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Intel announces super-fast optical cable interface - Light Peak

by Sylvie Barak on 23 September 2009, 19:16

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

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Sneak peek at Light Peak

With electrical I/O nearing its practical limits and devices becoming ever smaller, thinner and lighter, Intel reckons it's time to get rid of the multitude of different cables and connectors clogging up the back and sides of our machines. To this end, the company has decided to push a new low-cost optical-based, unified interconnect instead.

Hence, "Light Peak," a new concept being unveiled at IDF 2009 today, during Dadi Perlmutter's keynote speech.  Light Peak is essentially a new CE interface technology which aims to eliminate the limitations associated with copper and the old problem of ‘the faster you go, the shorter the cable'. As an example, USB 2.0 is limited to just five metres of cable, without extenders, whilst upcoming "latest-and-greatest" USB 3.0 is restricted to a paltry three metres. Some people may need 10 metres, or more.

Intel envisions changing all that, however, with the firm claiming it wants to free CE devices from the plethora of protocols that are currently used - USB, HDMI, DisplayPort, LAN, etc. - by working with the industry to come up with a specification to establish a common optical I/O architecture for at least the next decade.

Light Peak will purportedly sport some fairly handy features, including scalable bandwidth and a single flexible cable that can carry any platform I/O. But the key benefits to a technology like Light Peak would, of course, be the significantly increased bandwidth which it's thought could even reach 100Gb/s over a distance of 100 metres, owing to the optical nature of the cable.

Intel says Light Peak can be made up of fibres just 125 microns wide, so, something akin to the width of a human hair. Also, because Light Peak will support multiple existing I/O protocols, the firm expects a smooth and relatively painless transition from today's existing electrical I/O protocols. Now all the firm has to do is to win over the industry and persuade everyone it's a great idea.