TECH TALK: TechnoWonders of the Modern World: TechnoWonder 6: Fibre Optics

The world is getting hungrier for bandwidth. Gilder’s Law says that bandwidth grows at least three times faster than computer power. So, while computer power doubles every 18 months (Moore’s law), communications power doubles every six months. This is a growth of 10x every year. What has driven the growth of the Internet in the past 5 years has been the deployment of photonics at the core of the networks.

Says Business Week, “Internet traffic is doubling every three months, and optical technology is the only practical way to carry it all With the latest optical technology, a single strand of fiber thinner than a human hair can now carry every phone call, e-mail, and Web page used by every person in the world.”

Feeding the bandwidth demand frenzy are developments in fibre optics. Technologies like Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) and optical components and switching are causing a dramatic overhaul of telecommunications networks worldwide. Even in India, a race is on among various companies to deploy fibre networks within cities and across the country.

To give an indication of the capacity of optical fibres, here’s George Gilder in “Telecosm: How Infinite Bandwidth will Revolutionize our World”:

It is now practical to put a thousand wavelengths on a fibre, ten billion bits per second on each wavelength, and as many as 864 fibres in each fibre cable. This adds up to a total of 8.6 petabits (10 raised to the power of 15) per second in a single fibre sheatheight petabits per second is a thousand times the total telecommunications traffic across the entire global infrastructure as recently as 1997.

What are the drivers for this bandwidth? In countries like India and China, it is the growing Internet user base. For consumers and corporates who have been using the narrowband Net, fibre optics opens up the world to a whole gamut of applications like video, streaming, digital music, voice-over-IP, online education and remote services. In India, where IT-enabled services are seen to have a promising future, the raw materials for creating the next generation of enterprises will be people and bandwidth. The limiting factor for us as we move from a kilobit to petabit network will only be our imagination!

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.