Intel Thunderbolt optical cables scheduled for later this year
Andy Ruffell / 5 years ago
Intel has recently announced that it will launch optical cable variants of its 10Gbps Thunderbolt interconnect standard later this year, promising that the technology will reach higher speeds in the future.
Even though currently known as Thunderbolt, it was originally co-developed by Apple and Intel under the codename “Light Peak” as a faster alternative to USB 3.0. It was also originally designed to use optical cables as standard hardware, but was later abandoned due to its cost and was replaced by the more cost-efficient copper cabling. This change of plans still left both companies with 10Gbps of bidirectional bandwidth, but the tradeoff being that copper cabling can only reach approximately 6 meters (~19.6 feet) at its theoretical maximum and won’t be able to scale beyond 10Gbps.
As for the optical cables, Intel executives say it will be a good alternative for longer distances of about 10 meters (~32.8 feet), with the possibility of even “tens of meters”. On the other hand, according to Intel spokesperson Dave Salvatore, devices connected at this distance wouldn’t be able to receive adequate power because impedance issues would make sending up to 10W impractical.
Either way, full compatibility with existing Thunderbolt ports on Apple’s Mac computers and the upcoming optical cables is assured, users will therefore be able to purchase existing Thunderbolt products and switch from copper to optical cabling without the need of additional hardware, software or firmware.
Set to be release during the second half of this year, it is expect to be limited to select usage where the need for several hundred feed of optical cabling is present (enterprise and professional contracting purposes for example). Analysts suggest that the price for the optical variant of the Thunderbolt will reach high places considering the fact that the company itself said the change to copper was due to price.
Intel hasn’t stopped there, the company also stated it is currently developing a Thunderbolt for PCI-Express 3.0 protocol,which would be able to push data a lot faster at 8GT/s (gigatransfers-per-second) compared to PCI-Express 2.0’s transfer speed of 5GT/s (gigatransfers-per-second).