Intel optical interface to finally become optical

Intel wants Light Peak technology aka Thunderbolt, to be the absolutely best peripheral interface. It’s an ‘agnostic’ medium capable of running data over fibre optic cabling at the rate of 10Gb/s (bidirectional), no matter if it is on a DisplayPort protocol or a more generic PCI Express 2.0.

With Thunderbolt, you have the ability to stream copious amounts of data including HD video streams, non-descript data and interface multiple devices, basically doing away with unnecessary plugs on your computing device.

Intel hit a snag, however. In order to get the technology out the door at an affordable price, the option to replace fibre optics with copper wire was made. Copper offered the distinct ability to carry power and data over the medium, Thunderbolt offered the data carrying ability, but not the power, so the former was used.

Fast-forward three years and it seems that Intel will be releasing fibre optic cabling this year, sans power, to interconnect devices. According to IDG News Service, Intel spokesman Dave Salvator has reiterated the company will maintain a 2012 release schedule for 100 percent fibre optic Thunderbolt which will finally deliver the intended capacity over longer distances, with full duplex ability. Apple, which is the only vendor currently carrying Thunderbolt interfaces on their computers, will be able to plug in the new cabling directly in existing devices.

Fibre optic Thunderbolt is still quite expensive, and so far has been restricted to prototypes, but if it pans out, devices will be able to connect at dozens of metres instead of the limited six metres offered today by copper wire.

Naturally, you’ll still be able to use copper Thunderbolt, but the lack of competition in the market has kept the precious cable at a whopping £39, on the Apple store site. Expect companies such as Belkin and Kensington to jump in on the opportunity to sell you expensive fibre optic cabling soon.

Considering that fibre optic cabling will end up costing an arm and a leg, the argument for a major consumer product will be postponed for a while, with the technology being better suited to connect very high-end displays and networking devices.