Researchers ponder hollow core fiber for 5G


One of the world’s leading telecommunications companies is investigating the power of a certain type of optical fiber in an effort to pioneer 5G technologies.


ZDNet reports today on U.K. provider BT working with a university connected firm called Lumenisity in assessing the use of what’s called hollow core optical fiber for future 5G networks.


“We’ve done all sorts of things with that fiber, we’ve put it in ovens, we’ve shaken it, we’ve put it in cables to check its robustness,” said BT researcher Andrew Lord recently, according to coverage by ZDNet writer Daphne Leprince-Ringuet. “And it’s shown remarkable properties, one of which is that it is 50% quicker than standard fiber. There are applications where that really makes sense, particularly in the 5G space where there is a latency limit to the equipment.”


In experimenting with this type of fiber, researchers are looking at technology that has been around for 20 years, according to Gary Miller at M2Optics.


“As the name suggests, hollow-core fiber varies from conventional optical fibers by guiding light through a hollow region vs. the glass on which traditional fiber travels,” Miller writes. “The light beam is confined to the hollow-core by holes in the surrounding glass material, which looks like a honeycomb in a cross-section.”


What BT researchers found is that hollow core optical fiber can carry data 50% faster than standard cable. Why is this important? A deep dive into the build of 5G systems shows that unlike 4G technology, which mainly worked over a series of cell towers carrying wireless signals, the backbone of 5G will be composed of cabled setups.


“The stringent requirements for 5G heavily rely upon the interconnected backbone in the short term,” writes a team at L-Com Global Connectivity. “Intensive 5G fiber-optic backhaul is necessary to seamlessly stream bandwidth-intensive applications such as 4K video.”

“It’s rather ironic that the projected performance goals of 5G wireless will depend on the availability of wireline fiber,” writes Brian Lavallee for Ciena. “In fact, the only reason we don’t have fiber connected right to our smartphones is because we’d be less mobile.”

Look for these types of innovations as 5G takes over.