First Fiber Optic Cable for Wide Area Network by Rediffusion

People in the Hastings, East Sussex were witnessing a landmark event in the history of fiber optics when they spotted the installation staff drawing fiber optic cables through ducts in the city. The first fiber optic network in a working system to be used by the paying public was deployed by Rediffusion in the United Kingdom. The company built the world’s first wide area network using fiber optic cables in 1976. The installation crew deployed fiber optic cables in the town of Hastings.

On Monday 19 March 1976 Rediffusion and BICC gave the demonstration of the fiber optic link at Hastings to the national media. Rediffusion had shown the same demonstration to the delegates attending the 100th Engineering Conference in November 1975. Rediffusion selected Hastings for its first field trial of fiber optic link, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the world. The trial was part of a program designed to see the practical application of optical fibers to distribute television programs. Getting familiarity with the new technology was also an objective of the trial.

Although the transmission of television signals had been demonstrated in several laboratories, the system at Hastings had generally operated at baseband (i.e. Video). The Hastings link employed a standard system frequency of 8.9 MHz. The fiber optic cable had 2 number of optical fibers. Total route of the first trial was 1,427 meters and spanned from vision trunk route from the Blackman Avenue kiosk into the Rediffusion Offices on teh Ponswood Estate.

Rediffusion says this fiber optic cable would be used to carry the BBC-1 and Southern IBA programs, which were distributed to more than 30,000 homes in the towns of Hastings, St.Leonards and Bexhill. The installation had been made in such a way that the signals from the optical fibers could replace those brought in on conventional coaxial cables, the conventional system being retained but no longer connected for the period of the trial.

The 2F cable was supplied by BICC in two drums. Optical fibers were spliced to make route length at the Hollington kiosk, which was at 791 meters away from the Blackman kiosk. The optical signals were converted back into electrical form in the Ponswood kiosk, where the low-level signals were fed into convenient points on high-frequency repeaters which fed the subsequent networks.

Rediffusion Engineering produced the transmitting equipment installed at the Blackman kiosk and the receiving equipment installed at Ponswood. The splicing of the fibers at the Hollington kiosk were supplied and installed by BICC Research and Development Limited. The duct in which optical fiber cables were drawn had other existing cables that served to the trunk and distribution networks.

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Author: James

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