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By Meghan Fuller Hanna

Yesterday, the Universal Serial Bus (USB) 3.0 Promoter Group announced that it is looking to enlist additional contributors for its first industry-wide specification review, to be held in Las Vegas on January 14-15, 2008 (See

Initially announced in September at the Intel Developers Forum, USB 3.0 is a 'superspeed' personal interconnect that promises to deliver a ten-fold increase in data transfer rates from the 480-Mbit/sec rate of USB 2.0 to 4.8 Gbits/sec from USB 3.0. This increased speed is accomplished via a fiber-optic link that will run alongside the traditional copper connection. (USB 3.0 will be backwards compatible with USB 2.0.)

The USB 3.0 spec will target peripheral devices--including digital cameras, video cameras, and optical drives like DVD and Blu-Ray--to enable the more rapid transfer of digital content.

While some believe that USB 3.0 could challenge the IEEE 1394 interconnect standard known as FireWire, from a Lightwave perspective, the more important implication is that all consumer devices will have some kind of fiber interface.

I think that's worth repeating: All consumer devices will have some kind of fiber interface.

And this makes me wonder: Have we finally found that 'killer app' for plastic optical fiber?

Lightwave has covered plastic optical fiber (POF) from time to time (See Stephen's 2006 article, "Proponents hope home is where the plastic is" as an example), and it's always seemed to me like one of those perennially on-the-verge-but-never-quite-ready-yet technologies. Despite its potential usefulness as an alternative to existing in-home wiring, POF has yet to catch on with communications network architects (though it's doing fairly well in the automotive sector, from what I understand.)

That said, the technology has made some impressive strides of late. This summer, Siemens' R&D; arm, Siemens Corporate Technology, announced what it claimed was a significant milestone in the evolution of POF technology: Researchers successfully transmitted 1 Gbit/sec over a 100-meter-long test route in the company's laboratory--long enough for application in the home network environment and certainly long enough to interconnect peripheral devices to a PC, for example.

The USB 3.0 specification is expected sometime next year, with commercial products appearing in late 2009, early 2010. With a bit more tweaking to increase its capacity, could POF finally find its way into the home networking space via the consumer electronics market?

Blogger fcol said...
I was surprised to learn a short while back that your sibling organization, Cabling Installation & Maintenance, has a different view of POF's place in the home:

Friday, December 14, 2007 9:55:00 PM EST  

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The Lightwave editorial staff uses The Lightwave Blog to share their thoughts on optical communications and whatever else might be the current topic of conversation from cubicle to cubicle. Feel free to add your own opinions.

Stephen Hardy is editorial director and associate publisher of Lightwave, which makes him responsible for the editorial aspects of the Lightwave franchise. A technology journalist since 1982, he once had his job duties described as "gets paid to tick off advertisers ".

Meghan Fuller is senior editor of Lightwave. She has degrees from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, and the University of Delaware and is a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation.