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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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Google wants you (maybe)

November 29, 2007

Posted by Stephen Hardy

Here's a belated update to the last post on SFP+ optics for Google's DIY 10GbE switch. (No, I'm not going to link to it -- just scroll one item down!)

As I mentioned in the post, I shot an email to Google to ask if the stories about the existence of the switch were accurate and, if so, what they could tell me about the optics. I didn't have a lot of hope of getting a response, particularly when my query, directed at the media relations department, elicited a canned email from the Help Desk in reply.

However, lo and behold, I received an email from Google's Sonya Boralv (who is a frequently quoted Google media relations person) the very next day. Her response:

We can't share details on our infrastructure but would encourage any interested engineers to check out our job listings at We currently have job openings for hardware and software engineers with networking backgrounds that might be of interest to your readers.

So I've struck out so far on the optics story -- but I may be the gateway to your next career. 10% of your first paycheck there will do just fine as thanks.

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Google 10GbE switch optics

November 20, 2007

Posted by Stephen Hardy

As you've no doubt read elsewhere, Andrew Schmitt of Nyquist Capital broke a story on his blog (and if his blog isn't on your regular visit list, it should be) about Google building it's own 10GbE switch. (Read it here.)

Andrew and I have been going back and forth over the past couple of days about his description of the optics used in the switch, which he says are nonstandard implementations of SFP+ transceivers:

What is interesting about Google's approach is that it has eschewed traditional 10GBASE optical standards and instead adopted off-standard solutions that better suit its needs for time-to-market, power and port density, and cost. While Google makes use of the SFP+ cage format, it does not use the receive dispersion compensation (EDC) function typically associated with SFP+. Instead Google is looking to employ a combination of twinax cabling for short reach (<10m) intra-rack cabling and a motley 850nm SR-like standard. Off the shelf SR optical modules appear to work well up to 100m over without receive equalization. Ironically, Finisar (FNSR) proposed such a solution several years ago.

It sounded to me that either the assumption is that Google is using SR transceivers with 62.5-micron cabling (which indeed would be nonstandard -- and curious) or that SFP+ has gotten a bit too closely associated with LRM, to the point that SR versions might be considered nonstandard. Andrew tells me that "(t)hey are using standard pre-emph/receive EQ but not the full LRM EDC spec," so that's not the explanation.

Unfortunately, Andrew has been too busy to continue our discussion beyond that last bit of information. I have a query into Google on the subject, but while I was holding my breath and turning blue waiting for them to respond, I thought I'd throw the question out to you: What am I missing here?

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Take me in to the ballgame

November 16, 2007

Posted by Stephen Hardy

Motorola just announced the results of a survey that suggests less than a third of sports fans would rather watch a football game in person than see it at home in high-def. That compares to 45 percent who said they'd rather watch the contest on HDTV. (There must have been a fair amount of undecideds; you can check out details of the survey here.)

In some quarters this news would elicit another round of lamentation about the increasing slothfulness of Americans. But not here. I agree that there are sporting events that are much better viewed on TV than in person. And as fiber-fed broadband services increase, so too will the reasons to stay home.

The fact that the survey involved football games isn't surprising, because cold or otherwise inclement weather would be one factor that would routinely make people wish they were on the couch. I saw a playoff game at Gillette Stadium in 2004 where the Patriots beat the Titans with the wind chill at kickoff of -10 degrees. My buddy and I sort of dealt with it as a badge of honor -- but I wouldn't want to be a fan in Green Bay or some other northern climate (pro or college) and face such misery on a regular basis.

Then there are sports like hockey, where it's almost impossible to follow the puck live, particularly if you wear glasses made from planetarium-strength telescope lenses like I do.

Regardless of the sport, however, optically enabled improvements in broadband services will make staying at home even more tempting in the future. In particular, I eagerly await the day when broadcasters will give the home viewer access to the video feeds from all the cameras in the stadium. Can you imagine the remote-control wizardry you could perform once you got the hang of it, changing camera angles two or three times through the course of a play?

The day this technology is first made available will be marked by two rounds of popping noises across America. Champagne corks will cause the first round. The second will erupt when our spouses' heads start exploding.

All right, so maybe we should approach some broadband services with caution. But I'm getting my thumb in shape, just in case.


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Posted by Meghan Fuller Hanna

Well, I'm back from my honeymoon, and I first want to thank all of you who called or sent email messages of congratulations. I know I have been talking about my wedding and the Red Sox ad nauseam lately (sometimes not even in that order), so I also wanted to say thanks to all who graciously endured my ceaseless chatter!

I promised I would post a few photos from the big day, so here goes. The first is one of my favorites of the two of us, taken just before the reception. A few months before the wedding, Stephen's wife, Kristin Lewotsky, gave us a great piece of advice: Take a moment just for the two of you, just to be together and let it all sink in before the hoopla begins, she suggested, and we're very glad now that we took her advice.

You'll no doubt recognize some folks in the second photo; the Lightwave sales and editorial staff was there en masse to cheer me on! From left to right, Lightwave's Editorial Director Stephen Hardy; National Account Manager Greg Goulski; our Publisher, Tim Pritchard; me (in the Sox hat) with my new husband, John; National Strategic Account Manager Kathleen Skelton; and Managing Editor Carrie Meadows.

And finally, I have included a photo of our guest book. To commemorate the anniversary of the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 (little did we know they would do it again the next day!) John and I asked our guests to sign a Major League Baseball-issue home plate in lieu of the traditional guest book.

So thanks again for indulging me over the past few months. I promise to once again turn my attention to fiber optics (although the Patriots are working on a record-breaking season, and the resurgent Celtics are 3-0 . . . . )

--Mrs. Meghan Fuller Hanna


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Last train to FTTH

November 5, 2007

Posted by Stephen Hardy

So I was killing time on the phone with Christy Batts, telecom marketing manager at the Clarksville Department of Energy, before the briefing on which today's FTTH story is based, when I said something like, "So, I suppose you get all kinds of 'last train' comments."

And she said, "Yes, we do. And that's because Clarksville is the town in the song."

For those of you totally clueless when it comes to the history of bubblegum pop (which puts you in the same company as Meghan and our managing editor, Carrie Meadows, when I brought this up in a meeting this morning), Clarksville was the inspiration for the Monkees' hit, "Last Train to Clarksville."

Clarksville is, among other things, near Ft. Campbell (Home of the Screaming Eagles). Batts says the song is meant to tell the poignant story of a GI about to be shipped to Vietnam who is trying to hook up with his girlfriend one more time before he leaves.

Alas, Batts says that the town has so far failed to erect a statue to the Prefab Four in recognition of their contribution to Clarksville's notoriety.

Blogger CarrieM said...
Respectfully, of course, I would like to add that some of us are more in tune with the 80s "pop-up video" era of musical trivia. Pun intended.

Carrie Meadows
Monday, November 5, 2007 4:34:00 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.