The commercial question is:
How can Network Owners exploit this capacity/cost relationship and turn it into increasing real-revenues for the next few decades?Proponents of Copper CANs squeal about achieving 100Mbps, Real Soon Now, like it's noteworthy or Really Useful. Then they excitedly babble over the announcement of laboratory experiments supporting a whole gigabit on twisted-pair or "G5 Radio". Apparently cost and availability are not commercial realities to them.
Here are some solid, commercial reality, not a pipe-dream.
Right now, CISCO will sell you DWDM 100Gbps cards that will give you 9.6Tbps over a single fibre for thousands of kilometres:
The new CP-DQPSK modulation supports 9.6 Tbps capacity transmission over Ultra-Long-Haul (ULH) networks of up to 3000 km of unregenerated optical spans.They won't be cheap, even for Telcos. But they're here, they are in production and they work.
How to compare the evolution/progress of the two technologies?
Ethernet, the commodity data networking in computing, offers a reasonable basis.
The rough history of Optical Fibre in Ethernet is [source]:
- pre-1993, 10Mbps Fibre Optic Transceivers as device-link extenders.
- 1993, 10BASE-F, 10Mbps
- 1995, 100BASE-FX, 100Mbps
- 1999, 1000BASE-X, 1Gbps
- 2003, 10GBASE-SR/LR/ER/ZX, 10Gbps up to 40km
- 2010, 40GBASE-x and 100GBASE-x, 40Gbps and 100Gbps. at 10 & 40km.
Wave Division Multiplexing, Coarse (16) and Dense (32-96), came of age in the last decade.
It sits outside the 802.3 specifications, allowing Data Networks to achieve massive throughput.
Twisted-Pair, remembering this is NOT the Telecomms grade 0.40mm or 0.60mm single-pair, but much more expensive Cat 4/5/6, using 4-pairs:
1990, 10BASE-T, 10Mbps, 100m
1995, 100BASE-T, 100Mbps, 100m (reports of 1000m @ 100Mbps existed in 2005)
1999, 1000BASE-T, 1Gbps, 100m [the default chips in PC's and laptops: 10/100/1000]
2006, 10GBASE-T, 10Gbps 55-100m [very rare. More common is SFP+ over 1-10m]
2010, 100 Gbps, 1-10m. Printed Circuit boards and Infiniband CX-4 cable. not twisted pair.
Twisted-pair did very well for a decade, going from 10Mbps on Cat-3 cable, to 1Gbps on Cat-5a/6 cable. It is still the backbone of commodity computing and low-end servers.
Copper improved in speed by a factor of 100 in just 10 years: let's be generous and call that 7-doublings (128 times). That's 1.4 years per doubling, which is pretty impressive. Then it stopped.
By these standards, we'd expect to 100-250Gbps copper ethernet defined and in-use now.
While a 10Gbps copper ethernet standard appeared, not in 2001/2, but 5 years late, it has no market-penetration. Anyone who's serious are using either Fibre (SFP) or SFP+ cables (same socket as a Fibre transceiver).
The first significant Ethernet over Fibre standard was 1Gbps in 1999.
Take the CISCO card above, with 9.6Tbps max, as the 2013 reference, and we have a 9600-fold increase in speed: or over 13-doublings.
For more than a decade, production Optical Fibre has doubled in capacity every year.
Yes, like CPU's, it now relies more on parallel channels than raw link-speed, but it does deliver.
This isn't some theoretical laboratory demonstration that might, just might, appear in consumer products in 10-15 years time (there are many more failed ideas than real products).
This is for-real, available products in production, not vapour-ware or GeeWhiz! hype and speculation.
The rule in I.T. for many decades is simple: What we see at in the high-end today, we'll see in volume production for commodity devices in ~5 years. Prices will come down over time.
Before 2020, the notional end of NBN Co's construction project, there will be available 100Gbps commodity transceivers for residential use. High-end consumers, business or domestic, will be able to upgrade to DWDM, to purchase Terrabits of bandwidth.
The point about all that speed: it will cost what today's 1Gbps electronics cost.
The per-bit/second cost in the CAN by 2020 will have dropped 100 or more times.
Not theoretically, but for-real.
In the meantime, Mr Broadband, Malcolm Turnbull, assures us that he'll absolutely be able to deliver 100Mbps over really bad copper to some, not all, of the people that want it, for an extra-ordinarily high price - on equipment that is yet to support large-scale networks, from vendors who see the end of the road and will finely judge just how much they can squeeze their customers.
These fancy copper interfaces are everything that fibre transceivers are not: Not cheap, not commodity, not volume production, not a competitive market.
Right now, we know that nearly 95% of network data traffic is generated by half the customers, and 1% of customers generate 10% of all volume.
These are the profitable customers, they will drive the network growth and drive down speed and volume charges for the majority. With xDSL/FTTN, their demand cannot be matched with supplied speeds - their business will be lost, permanently.
What sane business model deliberately drives away the most profitable customers like this?
It's trivial, fast and cheap, with an Optical Fibre CAN, to keep upselling these high-end consumers for decades. We know this from the evolution of PC's across 3 decades. These few customers are the major economic and financial driver of the new Data Communications Networks. Serving them is the high-profit, high-volume side of the business. The rest is a low-profit, commercial distraction.
This is a problem of Good Business and Intelligent Application of capital, not of trenchant ideology.
It's not a question of "How will anyone ever use that much bandwidth?" or "What will the next Killer Application be (to drive demand)?".
The leading-edge users, have, and will always, discover ways to use more bandwidth, more storage and more CPU-cycles.
That's the big lesson from 65 years of Computing/I.T. history. It's been re-proven many times over:
Demand always exceeds Supply. If you install The Behemoth designed to serve all your needs for a decade, it will be stretched past capacity in under a year.The Network Operators don't have to guess "What will drive demand?", they only have to be able to supply increased demand, anywhere it is sought, at a small incremental cost.
That's a precise match for Optical Fibre CAN and a complete FAIL for the existing Copper CAN.