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OPINION: Fibre over fear of flying

Fibre optic technology is as straightforward as traditional cable technologies and deserves to become mainstream, argues Theo Stals, managing director of the Fieldcast project, an initiative of Rosenberger OSI

Image resolutions and frame rates are increasing rapidly, and the cabling solutions necessarily have to keep pace. Cable manufacturers try to boost performance as much as possible, but they have to face the inevitable: there always will be an impedance tolerance threshold beyond which a digital signal suddenly collapses and cannot be restored.

In other words, there’s a maximum to cable lengths. Current 4K technology already asks for data rates of 12Gb, and when using highest quality copper cable we can’t do more than 100 metres at best.

The answer to these challenges, from a technical point of view, is fibre optics. With fibre optic cable there’s no impedance tolerance to consider, and longest distances can be bridged with ease. Moreover, no rocket science is needed to go from electromagnetic signal to optic signal and back: the very same sequences of zeros and ones are traveling from A to B and nothing changes to the information as such, at all.

So why haven’t we all welcomed fibre optics as the obvious successor of copper cable? There are several reasons for this, some of which are technical, others are economical, but there’s emotions involved too.

We tend to stick to what we know and what we are used to, and we do not jump immediately to a new technology if we are still in doubt about the state of the art. Even if a new technology seems to be able to effectively solve our problem, we still are reluctant to break with tradition. It’s fear of flying, it’s anxiety.

But let’s face it. Today’s cameras and switchers can do 4K at highest quality levels, yet come to market at a revolutionary low price point — so there’s a new and growing generation eagerly embracing this new gear, including fibre optic connectivity. These young people do not have the burden of tradition, they judge technology on what it brings to them, and they dare to fly and are prepared to take the risks that come with it.

With the FieldCast we deliberately want to offer robust fibre optic connectivity at a price level that is in concordance with all this wonderful new technology. But we also want it to be simple, easy to use and recognisable, because we want to take away all residues of fear and anxiety, if still existing.

We think that fibre optic technology is as straightforward as traditional cable technologies, and more than deserves to become mainstream and be widely accepted as a standard. In order to facilitate this process we now have broadened our FieldCast product line with low cost sturdy boxes — adapters, converters, multiplexers, etcetera — that directly connect to the cable, fast and easy.

Fibre optic connectivity is here to stay. More and more products will have fibre connectors built in, as an extra, or even as a standard. In the near future we won’t have to ‘convert’ to fibre optics any more, it will just be there. Needless to say, we want FieldCast to be part of this future, we want to fly, with you.