BT trials hollow optical fibre

Created June 1, 2021
Technologies and Products

BT says it is trailing hollow core fibre at its labs in Adastral Park, Ipswich, in a collaborative project with Southampton University spin out company Lumenisity and Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) mobile vendor Mavenir.

BT researchers are using a 10-kilometre-long hollow core fibre cable provided by Lumenisity, which has a hollow, air filled centre that runs the entire length of the cable. It will be used to test a variety of use cases, including potential benefits for 5G networks and ultra-secure communications, like Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).

BT says research into hollow core fibre presents an opportunity to explore how the capabilities of optical fibre can be enhanced in future, with the potential to reduce the latency caused by the light travelling through glass, by up to 50%. The new fibre has an air-filled central core, with an outer ring of glass, to guide the laser beam whilst maintaining the signal speed at very close to the speed of light. The reduction in latency would enable a variety of benefits, from high frequency trading to lowering mobile network costs. Working with Mavenir, BT has shown that using hollow core fibre can increase the distance between street antennas and back-end processing in exchanges. Due to the low latencies, use of hollow core in the Radio Access Network (RAN) could reduce mobile network costs by allowing more 5G antennas to be served from one exchange or cabinet.

Professor Andrew Lord, BT’s Head of Optical Network Research, said, “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.”

Mike Fake, Lumenisity’s Director responsible for Product Management, said, “Lumenisity is delighted to be the supplier of field deployable CoreSmart® hollowcore cable for these trials with BT. This is further evidence of the impact our unique low loss, high performing cables can have on the networks operated by our carrier partners.”

John Baker, Mavenir’s Senior Vice President Business Development, said, “The ability to extend the reach of fibre connected radios only further demonstrates the power of Open RAN and its Eco System. This improvement will significantly increase the number of use cases that can be served from containerised cloud based Open RAN solution.”

Researchers from the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics at the University of Southampton, announced significant milestones in the development of hollow core fibre in both 2019 and 2020. Lumenisity launched its CoreSmart® cable for DWDM operation over 10 kilometre links in September 2020, followed by the announcement that European bandwidth infrastructure company euNetworks Fiber UK Limited, had deployed its first ultra low latency cable solution based on NANF® hollowcore fibre in April 2021.

For more information, visit www.bt.com

 

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This article was written
by Peter Dykes

Peter Dykes is a independent telecoms and technology journalist who has over that last 30 years written for a wide range of B2B publications and companies. A former BT engineer, he specialises in networks and associated support systems. He is currently Editor of Optical Connections.