Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Flexible Optic Fiber Promises Cheaper Last Mile 161

bn0p writes "Ars Technica has an article on a Korean company that has developed a low-cost, flexible, plastic optical fiber that could bring cheaper 2.5 Gbps connections to homes and apartments. While not as fast as glass fiber, it is significantly faster than copper. In related news, Corning recently announced a flexible glass fiber that can be bent repeatedly without losing signal strength. The Corning fiber incorporates nanostructures in the cladding of the fiber that act as 'light guardrails' to keep the light in the fiber. The glass fiber could be as much as four times faster than plastic fiber. Neither fiber is available commercially yet, but both should help with the last mile problem when they are deployed."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Flexible Optic Fiber Promises Cheaper Last Mile

Comments Filter:
  • Cabling expense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:13PM (#21500621)
    Physical cabling, of any sort, is cheap if you're already digging trenches etc.

    If you don't have other reasons to dig trenches etc, then wireless is typically far cheaper because the installation costs are zero.

    • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:15PM (#21500645)
      Physical cabling, of any sort, is cheap if you're already digging trenches etc.

      This explains why Europe is so far ahead of the U.S. in terms of broadband penetration.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by calebt3 ( 1098475 )
      But it is less reliable. And the highest speeds offered by Clearwire in my area is the lowest speed offered by Comcast.
    • If you don't have other reasons to dig trenches etc, then wireless is typically far cheaper because the installation costs are zero

      If the installation costs are zero, why has municipal WiFi flat-lined?

      • by Bandman ( 86149 )
        all kinds of reasons.

        -wireless backbones suck after you get too many nodes, and maintaining dedicated landlines to APs gets expensive quickly
        -maintaining an infrastructure of finicky boxes in inaccessible locations which need constant coddling to maintain their functionality
        -rampant bandwidth abuse (see tragedy of the commons)
        -overly limited access locations due to the distance limitations, and the fact that tree leaves suck up 2.4ghz like no one's business

        And despite that, there are some places where they
        • Er what he said (Bandman). Also note that the parent poster stated that wifi is CHEAPER, not cost free.
      • by terrymr ( 316118 )
        Massive lobbying campaigns by incumbent telcos, who in some cases even bought laws prohibiting such municipal systems.

      • WiFi SUCKETH. Hell - I can hardly get it to work in my house much less across town. I've repositioned my access point numerous times, purchased external antennas, etc. I'm even on a channel not used by other AP's nearby (BTW, there really are only about 3 USABLE channels out there due to overlap.)

        2.4Ghz is a cesspool used by WAY WAY too many competing technologies. Unfortunately, it's hard to find devices that support the 5Ghz band, so that's not a viable alternative at the moment. Even many of the new N de
        • by MECC ( 8478 ) *

          2.4Ghz is a cesspool used by WAY WAY too many competing technologies.

          That's pretty much it. I set up WiFi for a nationwide retailer (over 500 stores nationwide) and interference from other 2.4 Ghz devices was a big problem - as big as and in some cases bigger than physical barriers. Nearly every store had 2.4 Ghz cordless phones (among other things). They had to either scrap them, or give up on inventory. Not a choice they liked to make.
      • The installation costs are not zero.

        Unless you've found a free supply of commercial grade wifi routers, free connections for them to a backbone, volunteers to do all the installation, etc.

        If the trench (pipe, tunnel, etc. depending on location) already exists then installation of wired connections can be far lower than than wifi - and installing a fiber bundle gives orders of magnitude more bandwidth availablility == more options to make your money back.
    • by mpe ( 36238 )
      If you don't have other reasons to dig trenches etc, then wireless is typically far cheaper because the installation costs are zero.

      The installation costs of wireless are certainly not zero, especially if there isn't an existing power supply or structure to attach the equiptment to. Just that it tends to be cheaper than running cables, in most situations.
    • Re:Cabling expense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nmg196 ( 184961 ) * on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @06:37AM (#21502709)
      > wireless is typically far cheaper because the installation costs are zero.

      Err, no. Wireless is very expensive to install. Even more expensive perhaps than mobile phone networks (mainly because you need 50-100 times more access points than you need for mobile phones (due to the very low transmission powers the standard permits).

      Why do you think that there are almost no cities with city-wide wireless access, years after the technology became prevalent? Most people have problems getting WiFi working in their house - let alone trying to get it to work for a whole town without all the channels massively overlapping. Municipal WiFi won't take off until the standard (perhaps a NEW standard) allows higher transmission powers and a larger frequency band for extra channels.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ephemeriis ( 315124 )

      wireless is typically far cheaper because the installation costs are zero.

      Sure, in theory, it's cheaper because you don't have to sling cables/dig trenches/whatever... But in practice I've found it usually costs just as much as a wired installation, if not more.

      Wireless if fickle. You'll have a great connection in one room and then it'll go to hell in the next. You'll be fine with five users connected and then it'll go to hell when a sixth connects. The weather affects signal strength, as do human bodie

  • Flexible fiber optic may be a great solution for our broadband needs, but their true calling [] is now twenty years passed.
  • Actually, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:14PM (#21500631) Journal
    The plastic one would be great in the last 100 feet (33 meters). It would be nice to run fiber through the home, as well as a cat 5. The cat 5 can carry power (POE). But if that plastic can carry 2.5G AND is easy AND cheap to install, it will quickly make waves in the housing industry.
    • Re:Actually, (Score:5, Informative)

      by hjf ( 703092 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:26PM (#21500725) Homepage
      CAT6a and CAT7 can work up to 10G, provided you use appropriate connectors such as Siemon's TERA, which can also be used for carrying telephone and CATV over the same wire. If you need the full 10G, you use 4 pairs. If you don't need 10G, you can use less pairs and the rest for other things (i.e: your PVR could use CATV, POTS, and still have 5Gbps for data). I know, I know, when 10G is commonplace, maybe we won't have CATV and POTS anyway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Firethorn ( 177587 )
      I'd rather just run a couple copper wires with the fiber if you want a combined power/information source. PoE is something of a hack. You'd be able to push more power with a couple of dedicated wires, for lower cost - simpler construction because you only need a couple wires even if you increase the gauge, don't need to twist them, etc...

      As for the other poster, I've seen those connectors - complex and expensive looking even(especially?) compared with fiber connectors. After a certain point fiber IS chea
    • POE is basically irrelevant. You may as well forget about it. It's not going to power anything but the lowest power devices. I do have a POE setup for the device from the ISP, the bandwidth from that device certainly isn't limited by the copper. POE will work for a wired VoIP phone though, but then, I think people favor cordless devices, neither really push enough to merit the use of fiber.
  • no they won't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EjectButton ( 618561 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:19PM (#21500671)
    Not in the United States anyway, our "last mile problem" has a lot more to do with entrenched telecom and cable companies with regional monopolies than any sort of fiber bendiness.
    • Re:no they won't (Score:5, Insightful)

      by calebt3 ( 1098475 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:24PM (#21500711)
      Those monopolies only exist because they have the government's blessing. You can bet that they will be broken up shortly if the legislators find out that they could be getting their pr0n faster. Unless maybe those monopolies give enough bribe money that the legislator can pay for a 2.5Gb connection without thinking twice.
      • Cable Television in many areas of the US is not government sanctioned as a monopoly, but is one anyway, because the situation is indeed natural. Has to do with the economics of digging and competing. Better not to, just tacitly agree to territories.

      • Those monopolies only exist because they have the government's blessing.

        And they only have the government's blessing because it would be a logistical and economic nightmare if all the streets had to be dug up or another set of utility poles erected every time another company decided they wanted to provide residential telecom services.
    • by rnturn ( 11092 )

      Where I used to live, the phone company was over two years behind their projected date for having ADSL available in the local CO when we moved to a new home in a neighboring town. I heard that they only recently got the equipment in. (And we moved out of that town over six years ago.)

      Based on the local telco monopoly's past performance, I expect this new technology to hit my town by about, oh, 2018. They have little to no incentive to install new equipment as they can still make a ton of money on the sca

  • by imstanny ( 722685 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:22PM (#21500697)
    Flexible fiber optics would do wonders for apartment buildings and its residents. With cable going digital in 2009, this would be very important. BTW - check out the back of your plates - it may be made by Corning as well (mine is).
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by calebt3 ( 1098475 )
      This could be a good incentive for a us to finally get out of our parent's basements and into apartments of our own.
    • There will still be monopolies and that's a fact. The only change that may made is in who is playing the game. This could do wonders however in kicking out the telcos already entrenched and fattened with fiber money which they have done nothing constructive with.
    • Cable is already mostly digital, in many areas. Or were you thinking about the shutting off of analog broadcast TV that's happening in 2009?

      Besides, shipping digital data over coax is not exactly unknown technology. modern technologies can have it carrying lots of digital technology, in that you can treat it like a whole range of RF channels - it'd be like transmitting on every channel available for 802.11a,g, and hundreds more*. It's kinda like increasing transmission over a single fiber by using lasers
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Besides, fiber requires a transmitter for every line - it's a star topology by default, not a bus like coax can be. That increases expense.

        I don't think that's right. You can use passive splitters to connect multiple devices to the same fiber line. Verizon does this for their FiOS service: it's how they connect 32 houses on a single fiber line.

        Here be a wiki on the subject: []
  • Will this matter? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:30PM (#21500757)
    I don't think the cost of the actual cable will change the equation very much. I've been out of it for more than ten years, but even then you could get fiber for less than $1/foot - I assume it's even cheaper now. I have to believe most of the cost lies in planning, getting permits, and digging trenches.
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )
      Depending on what you want it's between 50c and $1,50 per foot. Compare that to CAT5e which is $0,05/foot, multiply by 200.
      • $200 is only 3 months of Comcast subscription fees.
        • But not all of that $200 can pay for the installation. It also pays for back-end systems, labor, and content. Increase the materials cost and it takes an extra YEAR to recover, or more. On the other hand, you can offer more services over fiber and perhaps increase your billings. There is a limit to how much people will pay for non-critical services however in most markets. Comcast basically wants about $100 / month / subscriber (phone, internet, TV package.) That's about max they can get away with.
  • by ( 463190 ) * on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:37PM (#21500807) Homepage
    cheaper than the one I have now? sweet!
  • by r_jensen11 ( 598210 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:38PM (#21500817)
    What I don't get is why we seemingly refuse to invest for the long-term in the United States. Sure, some companies do, generally the smarter ones. But when it comes to public infrastructure, politicians haven't found a way to inform the public that by spending 2x as much now, we're saving 20x as much over the next n years.

    I know that technology evolves at a rapid rate, but if we invest more money now and use the same amount of energy* now (compared to doing investing less money and the same amount of energy), then we can use the energy that's left over from not having to double our efforts next year for other causes.

    *energy here is refering to human capital.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shajenko42 ( 627901 )

      What I don't get is why we seemingly refuse to invest for the long-term in the United States. Sure, some companies do, generally the smarter ones. But when it comes to public infrastructure, politicians haven't found a way to inform the public that by spending 2x as much now, we're saving 20x as much over the next n years.

      Perhaps because we don't believe them?

      It's easy to SAY that you'll save a lot in the future, and then not deliver. Most likely the particular politician that claimed that will have

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rmerry72 ( 934528 )

      ...politicians haven't found a way to inform the public that by spending 2x as much now, we're saving 20x as much over the next n years.

      Politicians, business leaders - hell most people - don't believe/see/understand/care (pick one) that a stitch in time really works. If they can't see immediate bang for buck then they won't support it. That's the way our world is now and has been for a while. Instant gratification. Apollo program got cut because of the same attitude, lack of spending in helath/roads/telec

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      In many ways we do invest for the long term. POTS has been around for about a century. For another example, my parents' house was built in 1996 or something like that, and they have an option for something like six phone lines if they so choose. Except they now use cell phones and have zero phone lines -- oops! All the money spent on those extra copper lines doesn't matter, but I know they'd use fiber optic lines if the builder had had the foresight to include them.

      Fast forward to today. As I stated in an e []

      • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @03:36AM (#21502029)
        Unfortunately, fiber would be just as bad of a long term decision. How about conduit. If instead of just allowing builders to lay wire, they should run conduit under the roads, and right up to the house, and that the conduit is owned by the city/county. The city/county could then rent the last mile to anyone that wants to offer data services. We could actually have competition in the telecom and cable tv industry. If this were done in new construction or during times when major reconstruction is already in progress, the cost would be dramatically less than than trying to do this in established neighborhoods. I would bet that once people started seeing the benefits, you would see demand for retrofitting older neighborhoods with conduit. This would also turn the last mile into an on going revenue source for the cities/counties.
        • by delt0r ( 999393 )
          I honestly thought thats what they were doing. At least in NZ and here thats what they do, why would the do anything else? The Problem is that the conduit is owned by the company and they charge a lot to let others use it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Belial6 ( 794905 )
            Here in the US they don't do conduit at all. The reason they don't is because it is cheaper cheaper to just run the cables, and the only way you will get developers to spend an extra dime is if it mandated by the city/county. While it sounds like NZ has the problem half solved, allowing the company to own the conduit is only slightly better in practice than letting them bury their cables directly. (By the way, when we are saying conduit, we are not talking about a protective sheathing, but are talking ab
            • by delt0r ( 999393 )

              but are talking about a large tube that new cable can be pulled through.
              Of course. The local government own quite big ones down the main street. The min size ones are pretty small IIRC, 3/4 inch or something...
        • This actually sounds like a very good idea -- do you know of any municipalities that have actually installed such a system? I ask because it also sounds like a system that would be harder to implement than it sounds, as how would one actually move cable from place to place? How would it scale from one house to hundreds or thousands? And although we call it the "last mile," it could be as long as five or ten miles from the telco's box to the house.

          Anyhow, thanks for the insightful post, which was actually

          • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
            Unfortunately, I have not heard of any municipalities that have implemented this, and I'm not sure that there are not other... 'factors' that would keep it from being implemented even if it turned out to be the obvious answer. No doubt planning would be needed, and the idea would need to be fleshed out, but my thought would be that the conduit would be along the lines of our storm drain systems. Many of these are large enough for a grown man to walk in if he haunches over, and they have access every 300 f
    • by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

      politicians haven't found a way to inform the public that by spending 2x as much now, we're saving 20x as much over the next n years.

      Because they're not likely to be around in 15-20 years, or even more. By the time Joe Public realizes what a marvelous public infrastructure decision that was, 20 years ago, the politician is long gone from office, perhaps even retired. Why let the incumbent take all the glory for your handiwork? In the meantime the taxpayers are bitching and moaning about why they have to build this expensive infrastructure *now*. Politicians are only as short-sighted as the constituents they serve.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Squalish ( 542159 )
        You can also see the other end of this.
        • Given that there are temporary measures an officeholder can take to push back major forseeable crises.
        • Given that these measures improve the immediate situation and deepen the intensity and inevitability of said crisis
        • Given that we have elected an officeholder who's not motivated by pure benevolence towards his constituents, and is self-interested in immediate popularity/power.
        • And given that this officeholder is term limited.

        What motivation does this officeholder have

    • Because most investors live their life a quarter at a time(you get the idea). You want to spend 2x now, that's fine. You gonna guarantee me 20x worth of savings in 6 or 7 quarters? If you can't, I'm gonna have to pass on that idea. =\
    • Quote: "by spending 2x as much now, we're saving 20x as much over the next n years."
      Because usually in a few years the (now quite new) technology becomes 4 times cheaper and two times faster.

      Also, the bottleneck of the bandwidth isn't the last mile. With ADSL2+ you can establish a 24Mbit connection without any additional infrastructure costs, but who has one at this moment? (I do, although I also would have been satisfied with half the speed)
      Usually, the main problem is carriers ripping you off and not the
    • We did invest for the long term. Telecommunications Act of 1996 provided that ISPs, telecoms, phone companies, etc. could charge customers special surcharges and receive some tax credits in exchange for building a new high speed infrastructure like fiber. For the last decade they have received $200 billion [] and we still have no fiber. Those who get fiber have to pay for the privilege.
    • I agree, but I'd go further by proposing that an expenditure of fiber to the home could -save- money on infrastructure. Many people are opting not to commute to work and work from the home. The problem with working from home (I've not had the experience) is that many have to still commute to the office to attend meetings. Having a faster Internet connection throughout a given city would allow persons to stay at home and teleconference with video and voice in great quality.

      Assuming that most businesses would
  • Is the cost of the cable really that relevant? I thought it was the cost of installing the cable that was the major stumbling block.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by memrob ( 1144041 )
      I think you're correct - cable itself isn't the greatest expense - even the custom ends on the cables are fairly cheap, though more expensive than with copper as they are a bit finicky. But the installation is the expensive part. Civil utilities are installed in new subdivisions by government contractors by the local city or county in most places, but television cable and phone lines? I'm not so sure who foots the bill for that infrastructure. This doesn't even mention that installing new fiber in alrea
  • While not as fast as glass fiber, it is significantly faster than copper.
    Not quite, since speed =/= bandwidth. Fiber can provide more bandwidth than copper because lasers can light fiber up and turn it off quickly without a problem, whereas electrical charges on a conductor tend to hang around for a bit. But the actual delay from source to destination is faster on copper. Again, speed =/= bandwidth.
    • Eh? Are you concerned about the speed of the light pulse in the cable? In that case let us just say that you are going to need a REALLY fancy cable to get any relevant improvements...
  • Wrong summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by ihavnoid ( 749312 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:48PM (#21500895)
    The research group is mentioned to be in "Korea Institute of Science and Technology", which is better known as KIST here in Korea, isn't a company. It is a government research agency.
  • Last mile... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Usquebaugh ( 230216 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2007 @11:50PM (#21500911)
    My understanding is that the last mile problem is all to do with the cost of laying wire not the cost of the wire itself. Also, if everybody has gigabit connections the cable provider is going to have to invest in some very serious switching and upstream connections. In short fixing the last mile will probably only expose problems up stream.

    I keep wondering about god playing dice and quantum entanglement. Currently, the labs are stuck at a few miles. But if they can up the range and speed would this not be a better solution. A cable of infinite length that is also secure that you can give to any ISP. ISP would be an open market and speeds would go up as costs went down. No need for cable/wireless so zero installation costs.

    So is QE going to happen or is it just my poor grasp of the subject matter?
    • Using quantum interactions to transmit information also requires you to transmit a signal the old fashion way. This is essentially what prevents you from exceeding the speed of light. You would also need a way to distribute the entangled particles ( each pair can be used only once ). The advantage of quantum entanglement is completely down to its ability to transfer quantum states ( no set of classical information can completely describe a quantum mechanical system ) and it's security against eavesdropping
      • My understanding is that the fiber optic is only necessary for the entanglement. Once entangled the fiber is not required.

        The one time use is a problem, but I think the entanglement remains even after resolution of the state so maybe changing state again will cause the other particle to change. This I've never seen stated anywhere only hinted at.
      • by kmac06 ( 608921 )
        Man in the middle attack is not possible in quantum encryption if you can verify that information is being passed without modification (but not necessarily privately) through a classical channel to/from the correct party. Not sure if that's what you were saying or not, but I just thought I'd clarify.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jrcamp ( 150032 )

      In short fixing the last mile will probably only expose problems up stream.

      How do you think progress is made? At any given point in time there will be one bottleneck in a system. Things progress by removing the bottlenecks one by one. You fix the slowest part and then move on to the next slowest part. Over time, the system as a whole evolves to become faster as its parts do.

      If it exposes problems upstream then great! It means we have removed a bottleneck and the next worst one will be fixed. Other

  • by timmarhy ( 659436 )
    It's not the cable itself that's expensive, it's laying it.
  • Wow! (Score:2, Funny)

    You mean I can get internet porn even faster with these plastic rope thingys? Sign me up!
  • Better idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 )
    What's wrong with copper? I'd freakin love even 100 MBPS at my house! That's like a minute and a half for a good quality DVD movie instead of hours. And copper can do gigabit so geeze. They just need more of it and better network switches and routers instead of cheaping out and giving crap service to everyone to save a buck
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      Fiber propogates much longer distances and easier. Your 10/100 ethernet is only up to (IIRC) 100 meters. The same goes to gigabit, but that's even touchier.
      • That's really only and issue because old switching equipment was hugh, i mean the stuff took up vast amounts of building space.
        So cables run all the way to the exchange and sure they stop in a couple of places and get tied in to other cables to continue the journey.

        These days the switches can be very small, i'm sure you could fit a switch in the same space of the junction boxes.

        So are the Junction boxes more than a 100m if so how hard in most places would it be to add extra junction boxes then treat each ju
        • Several problems with your comments:

          1) The 100m range for copper Ethernet is over Category 5 or better twisted pair wiring, and requires two (for 10/100Mbit) or four (1 Gbit) pairs of wires to carry the Ethernet signal. Residences are wired with Category 3, and seldom are more than two pair. And being Category 3, they aren't twisted or insulated to the necessary degree to carry even 10 Mbit Ethernet reliably.

          2) Your "junction boxes" have existed for decades. They are called SLC (Subscriber Loop Carrier
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by felix9x ( 562120 )
      Thats why when Verison gets over to your house and wires it up with fiber your cable company is not only going to drop your rates but also triple your download and upload.
  • by ThousandStars ( 556222 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @12:27AM (#21501145) Homepage
    There's a reasonable chance wireless will eventually solve many of the last mile problems; I recently cancelled Millennium Cable in Seattle for ClearWire [] instead. Right now it isn't available everywhere and the service isn't particularly fast by fiber standards, as its 1.5 down /756 (I think) up. But if the technology improves faster than fiber can be rolled out we might not care by the time 2011 rolls around.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The article writers and poster have no idea what they are talking about. Unfortunately most of us fiber scientists & engineers got laid off during the tech crash.

    Plastic fiber has been around for decades. It is cheap. The problem with plastic fiber is that your signal won't go as far as with a glass fiber. However, for "last-mile" use, you don't need to worry about signal loss since you aren't going very far. The big cost in "last-mile" is digging up the ground and putting in the cable/conduit/fiber. Th
    • I work with plastic fiber every single day. You can bend it around your pinky and still get 4Gb/s or even 10Gb/s out of it. For short-haul distances, 300m or less, it works just fine. Is this article from 10 years ago? For some reason, this is reminding me of how Microsoft touted shortcuts as something new when UNIX had symlinks (and got them right) decades before.

      The parent needs to be modded up.
  • marketing buzzword for "magic pixie dust"...
  • So, just as cable responds to current fiber installations with DOCSIS 3, fiber leaps ahead again. They're just making it easier and easier to get rid of Comcast.
  • In related news, Corning recently announced

    Recently announced? I've had the announcement about Cornings new fiber in my journal since August. See for yourself []. It was never selected so I finally put it up so you folks could be informed.

    I guess I shouldn't be too harsh on the folks running this site despite the dupes as they seem to have gotten around to fixing their mod point distribution system.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong