It’s approaching late August, a good time to take a break from the daily grind of the here-and-now. For today’s escape, let’s use optics.

For those of you placed in the "F" space of the hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network, current work in access, metro and long-haul fiber optics might entail node splitting, determining test and maintenance procedures, building metro or regional optical rings, running 40 and 100 Gig tests, standardizing the industry’s approach to WDM and specifying RF over glass (RFoG) architectures.

To take you away from current tradeoffs, debates and tests, however, consider far-reaching research from the Oxford University and the University of California, as discussed in this BBC News article.

Bringing this report to my attention is Jim Carroll, a consultant who keynoted the SCTE 2006 Conference on Emerging Technologies and who then mentioned research – which went back nearly a decade – on the slowing of light. (Here’s our related Optical Futures article from that time.)

Carroll gently tweaked my pragmatism – if not skepticism – at the time and since then occasionally has forwarded relevant news. This dispatch from the BBC’s Jason Palmer highlights recent work on "metamaterials" that could replace the electronics whose optical-to-electrical conversions add cost, complexity and time to current transmission technology.

"The light and the fibres can quite cheerfully sustain a couple of terahertz," Palmer quotes Dr. Chris Stevens of Oxford University’s department of engineering sciences as saying, "but your electronics can’t do more than a few gigahetz."

Cheerful good news, indeed, provided you’re not inseparably linked to the existing billion-dollar industry that such technology could effectively disintermediate. Focus simply on throughput to the end user and you’ve got a slowdown that speeds up, an appropriate enough thought on what one might wish were a lazy summer day.

– Jonathan Tombes

Read more news and analysis on Communications Technology‘s Web site at

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