Getting more out of copper wires
According to Penn State engineers, there is a way to increase the data
transmission capability of cables that are used to connect computers to each
other and the Internet.
"Working with NEXANS, the company that manufactures the cable, we have examined the possibility of sending digital data at a rate of 100 gigabits per second over 100 meters of Category-7 copper cable," said Mohsen Kavehrad, the W.L. Weiss Endowed Chair professor of electrical engineering. "These are the current, new generation of Ethernet cables."
These cables are used to connect computers within a room or a building or to create parallel computing systems.
While the long distance lines of most Internet systems are glass fibre optic cables, which are very fast, copper cable is generally used for short distances.
"In home networks, for example, it is expensive to use fibre optic cabling," explained Ali Enteshari, a graduate student in electrical engineering who presented the team's methods to the IEEE High Speed Study Group in Atlanta, yesterday.
Transmission cables and distance
All transmission cables are limited by the distance they can transmit data
without degradation of the signal. Before errors and interference make the
signals non-recoverable, cable systems use repeaters – which are similar to
computer modems – to capture, correct or recover data, and resend it. The
distance between repeaters depends on the cable and the approach used by the
modem to correct errors.
"What we are offering is a less expensive solution and one that is easier to build," said Jarir Fadlullah, graduate student in electrical engineering.
Using information on specifications and characteristics of the cables from NEXANS, the researchers modelled the cable with all its attributes including modelling crosstalk. They then designed a transmitter/receiver equipped with an interference canceller that could transfer up to 100 gigabits using error correcting and equalising approaches. Ethernet cable like the Category 7 is made up of four pairs of twisted wires shielded to reduce crosstalk. Category 7 is heavier weight wire with better shielding than Category 5 cable. The team conducted a similar analysis on the Category 5 cables in 2003.
"A rate of 100 gigabit over 70 meters is definitely possible, and we are working on extending that to 100 meters, or about 328 feet," explained Enteshari. "However, the design of a 100 gigabit modem might not be physically realisable at this time as it is technology limited. We are providing a roadmap to design a high speed modem for 100 gigabits."
The researchers believe that two or three generations in the future, the technology of chip circuitry will allow these modem designs to be built. Currently, chip design is at about 65 nanometres, but they expect in the next two generations to get to what is required, says Kavehrad.
Date Published: November 15, 2007
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