Inside Connection – Origins of the fibre optic cable
Zzoomm’s Full Fibre Broadband network is the brand-new fibre optic network in Henley-on-Thames. But where did Fibre optics come from?
The communication revolution of the past 30 years has transformed the way we live and work. This will no doubt continue to have a huge impact for years to come. Below, we take a look back at the origins of the fibre optic technology that fuels Zzoomm’s Full Fibre network with some significant online milestones thrown into the ‘cyber mix’.
Enjoy a step back in time as we show you how we got here.
1667: A theory
Robert Hooke described how sound could be transmitted by means of a tightly stretched wire.
1840’s: Refracting Light
Daniel Colladon and Jacques Babinet began demonstrating how you could guide light by refraction in Paris. This was replicated by John Tyndall in London a decade later and published in his book in 1870.
1876: The First Call
Alexander Graham Bell made the world’s first telephone call to his assistant Thomas Watson.
1880: A bright future
Alexander Graham Bell created a precursor to fibre-optic communications, the Photophone, in Washington. Bell considered it his most important invention. The device allowed for the transmission of sound on a beam of light. The Photophone would not prove practical until advances in laser and optical fibre technologies permitted the secure transport of light. The Photophone’s first practical use came in military communication systems many decades later.
1954: The dawn of light speed
Harold Hopkins and Narinder Singh Kapany discovered that rolled fibre glass allowed light to be transmitted across a cable network.
1963: A technology develops
Jun-ichi Nishizawa proposes the use of optical fibres for communications. He invented the PIN diode and the static induction transistor, both of which contributed to the development of fibre optical communications.
1964: Light speed communications
Charles Kao and George Hockham published a paper that proved that fibre-optic communication could be possible as long as the fibres used to transmit the information were free of impurities. This blasted open the door Alexander Graham Bell had first created, allowing sound to be transmitted over beams of light.
1969: Computer communication arrives
The first message from one computer to another was sent!
1970: A fibre optic future builds
Optical fibre cables for communication were successfully developed in 1970 by Corning Glass Works.
1971: You have mail
The first email was sent by Ray Tomlinson. Many, many, many others have since followed.
1973: A clear plan
Bell Laboratories developed a chemical vapor deposition process that heats chemical vapors and oxygen to form ultra-transparent glass that can be mass-produced into low-loss optical fibre. This process still remains the standard for fibre optic cable manufacturing.
1973: A network takes shape
In October 1973, Corning Glass signed a development contract aimed to test fibre optics in an urban environment: in September 1977, the second cable in this test series, named COS-2, was experimentally deployed in two lines for the first time.
1975: A plan applied
The first modern applicable commercial fibre optic communications system was developed.
1975: Fibre optics spring into action
The first non-experimental fibre-optic link was installed by the Dorset police in 1975. Two years later, the first live telephone traffic through fibre optics occurred in California.
Late 1970’s: Network growth & application
Telephone companies began to use fibre extensively to rebuild their communications infrastructure.
1980’s: A new generation
The second generation of fibre optic communication was developed for commercial use and used InGaAsP semiconductor lasers.
1986: Efficiencies grow
David Payne and Emmanuel Desurvire invented the erbium-doped fibre amplifier, which reduced the cost of long-distance fibre systems.
1988: A communication superhighway emerges
The first transatlantic telephone cable went into operation.
1990’s: Network growth speeds up
A third-generation of fibre optic systems was developed. With the fourth generation of fibre optic communication systems developed soon after using optical amplification, these two improvements created an information technology revolution that resulted in the doubling of system capacity every six months starting in 1992.
1991: Birth of the internet
The World Wide Web was introduced – a term coined by Time Berners Lee.
1991: Speed, glorious speed
Emmanuel Desurvire and David Payne demonstrated optical amplifiers that were built into the fibre optic cable itself. The all-optic system could carry 100 times more information than cable with electronic amplifiers.
1995: An e-commerce behemoth
Amazon sold their first book. Many books, games, toys, clothes … basically anything has followed since.
1996: A path laid to the future
The first allfibre optic cable, TPC-5, that uses optical amplifiers was laid across the Pacific Ocean.
1997: An online world
Fibre Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) became the longest single-cable network in the world and provided the infrastructure for the next generation of Internet applications.
2003: A virtual meeting
The first sentence was spoken on Skype paving the way for Slack, Teams, Zoom and working from home, as well as many hilarious interruptions and video backgrounds to come.
2003: A like is born
Facebook got its first member – Mark Zuckerburg and changed your holiday envy forever.
2005: A viral attraction
YouTube published it’s first video, reinventing how we consume media and stream content.
2020: An everyday application
Today fibre optic cables are the preferred technology for internet, phone and TV connectivity. They’re also used in many other areas of the home and workplace areas, including in decor applications such as a fibre optic Christmas trees!
Today, tomorrow, and the future network
Today, companies such as Zzoomm are building Full Fibre networks using only fibre optic cables across the UK. Zzoomm was founded in 2018 by experienced Full Fibrenetwork entrepreneur Matthew Hare OBE. With Henley-on-Thames now the fastest town in the UK, our ambition is to pass 1 million properties by 2025! That’s a long way for Fibre to go and millions of people connected.