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 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.