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Electronics Production | January 07, 2011

Report: Fiber is again gaining attention

Fiber optic links offer nearly unlimited high-speed bandwidth, improved signal density and immunity to EMI, and crosstalk; all factors that are highly desirable in today’s advanced communications and computing equipment, writes market researcher Bishop & Associates.
Bishop & Associates' new research report Fiber Optic Connectors in Military and Commercial Applications explores the rapidly evolving technology and interface components supporting data transmission via optical fiber. Fiber strands the size of a hair can convey hundreds of high-speed signals replacing bulky and heavy copper cables. The ability to transmit signals many kilometers without amplification was immediately adopted by the telecom industry in long-haul applications, but wide market adoption in additional market segments has stumbled due primarily to cost. The immanent demise of copper has been predicted many times over the years, but a combination of advanced chip technology together with improvements in design for signal integrity has allowed engineers to find ways to expand the practical bandwidth of copper. Costs associated with the required electro-optic conversion process together with connectors that require skilled technicians to successfully terminate discouraged broad market conversion to fiber. As we reach system requirements for 10+ Gb/s channels, fiber is again gaining attention as a viable alternative. High-performance copper cable assembles suffer as length increases. Precision passive cable assemblies can improve performance, but add cost and are available from a limited supplier base, the researchers continue. Active copper cables with integrated signaling conditioning features improve high-speed and distance characteristics but also add more cost as well as consume power. Fiber optic links are beginning to approach cost parity with copper in many applications. In addition to a variety of standard fiber optic connector types, manufacturers have introduced new products that provide system designers more options than ever before. Small form factor pluggable modules including SFP+ and QSFP+ enable the choice of copper or fiber I/O at any point from initial installation to future upgrades without modifying the equipment. Active optical cables mate with standard copper connectors on the I/O panel, but convert the signal to optical for transmission via fiber. Chapters in this report review both of these technologies and their implications on future system design. ----- Source: Bishop & Associates
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