Barry: future of comms is fibre optics

by Emmet Ryan

Prof Liam Barry of DCU’s School of Electronic Engineering told patrons of the Alchemist Cafe on Thursday evening that photonics, the technology of transmission, control and detection of light, will play a key role in the delivery of future broadband systems.

“Electronics changed the way people communicate in the twentieth century and photonics will change it in the twenty first century,” he said. Photonics uses optical fibre systems to transmit information. Barry told ENN that the current copper wire systems used for telecommunications had been stretched to capacity and that optical fibre would offer faster access to information.

“Most of the access still relies on copper wire. Telecoms providers are trying to eek the last bits out of it,” he said “Optical fibre will give people access to a large amount of information at faster speeds.”

Optical fibre is already partially in use in Ireland. “When you make a telephone call over copper wire it goes through exchanges but these exchanges are connected together using optical fibre,” said Barry.

There are logistical issues to the delivery of a true fibre optic network as it would require an extensive physical overhaul of the current telecommunications infrastructure. Despite these barriers the DCU academic told attendees at the talk, which took place in the Mercantile bar in Dublin, that experiments have been carried out in the United States and Asia that show making the transition from copper is worthwhile. “There have been commercially successful trials providing download speeds of 100Mbps,” said Barry.

He said there was potential for even faster speeds to be provided in the future. “In ten years time we might see speeds of 200Mbps for residential and business use,” he said.

The Alchemist Cafe is a series of monthly talks on science and technology where the public can learn about developments in these fields. The forum is part of the Cafe Scientifique movement which is an international network of event organisers. The Dublin-based group has organised over 25 cafes since 2004.



Photos from The Alchemist Cafe



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