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Corning introduces laser fiber optic USB cable

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January 9, 2013

Corning's Thunderbolt optical cable

Corning's Thunderbolt optical cable

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Digital systems are notorious for bottlenecks. It’s no good having a blazing, overclocked PC and an internet connection like a firehose if the USB cable between them is like a straw. It’s even worse when the distance between PC and modem is more than a few feet away, so the cable can’t reach. With the aim of eliminating these bottlenecks, Corning Cable Systems LLC is unveiling its Optical Cable by Corning at CES in Las Vegas. These cables replace copper wires with fiber optics to produce cables up to 100 meters (328 ft) long, that are much more durable and achieve speeds of 10 gigabits per second, which is enough to load a full-length HD video in 30 seconds.

The USB 3.0 Optical and Thunderbolt Optical Cables by Corning look like standard USB cables with a couple of fat plugs. The plugs are actually optical engines that convert the digital signal into laser light. This passes down the cable where it is converted back into an electronic signal at the other end.

What makes this possible is that instead of copper wires, the cables use glass optical fibers. This allows them to be 50 percent thinner with a diameter of 3 mm (0.12 in) and 80 percent lighter than standard cables, yet, according to Corning, they are stronger and can be bent, squeezed and tangled without damage or losing function. The cables have a low signal-noise design, are dual channel and bi-directional, and up to six Thunderbolt cables can be daisy chained. They are also hot swappable.

Corning's USB 3.0 optical cable
Corning's USB 3.0 optical cable

Corning states that they can also be made much longer with operating lengths of up to 30 meters (98.4 ft) for the USB 3.0 cable and 100 meters (328 ft) for a single Thunderbolt cable. According to Mike Bell, senior vice president and general manager, Optical Connectivity Solutions at Corning, “Users can create, move and manage their data in a much more flexible, efficient and durable manner with this new technology. Video can be live edited from across a football field; a music library can be downloaded 40 percent faster; and devices can be quickly accessed and connected with this much smaller and lighter cable when the capabilities of WiFi and Bluetooth just aren’t enough.”

The optical cables are scheduled to go on sale through select retailers at the end of first quarter of 2013.

The video below outlines the features of the optical cables.

Update: This story was modified on Jan. 10, 2013 to correct an error in relation to the cable's transfer speeds. The cable is capable of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps), not 10 gigabytes per second. Thanks to all the readers who pointed this out.

Source: Corning via Dvice

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
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9 Comments

I may be showing my ignorance, but the fastest rate for 3.0 is listed at 5 Gig a second.

Granted I think the product is amazing with a 10 gig a second rate, but will the 3.0 format have to be modified to keep up with the new cable? (3.1 ? )

Or was the bottleneck the cabling itself?

PrometheusGoneWild.com
9th January, 2013 @ 04:24 pm PST

10 gigabits per second*

There's no way it's 10 gigabytes per second.

Still, this looks pretty cool. I wonder how much extra power it'll consume, and how much it will cost? You also have to wonder how durable the glass fibers will be in general use...

Will Sharp
9th January, 2013 @ 04:28 pm PST

now if they could get rid of the wires in the first place..

Micheal Donnellan
9th January, 2013 @ 05:08 pm PST

....so it's essentially an audio optical cable?

Sambath Pech
9th January, 2013 @ 05:45 pm PST

To those of you talking about the 5 GB bandwidth, see:

http://www.gizmag.com/usb-30-enhancement-10-gbps/25654/

Racqia Dvorak
9th January, 2013 @ 06:57 pm PST

About time something like this came out. There is more to this than simply longer USB cables... Think easy electrical isolation (not just for audio).. Let's just hope it doesn't cost a fortune.

Daniel Brown
10th January, 2013 @ 12:30 am PST

awsome

Eric Malatji
10th January, 2013 @ 01:45 am PST

I work with fiber optics. You would be surprised how durable they can be. It is really no worse than copper and they take up less room.

You can also buy fiber jumpers for like $10/each.

I think they are on the right track but there a couple of problems with using optics. The fiber cables themselves may be pretty cheap but the lasers/transievers that interface with them are still kind of expensive on the high end.

You can do 1G optics cheaply but 10G is still outside of consumer technology pricing. This device is pretty much just a 10G SPF that plugs into Thunderbolt/USB instead of an SFP socket.

The lack of electrical current does prevent you from using the technology to power peripherals with it. I suspect nobody is going to pony up the amount of money this would cost to charge cell phones but it could have some application in something like security cameras where things like PoE (power over ethernet) and USB are used.

You could probably make a cheap USB module for the other end that takes an AC input to repower the other side. It sounds unnecessarily complex but it would be a $10 accessory that would give you the ability to run cheap $50 USB security cameras in place of PoE cameras that cost between $500 and $2,000.

You are offloading a lot of cost into the cabling method (they won't be cheap) but not all the runs would be long enough to require optical and it is probably cheaper to mass produce a USB 3 powered SFP than it is to have a bunch of manufacturers create niche product lines with optical interfaces.

Daishi
10th January, 2013 @ 02:02 am PST

To: Racquia Dvorak...you need to be careful about using GB or Gb. They are quite different ! Gb is gigabits and "Gb per second" is the standard method of measuring transmission speeds. GB is gigabytes which is eight times larger and is generally used to express the space required for software (using the 8-bit word as the base unit).

professore
10th January, 2013 @ 05:16 am PST
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