Plastic Optical Fibres: a new Transmission Media

By George Babinov, SBS expert.

In the past, Polymer, or the more popular, Plastic Optical Fibres (POF) have been used in the networking market with limited success. The main reason was that technologies already in use fulfilled the requirements for home networking.

The situation has changed in Europe since 2009, and much earlier in Japan, South Korea and the US as telecom operators are in a competitive race of bit rates against prices and are using different access technologies as marketing slogans. In parallel with this market push, bit rate demand is steadily increasing due to new services like High Definition Internet protocol TV (HD-IPTV), Clouding, Virtual private networks (VPN), and life and work styles (Remote jobs, self-employment, etc.).

In home area networks Plastic Optical Fibres have gained application in recent years for their interesting properties when compared to the better known Glass Optical Fibres (GOF). The main advantages of Plastic Optical Fibres are:

  • The large core diameter (1mm) allows do-it-yourself installation and termination with common cutter and electrician-like low cost tools.
  • The high diameter and numerical aperture makes bending loss sensitivity much lower.
  • The mechanical resilience and elasticity makes it possible to step on and even tie it. Dust and water harm Plastic Optical Fibres to a much smaller extent than Glass Optical Fibres.
  • The optical sources for Plastic Optical Fibres are in the visible range, and thus they are intrinsically eye-safe and easy to troubleshoot, as the signal can be seen by the naked eye.

In response to the increasing deployment of Plastic Optical Fibre the ETSI Technical Committee on Access, Terminals, Transmission and Multiplexing (ATTM) began developing technical specifications for home area networks being implemented with Plastic Optical Fibres. During 2015 two documents were published as subparts of a multi-part deliverable covering Plastic Optical Fibre:

  • ETSI TS 105 175-1-2 V1.1.1 (2015-04) Part 1: Plastic Optical Fibre System Specifications for 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s; Sub-part 2: 1 Gbit/s and 100 Mbit/s physical layer for Plastic Optical Fibres,
  • ETSI TS 105 175-1-1 V1.1.1 (2015-10) Part 1: Plastic Optical Fibre System Specifications for 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s; Sub-part 1: Application requirements for physical layer specifications for high-speed   operations over Plastic Optical Fibres.

The first document provides a description of an Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) physical networking layer to communicate over Plastic Optical Fibre at data rates of 100 Mbit/s and 1 000 Mbit/s. A multi data type interface is specified, as well as its encapsulation, coding and modulation needed to achieve a 1 Gbit/s link over a bandwidth limited optical channel as provided by a Plastic Optical Fibre. [1]

The second one provides a compendium of application requirements for full-duplex 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s Ethernet home networking infrastructures based on Plastic Optical Fibre (POF) transmission media. The description of applications covers different network topologies as well as different field particularities. [2]

In Figure 1 a typical POF installation is shown:

Figure 1: Typical Plastic Optical Fibre based home network.

 

References:

[1]            ETSI TS 105 175-1-2 V1.1.1 (2015-04) Plastic Optical Fibres; Part 1: Plastic Optical Fibre System Specifications for 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s; Sub-part 2: 1 Gbit/s and 100 Mbit/s physical layer for Plastic Optical Fibres.

[2]            ETSI TS 105 175-1-1 V1.1.1 (2015-10) Plastic Optical Fibres; Part 1: Plastic Optical Fibre System Specifications for 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s; Sub-part 1: Application requirements for physical layer specifications for high-speed   operations over Plastic Optical Fibres.