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The curious experiment with copper telephone cable to connect unpopulated areas



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The curious experiment with copper telephone cable to connect unpopulated areas


The copper wire or telephone wire It is in low hours. In countries like Spain, the copper network is being dismantled at a forced pace. The optical fiber won the game long ago and allows us to access the Internet at unimaginable speeds A few decades ago. The most veterans will remember the slow connections offered by the telephone line or the cuts when someone called by phone. But, apparently, the telephone cable still he has a lot of life left.

Or so they say in the UK. Apparently, the traditional telephone cable, the copper pair, can be used to transmit data at speeds comparable to the broadband of fiber optics or the 5G mobile Internet. Also, it has an advantage. The copper cable is widely deployed throughout the country, so it continues to give Internet access to towns and unpopulated areas where fiber optics does not reach, there are no mobile antennas and the only solution is expensive satellite connections.

British researchers predict that copper telephone cable can reach speeds three times higher to the current ones in data transmission. At least over short distances. A way of extend broadband in populations far from large conurbations, in which fiber optics or 5G are already deployed. The cliché that living in a town does not have to be synonymous with slow Internet is over. But how to make this a reality?

Broadband and copper pair

It seemed that the technology associated with the copper pair was not giving more than itself. Telephone wire uses electrical impulses to transmit data. Voice at the beginning, and data of all kinds today, which makes it possible to access the Internet or connect computers to each other. But the speed of those electrical impulses it has its limitations. Fiber optics, on the other hand, use beams of light that overcome those limitations. Furthermore, copper has limitations in terms of the distance of its network. Fiber optics, on the other hand, offer a greater deployment.

But this may change if we stick to the research that emerged at the University of Cambridge. The key is in the used frequency to transmit data over telephone or copper wire. The copper would remain the same, so it is a great solution to take advantage of the copper networks still present in remote parts of the United Kingdom, a country that is also immersed in the deployment of fiber optics and still needs between 15 and 20 years old to reach every corner of the UK. But who meets cost and implementation limitations fiber in sparsely populated places.

One of the researchers, Ergin Dinc, has put time and effort into technology that was considered obsolete. Or in his own words, “These cables are very old. Invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1881, since then no one has looked at the theoretical limits. The solution is to apply frequencies five times higher than the current ones, which would translate into data rates comparable to fiber optics. Yes, over short distances.

The marriage between copper cable and fiber optics

The research by Ergin Dinc, Syed Sheheryar Bukhari, Anas Al Rawi and Eloy de Lera Acedo can be consulted on the official page of the prestigious journal Nature. After the tests carried out, the article concludes that a higher frequency than at present can be applied to copper telephone lines. Specifically, up to 5 GHz in order to offer higher speeds in data transmission. It would be necessary to use an additional device on the network, but it is not an excessive expense. A way of take advantage of the current telephone installation in tune with the deployment of fiber optics.

The practical application of this research is to recycle the existing network of copper cable and combine it with current fiber optics. That is, the fiber optic is deployed up to a certain distance from the population center and, from there, the copper pair of a lifetime is used up to the home. Something similar to fiber optic installations that combine coaxial cable when it is not possible to deploy the fiber to the home.

To get an idea, according to the estimates of the study, the speed to be reached would be 3 gigabits per second. Much more than the current theoretical speed or the speed achieved in areas of the United Kingdom where the telephone cable reaches 80 megabits per second using DSL technology. The bad news is that there is a way to go to implement this advance. For now it is theoretical. Some rough edges have to be ironed out, such as the fact that the error rate in the transmission increases as the frequency rises.

But as long as there are areas where deploying fiber optics is complicated or economically unfeasible, and there are no economic alternatives, beyond the still expensive satellite connections, any help will be welcome so that broadband reaches everywhere. In the UK or wherever.