A KIST researcher checks the light signal that flows out of plastic optical fibers. They are expected to replace copper cables for a faster and equally reliable way of Internet data transmission in short distances.
/ Courtesy of KIST
By Cho Jin-seo
The Korea Institute of Science and Technology said Monday that it has developed an optical fiber made of plastic that can increase home Internet speed by 25 times, theoretically.
The research team led by Hwang Seung-sang said it has succeeded in making a home network system using the new data communication cable after six years of experimenting. The plastic optical fiber can transmit electric data at up to 2.5 gigabits per second, while most home Internet lines, made of copper, can carry only 100 megabits of data per second.
The plastic fiber is expected to be a highly practical solution as a ``last-mile'' link between town-to-town data cables and personal computers, they said.
``All the materials and applications were developed by local researchers. The communication solution is also designed to work well with South Korea's uniquely dense housing environment and its `fiber-to-the-home' infrastructure,'' the institute said in a release.
So far, the most widely used forms of data transmission cables are copper cables and glass optical fibers. Glass optical fibers, which are four times faster than plastic optical fibers, are superior in covering long distances over 100 meters because they are fast, but break easily. It is also difficult to connect the glass fibers because of the material's sensitivity, making it hard to be used at home.
Copper cables, on the contrary, are easily bent, extended or fused. But they are too slow for broadband connections and are only used in covering the ``last mile,'' which means the distance from the end of glass optical fiber cables to users' PCs.
Plastic fibers have characteristics that fall between the copper and glass-fiber cables. They can be bent and easily connected with each other, and are much faster than copper lines though not as fast as the glass fibers. They are capable of transmitting 6,000 digital phones a second, KIST said.
Japan's Asahi Glass and others have commercialized similar technologies. But KIST said that its product is superior in quality and its price is only one third of Japan's.
Four companies and 10 universities have participated in the joint research team for the plastic cables. The schedule for commercial production has not been announced yet.