Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Intel Says Thunderbolt Optical Cables Coming This Year

By - Source: PC World | B 22 comments

Intel has confirmed that optical cables for Thunderbolt will be released later this year.

Intel spokesman Dave Salvator has reportedly confirmed to IDG News that the company will release optical cables for Thunderbolt later this year. Unlike the copper-based versions, these should provide more bandwidth and longer cable runs in the near future.

Co-developed by Apple, Thunderbolt was originally designed as a faster alternative to USB 3.0 using fiber optics to transfer data at speeds of up to 10 Gbps. First introduced back in 2009 and then launched on Apple Macs in 2011, Intel wanted to reduce the number of ports on a PC and Mac by running all data transfers, networking and display protocols (including DisplayPort) through a single optical port. It would even support PCI-Express 2.0 for connecting external devices.

Current Thunderbolt devices share a common connector, meaning they can all be daisy-chained one after another by connecting copper-based and the upcoming optical cables. But until this year, fiber optics has been far too expensive for the general consumer, thus the two companies decided to settle on a cheaper copper solution for the immediate future. The copper solution thus is now able to provide up to 10 watts of power, but can only pump data across six meters at the most.

But according to Salvator, the upcoming optical cables will allow transfers across "tens of meters," yet devices will need their own power supply at greater lengths, as running power over longer optical cable will cause a impedance-induced power drop and thus be impractical. However optical cables will allow for more bandwidth as the technology develops, so that's a plus.

Current Thunderbolt installations in Apple Macs are based on copper, but they will still be compatible with the fiber optic cables launching later this year. For consumers, this means they will be able to purchase existing Thunderbolt products on the market and switch over to optical cables without having to make hardware changes to their current rig.

Current Thunderbolt circuitry ensures that the cables are transparent to copper or fiber optics connections, but the technology could get expensive once it moves to all-optical. Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat, believes this could stymie its adoption -- right now it's still a "niche technology." Thunderbolt really won't make a dent in the way consumers function until it's integrated into handsets, camera, MP3 players and more, he said.

Still, given that the industry is trying to shift over to an all-wireless desktop, Thunderbolt may be locked down to specific needs like adding an external GPU or something similar. Thunderbolt hasn't even arrived on the PC platform as of this writing, but it's expected to make a debut sometime this year from the likes of Lenovo and a handful of other PC manufacturers.

Discuss
Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the News comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

This thread is closed for comments
  • 9 Hide
    joytech22 , March 12, 2012 11:09 PM
    Kinda surprising that motherboard manufacturers haven't released a board with Thunderbolt yet.
    I mean.. Technically you spend tons to get the best of the best and if your missing out on something then your really not getting it.

    Still, many of us here don't even have a need for Thunderbolt or AMD's alternative Lightningbolt.
    It's always nice to have just in case.

    By the way.. If it supports PCI-E 2.0 then there should be external GPU enclosures arriving (Obviously externally powered) so you can boost GPU performance on upcoming laptops, which would be ESPECIALLY welcomed on Ultrabooks.
  • -1 Hide
    chuckydb , March 12, 2012 11:12 PM
    joytech22 If it supports PCI-E 2.0 then there should be external GPU enclosures arriving (Obviously externally powered) so you can boost GPU performance on upcoming laptops, which would be ESPECIALLY welcomed on Ultrabooks.


    I think that is a goal in the long term, but the probem right now is that Thunderbold still isn't fast enough!!!!
    Mabey once it's PCie 3.0, but I don't think it's soon!!!!
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , March 12, 2012 11:31 PM
    And should be included with 7-series motherboards.
  • Display all 22 comments.
  • 5 Hide
    belardo , March 12, 2012 11:33 PM
    PCIe 2.0 is fast enough.... oh, you are being silly!

    yeah, that would make notebooks far more powerful... a $50~100 external PCIe box can come out.
  • 0 Hide
    shardey , March 12, 2012 11:47 PM
    This cable will be handy when the Thunderbolt to PCIe graphics cards become cheaper.. Wait, we are talking about Thunderbolt, cheap shouldn't be in the same sentence.
  • 1 Hide
    phatboe , March 12, 2012 11:51 PM
    Thunderbolt has the bandwidth to run external video cards. The problem is the latency in those long external connections inherent in Thunderbolt enabled external video cards.
  • 0 Hide
    A Bad Day , March 13, 2012 12:00 AM
    Ah, CopperPeak. You have a long way of gaining market share to compete with USB 3.0 and other ports.
  • 7 Hide
    whyso , March 13, 2012 12:22 AM
    I think we need a lot more THUNDERBOLT devices before this will take off. Who gives a crap about the cable if there is nothing to connect it to.
  • 0 Hide
    itchyisvegeta , March 13, 2012 12:52 AM
    Really wanting to capture my video games at 1080p 60 fps, so hopefully this will help the devices take off.
  • 1 Hide
    mcd023 , March 13, 2012 1:16 AM
    I think I read somewhere that the licensing fee for thunderbolt is $27 per device. Perhaps that's why it hasn't caught on yet
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , March 13, 2012 1:32 AM
    LightPeak is the technology and it was developed by Intel. The technology is 20 Gbps (not 10) 1 direction. They rebranded it Thunderbolt when dropping the optical for Apple. It is compatible with DisplayPort, USB, SATA, possibly even Firewire. The idea is to replace them all with 1 interface. The technology is supposed to scale to 100 Gbps. At that speed, it could even be used for many purposes. It is great technology and would be nice it if was adopted, but the cost is prohibitive obviously.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , March 13, 2012 1:40 AM
    The ASUS RoG Crosshair V Formula had Thunderbolt in July last year, so Thunderbolt has been on the PC platform for 8 months. Way to check your facts...
  • -2 Hide
    ryandsouza , March 13, 2012 3:20 AM
    whysoI think we need a lot more THUNDERBOLT devices before this will take off. Who gives a crap about the cable if there is nothing to connect it to.

    Ahh... Couldn't have put it better...
  • 0 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , March 13, 2012 8:05 AM
    None of this matters if 3rd party companies aren't going to jump onboard, esp if many 3rd party companies arent' going to find a use for it and support something that cost more then USB. USB is here to stay for a long time. There are millions and millions of devices that support USB and that's what matters to 3rd party companies and many consumors. I mean USB is backwards compatable for one which means the newest gen can support even the oldest gen USB devices and that's saying a lot about USB's compatability. Thunderbolt can't say the same and that's the biggest factor that many consumors look for is compatability with their devices and not so much how fast it is. USB will be the standard for many years to come. If there is one thing close to a future proof product that you can count on for many years it's USB as it has shown that for many years now.
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , March 13, 2012 9:31 AM
    If the whole idea was to get a cable that could push 10Gbps, why wasn't CAT6 used, they ccould also have used the same cable for power.
  • 0 Hide
    __-_-_-__ , March 13, 2012 9:59 AM
    This is all wrong! we already have thunderbolt copper cables that ALREADY deliver the maximum theoretical bandwidth of the CURRENT thunderbolt specification. There's no need for overpriced optical cables UNLESS they revise and update the spec to greater speeds.
  • 0 Hide
    kartu , March 13, 2012 10:15 AM
    joytech22Kinda surprising that motherboard manufacturers haven't released a board with Thunderbolt yet.I mean.. Technically you spend tons to get the best of the best and if your missing out on something then your really not getting it.

    Tehcnically, many mainboards out there, with labels like "USB3", "Sata 6Gb", "PCIE x16" can in fact simultaneously support EITHER USB3 OR Sata 6Gb or PCIe x16, thanks to über chipset by dear Intel.

    Adding "thunderbolt" to it makes it even more insulting.
  • 0 Hide
    jungleboogiemonster , March 13, 2012 10:50 AM
    I work with fiber optics and unless you want to spend a lot of money for more bandwidth the only real advantage is the distance data can be transmitted and received. A big disadvantage is how poorly fiber handles abuse. You can't throw fiber in your bag because it can break, nor can you allow the ends to come in contact with anything. If you get dust on an end and plug it in you run the risk of scratching not only the connector tip surface that light travels through on the cable, but you'll also scratch the surface of whatever your plugging the cable into, which can cause it to no longer work as it should. When light hits imperfections along a path it scatters or can be blocked entirely.
  • 0 Hide
    wiyosaya , March 13, 2012 1:05 PM
    I wonder what the cost will be?
  • 0 Hide
    spookyman , March 13, 2012 3:09 PM
    How about that firewire
Display more comments