Broadband speed boost incoming? BT tests next-gen cables with faster speeds, fewer outages
BT is trialling new types of “hollow core” fibre cable at their Research and Development facility in Ipswich, which could be more resistant to damage, deliver faster performance for customers, and reduce the possibility of broadband blackouts. At first glance, it seems this new cable could tick off all the problems customers have with their home broadband connections.
According to BT, these “hollow core” fibre-optic cables have the “potential to reduce the latency, or signal delay, caused by the light travelling through glass, by up to 50 percent”. In a nutshell, these new cables have a hollow core (hence the name) filled with air – that’s compared with the glass core found in the fibre-optic cables currently used across the UK. Whether it’s air or glass inside the cable, its job is to guide laser light.
What BT hopes to solve with its new air-filled cables is the loss of strength that begins to happen in glass cables over long distances.
The latest trial by the R&D labs, which was unearthed by internet-obsessed blog ISPreview, is using a 10km “hollow core” fibre cable for the tests. BT has already discovered that these cables enable it to increase the distance between back-end processing in exchanges. The researchers at BT also believe these cables could play a key role in the infrastructure needed to install 5G masts across the UK.
As well as providing broadband-like speeds to smartphones and tablets when on-the-move, many believe 5G could also replace fixed-line internet in millions of homes. With no need for a fibre cable running to your door, rural customers could benefit from huge speed gains without major works digging up roads, driveways, and drilling holes in customers’ walls. A 5G-powered Wi-Fi router can also be plugged in anywhere at home since it relies on a small SIM card installed, not a specific ethernet socket.
Speaking about the ongoing trials, BT Head of Optical Network Research Professor Andrew Lord commented: “We’re excited to begin trialling hollow core fibre and to discover the potential opportunities and benefits of deploying this technology in certain scenarios. This new type of fibre cable could play an important role in the future of the world’s communications infrastructure, heralding a step-change in capability and speed, to keep up with the demands for high-speed, low latency communications driven by 5G networks, streaming, and more.”
Don’t expect to see Openreach vans installing this cutting-edge new cable in your street anytime soon. Provided the trials continue to throw-up positive results, we’d expect to see BT use “hollow core” cables in future network links to beam broadband over huge distances to connect rural customers, fit new 5G masts, and more.
For home broadband customers, that’s likely to mean more gigabit-capable connections coming online in new areas across the UK and, fingers crossed, less outages and issues.
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