Optical communication technology launched in the late 1970s has never stopped due to lack of development. Optical transmission technologies have been evolving consistently beginning from the development of first optical fiber, bring new products and solutions to enhance the user experience.
The Commercially deployed Optical telecommunication is in its 50s, almost my age. The developments in telecommunications encouraged the optical fiber manufacturers to fund their research activities, which in turn helped the industry to thrive. Optical fiber manufacturers, beginning from Corning, and the consortium of three major Japanese companies – Fujikura, Furukawa, and Sumitomo – under the leadership of NTT laboratories have put their effort to develop and improve the low-loss optical fiber that was produced at first in the Corning’s laboratory.
Optical transmitters were also developed to support long-distance communication. Earlier multimode fibers used in the telecom networks started moving away from the track giving space for the single-mode fibers to advance. That was the game changer for the telecom industry. At one side the cable makers were experimenting on the protection methods that they could economically apply on the fibers to produce cables quickly.
Loose fibers put in a tube became popular in the United States and Europe, while Ribbonized fiber structure was adopted in Japan. The cable manufacturing machine makers such as Nokia (later changed to Nextrom and then absorbed to Rosendahl) started offering optical fiber and cable manufacturing machines at affordable rates that attracted potential investors from developing countries to go for loose tube machines. In one sense, the Japanese machine makers failed to tap the potential in an effort to keep their secrets in ribbon manufacturing.
Over a period of time, in order to utilize the already laid optical fibers more effectively, WDM technology was introduced. WDM technology helped network owners to transmit more signals through the existing fibers. Eventually, Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) was introduced that again pushed optical fiber manufacturers to improve on the optical characteristics, such as PMD.
DWDM technology helped carriers to transmit high bit-rate signals over ultra-long distances that encouraged them to invest in intercontinental connectivity through subsea fiber optic cables. Optical transmitters and receivers merged together to augment these developments. Enthusiasm in the Optoelectronics market leads to the generation of compact, highly efficient optical engines to support high bit-rates over long distances.
In parallel to the above-stated developments of the DWDM systems, passive optical networks (PON) have been developing. A passive optical network is an optical access network that extends from an operator central office into individual homes, apartment houses and business offices. A passive network can be deployed in an FTTx architecture – FTTH (fiber to the home) or in an FTTB (fiber to the building), an FTTC (fiber to the curb) or an FTTCab (fiber to the cabinet) architecture. FTTH is the full-fiber architecture, FTTC and FTTP are partial-Passive fiber networks. UAE’s Etisalat, Japan’s NTT etc deploy FTTH, Telecom Italia deploys FTTC and Openreach in the UK deploy FTTC and FTTP.
Now the trend is shifting towards to connect hyperscale data centers and mobile stations with high-fiber count cables. Until the introduction of 5G technology, there was a clear winner – FTTH. There is no doubt about the ultimate potential of a full-fiber network but when there is a choice of mobility combined with a seamless, uninterrupted high-speed connection, consumers may move towards there.