What is the maximum speed of fibre optic cable?

Categories: Telecoms 

As the world becomes increasingly more connected, the need for reliable, faster internet speeds is paramount.

05/04/2022 - 02:00 AM

The Government has recognized that the UK can’t afford to be left behind on broadband speed and availability, publishing its targets and policy for “Gigabit Broadband” last month.
This is the next step change in broadband speed and follows on from the rollout of “Superfast Broadband” which was the government target speed set in 2010 and is now available in 95% of UK premises. “Superfast Broadband” is commonly defined as a download speed of 30 megabits per second (Mbps).
“Gigabit Broadband” is defined as any technology that can deliver download speeds of at least 1 gigabit per second (Gbps). 1 Gbps is equal to 1000 Mbps. At 1 Gbps an entire HD film can be downloaded in under a minute.
To put it into context, here’s how fibre optic compares in terms of internet download speeds:
  • Fibre optic: up to 10Gbps (at a data transfer rate of up to 10 billion bits per second)
  • Copper cable: 25-300 Mbps (at a data transfer rate of up to 300 million bits per second)
  •  DSL: 0.5-75 Mbps
  • Satellite: 5-25 Mbps
A full-fibre connection can also deliver very low latency – meaning there’s less delay in the time it takes from sending a request and receiving a response.
However, it is important to note that the broadband speed can still vary depending on a number of factors, including location and the type of fibre connection in the area, such as fibre to the cabinet (FTTC), fibre to the premises (FTTP), etc.
Full fibre broadband (Fibre-to-the-Premises or Home FTTP/FTTH) offers a full fibre optic cable connection from the local exchange to each premise. This is the most reliable broadband technology available.

What technologies can deliver Gigabit Broadband?

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FTTP provides full fibre optic cable all the way from the nearest exchange point to the local roadside cabinet. It can achieve speeds from 40 Mbps to 1 Gbps, although it depends on several factors.
One such factor is availability. FTTC is widely available, whereas FTTP is not. However, BT Openreach in partnership with Prysmian, is rolling out FTTP – also recognised as ultrafast full fibre broadband to 85% to the UK by 2025. So far 6.5 million homes and businesses can now get ultrafast full fibre broadband
High-speed cable broadband (DOCSIS3.1) Cable broadband uses a combination of fibre optic cables and legacy co-axial cables (used for cable TV). It is more susceptible to local congestion compared to full fibre networks.
Future 5G networks should also be able to support gigabit speeds, but this will be a challenge in rural areas, given the need for 5G antennas to be very close together and for them to be connected back to a core internet network (“backhaul”) with lots of fibre optic cable. 


How fast can fibre optic go?


Full fibre broadband is already available in some areas such as London at 10 Gbps for business users and will become more widespread over time.
In theory, high-speed cable broadband (D3.1) can reach downstream speeds of 10 Gbps and upstream speeds of 2 Gbps but only in ideal conditions and it’s doubtful it can be consistently achieved in a commercial rollout. The current fastest commercial trial in the UK so far is 2.2 Gbps downstream.
5G networks, in theory, can reach speeds of 10-50 Gbps but currently, the fastest UK download speeds are around 500 Mbps from Network operators in London, so there is a lot of work to do to even get to 1Gbps let alone 10Gbps.
However, full fibre broadband using fibre optic cable is set to go much faster. Prysmian Group, together with Nokia Bell Labs and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) managed to achieve a world record data transmission speed of 1 Petrabit per second (equal to 1,000,000 Gigabits) over an optical fibre with standard dimensions.
This was achieved by combining highly spectral efficient wideband optical transmission with an optical fibre guiding 15 spatial modes, and the use of specific mode multiplexers. As a result, the transmission speed was 1.7 times faster (for multi-mode fibre) and 5.7 times faster (for single-mode fibre) than the previous record of 0.4 Pbps.
So even though it’s possible for data transmission to travel at breath-taking speeds on optical fibre, it may not be available for home broadband for a long while. 


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