Risk, risk, risk

Some carriers point to the risks of placing fiber to the home if there is any risk of having to lease their facilities to smaller ISPs. Many shibboleths are cited. My favourite is the prospect that radio-based services might become suddenly competitive with fiber.

Hmmn. Let me see. Take fiber’s carrying capacity. The information comes from wikipedia’s article on optical fiber. WDM refers to wave division multiplexing, the capacity to increase capacity by sending it over a different wavelength of light.


Year Organization Effective speed WDM channels Per channel speed Distance


Alcatel-Lucent[8] 15 Tbit/s 155 100 Gbit/s 90 km
2010 NTT[9] 69.1 Tbit/s 432 171 Gbit/s 240 km
2011 KIT[10] 26 Tbit/s 1 26 Tbit/s 50 km
2011 NEC[11] 101 Tbit/s 370 273 Gbit/s 165 km
2012 NECCorning[12] 1.05 Petabit/s 12 core fiber   52.4 k

While the physical limitations of electrical cable prevent speeds in excess of 10 Gigabits per second, the physical limitations of fiber optics have not yet been reached.[citation needed]

In 2013, New Scientist reported that a team at the University of Southampton had achieved a throughput of 73.7 Tbit per second, with the signal traveling at 99.7% the speed of light through a hollow-core photonic crystal fiber.


Thus, three years ago in 2011, Nippon Electric produced fiber that was composed of 370 channels capable of  at 273 gigabits per second per  channel, or 101 terabits per second.

Let us compare that to the carrying capacity of radio-based technologies, shall we?

An article on the  IEEE 802.11 wireless radio standard shows that 802.11 ad standard, the fastest I could find) allows speeds of up to 6.75 gigabits/second. I am not an engineer, and there are, I am sure, dozens of qualifications to add to this observation, but, as a first approximation, standard radio technology permits a speed differential of five orders of magnitude between optical fiber and wireless. A gigabyte is one thousandth of a terabyte. 6 gigabytes/second for microwave radio versus 101 (102) times 1000 (103) gigabytes for optical fiber, makes a speed advantage of 105.

That is an advantage of 100,000 times.

Yes, I am aware of many issues of cost of installation not covered in this simple numerical comparison. My point is that, once you get fiber into the home, it is game over. There will never be a need for a competitive signal transmission pipe anywhere. Once transmission is re-monopolized, it will become clearer that competition must be in services, not pipes. Until that time there will be a lot of shouting at the bar.

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