes or apartments.
Verizon, in particular, might be interested in plastic optical fibers. The company's FiOS technology runs fiber directly into the home of each subscriber, a choice that was costing the company well in excess of $900 per subscriber as of last March. Verizon has already shown an interest in flexible cable, and announced last summer that it wanted to purchase Corning's new flexible optical fiber as soon as it became available in quantity.


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