back to article Have you ever, ever felt like this? Have strange things happened? Is high-speed data going round the twist?

One of light's stranger characteristics – the ability to give its wave propagation a “twist” – has taken a step closer to practical application, and could be used to increase fiber-optic network speeds a hundredfold. The twisting of light involves something called orbital angular momentum, or OAM. It's possible to give a light …

  1. Trixr Bronze badge

    The irony of developing a faster fibre solution in Oz.

    Too bad that you're still most likely to be on copper to the node as a home user, in the extremely unlikely event that this is implemented in my lifetime.

  2. Crisp Silver badge
    Pint

    Is it someones job at El Reg just to work on punny headlines?

    Because if so they are doing a fantastic job today!

    1. jaywin

      Re: Is it someones job at El Reg just to work on punny headlines?

      Guess what theme song is going to be stuck in my head all day now...

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Is it someones job at El Reg just to work on punny headlines?

        As a guilty pleasure, I got the whole lot on DVD. I guess I know what I'll be watching tonight...

    2. Fatman Silver badge

      Re: Is it someones job at El Reg just to work on punny headlines?

      Sometimes it is so bad, you can almost "see" the sarcasm expressed.

      But, then again, I am a sarcastic son of a bitch.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth.

    Which Big Cable companies will take decades to roll out and throttle till you can almost hear the death rattle.

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth.

      So you as a customer would rather pay 10x what you do now so they can completely rebuild their networks every 18 months? That delivers a minor incremental benefits you can't even feel?

      Of course things like this take time to get rolled out, starting with the pinch points on the current network where the greatest benefit is felt soonest?

      By all means argue greater investment is needed but try to keep your argument based remotely in reality: you are not willing to pay for the level of investment you demand. If you're not willing to pay for your faster broadband who do you propose should, especially when that 'investment' is being done in such a foolhardy manner?

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth.

        So you as a customer would rather pay 10x what you do now so they can completely rebuild their networks every 18 months?

        If the ISPs put in FTTP then a change in technology would probably just mean swapping the devices at each end of the fibre.

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth.

          "If the ISPs put in FTTP then a change in technology would probably just mean swapping the devices at each end of the fibre."

          If only the Oz government had stuck with FTTP for nbn, then we wouldn't be the last people getting this new Oz technology.

      2. Ragarath

        Re: A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth.

        Come on, the do not need to "rebuild the network," that's the point of FO. Once you have it in the ground and unless some builder goes through it or some other happenstance then changing the sender and detector is all that is needed.

        Now, yes this may take a while to come down in price but saying they need to rebuild the networks is false. They first need to actually build a decent network which they continue to drag their feet with. And as for "paying for the investment" you see all them dividends and profits?

        1. Keith Oborn

          Re: A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth.

          That's not entirely true. Fibre transmission characteristics do degrade over time, exacerbated by stress - the latter was learnt the hard way by Energis, where the bright idea of putting fibre on the neutral lines at the top of electricity pylons started to fade when the wires waved around in the wind.

          Even underground or sub-sea will degrade. I was peripherally involved in a project to put Raman amplifiers on an existing subsea run to extend its life - maybe an extra ten years before it had to be completely replaced. That was on a link that was maybe 25 years old at the time, to give an overall idea of lifespan.

          The exact mechanism of degradation may vary, but consider that the fibres rely on very precise control of impurities over a very long distance, and that they have to be encased in materials that may, over time, leach impurities into the fibre.

          This technology will mainly be of use in backbone links: it is quite unlikely that the sort of bandwidth available will be needed in last-mile domestic links. And if it ever is, the backbone will need LOTS of investment! Last mile links also will have so much native capacity that a bit of degradation won't really matter, so they may well last a lot longer than backbones.

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth.

          "Once you have it in the ground and unless some builder goes through it or some other happenstance then changing the sender and detector is all that is needed."

          It depends. Fibre for communications is specifically designed and manufactured to work best with the particular wavelengths that we currently use for communications. It's possible that current fibre isn't ideally suited to this new technology and might end up being replaced.

          Mind you, once you've laid fibre once, it should be slightly easier to put in another run.

        3. the spectacularly refined chap

          Re: A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth.

          Now, yes this may take a while to come down in price but saying they need to rebuild the networks is false. They first need to actually build a decent network which they continue to drag their feet with. And as for "paying for the investment" you see all them dividends and profits?

          Now, yes this may take a while to come down in price but saying they need to rebuild the networks is false. They first need to actually build a decent network which they continue to drag their feet with. And as for "paying for the investment" you see all them dividends and profits?

          The endpoint devices still need to be paid for. Even fibre needs replacing at times - it isn't a single one size fits all quantity , and as you note a lot of the network is still copper after a lot of investment already undertaken. As for where the money comes from - take a look at BT's annual report for this year: Openreach made an operating profit of £1.2bn compared against capital expenditures of £1.6bn. Again, if you want to multiply the amount invested by ten or so where does the money come from. I take it you are volunteering to pay since it is such a non-issue? Cheers for that, we'll all appreciate it.

          Like it or not the phone network was built, evolved and paid for over decades. If you expect the entire network can be ripped up and replaced every couple of years you are simply divorced from reality.

      3. jmch Silver badge

        Re: A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth.

        "so they can completely rebuild their networks every 18 months"

        the great potential of this technology is that the netowrk companies don't need to change their fibre at all, just the terminations / switches (if I'm reading this correctly)

    2. Schultz
      Boffin

      Re: A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth. NOT

      Here is why it won't magically increase fiber bandwidth 100-fold:

      Photons have two polarization states, you can label them vertical/horizontal or (via a phase-shifted superposition of v/h) right-handed/left-handed. If you send "more complex / twisted polarization states", the light will interfere and you get a spatial pattern. What scientists in this field so ingeniously discuss is the spatial detection of light. Duh. You didn't realize that?

      Now, if you have a multi-mode fiber, you can get multiple-modes of light through (spatial information, aka 'the mode', can get through the fiber). That has a price; let me quote from the first Google link that came up (https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-differences-between-single-mode-and-multi-mode-optical-fibers):

      "The main drawback to the multi-mode cable, however, is that it loses strength over distance, therefore, is only useful in local networks traveling small distances.

      Benefits

      - High attenuation and dispersion

      - Greater data-transmitting capabilities

      - Can be used within high-speed & large capacity networks

      - Can still achieve much greater distances than coaxial cables"

      So there is no magic :(.

      (Disclaimer, I do not work with fibers and have no particular knowledge about them. I do, however, know my way around light and I can tell you with great confidence that there is no physically meaningful polarization state that cannot be described as superposition of h/v or right/left handed.)

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: A (potentially) astonishing step change in FO bandwidth. NOT

        I've learnt something, thank you all for proving me wrong and explaining why -->

  4. Andre Carneiro

    Copper is truly dead

    Fibra seemsnto have a new expansion roadmap every month.

    Can we stop this whole FTTC/G.Fast nonsense now?

    1. }{amis}{ Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Copper is truly dead

      Not unless the rules of successful business change, sweat those assets!

      1. onefang Silver badge

        Re: Copper is truly dead

        "Not unless the rules of successful business change, sweat those assets!"

        Here in Oz those copper assets are not being sweated, they are being replaced by new copper, instead of by new fibre as in the original plan.

  5. SeanEllis

    Is it just me, or is anyone else vaguely annoyed by the wrong order of the colours in the diagram? OK, I know it's just illustrative, but everyone knows ROYGBIV, right?

    1. Tromos
      Joke

      everyone knows ROYGBIV

      Yup, he's successor to ROYGBIII

  6. Only me!
    Headmaster

    100 Fold - Nope!

    That is not what the numbers sate! 100 times yes!

  7. SkippyBing Silver badge

    'a setup “the size of a table, which is completely impractical for telecommunications,"'

    Is it just me who wants one of these table sized dohickeys then?

  8. Philip Stott

    Buzzword Bingo!

    Whoever had "plasmonic topological insulator material" on their card has just matched six numbers and the thunderball.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: has just matched six numbers and the thunderball.

      or, more likely, a much easier ride to getting published in a Nature journal :-)

  9. Denarius Silver badge
    Unhappy

    we fiber fethistsare happy

    but this being Oz, how long before ZTE own the IP ?

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