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Ethernet Over Plastic Optical Fiber

This article describes the development of Ethernet networking over Plastic Optical Fiber (POF). You can get the plastic optical fiber here or by clicking on the following picture.

Plastic-Optical-Fiber

The Benefits of Plastic Optical Fiber POF

Plastic optical fiber has emerged as a low cost alternative to twisted pair copper cabling and coaxial cables in office, home and automotive networks. Why? POF has many benefits.

  1. POF is lightweight
  2. POF is robust
  3. POF is cheap
  4. POF is easy to install. You can cut POF with a sharp blade and no expensive and time-consuming polishing as with glass fibers
  5. Most important of all, POF is totally immune to electro-magnetic interference
  6. Plus POF has no radiation at all

The Widely Adoption of POF in Automotive Networks

Automotive industry has been using plastic optical fiber in car infotainment systems for a long time. They use POF networks to connect the airbag, navigation systems, Bluetooth, telephones, TV tuner and gaming.

The auto industry has development a bus protocol standard for POF network called Media Oriented Systems Transport (MOST). MOST25 standard offers 25Mbps bandwidth and MOST50 offers 50Mbps bandwidth. They are all based on plastic optical fibers.

The Development of Ethernet Over Plastic Optical Fiber

Wireless networking may not be able to meet all the requirements of today’s triple play networking. Each house is built unique in its structure. The airway is already congested with noises from microwaves, mobiles, hand free phones and many other wireless devices.  This significantly limits the bandwidth and reliability of in home wireless networking

Coaxial cable and Cat5 twisted pair cables is awkward to layout and needs training to terminate them well. So plastic optical fiber really become a very good candidate for home networking. POF is thin, flexible and can be laid out easily along skirting boards and door frames. And most important of all, it can be terminated easily with a simple sharp blade.

Currently in the market, several manufacturers have developed fiber optic transceivers for 100Mbps Ethernet over plastic optical fiber. They are designed based on IDB 1394 pinout and use SMI form factor for plug and socket connectors as shown below.

SMI-form-factor-plastic-optical-fiber-connector

Another plusless connector is called OptoLock. You can simply slice the plastic fiber with a knife, separate the fibers, insert the fiber into the housing and then lock it in place. The process is shown below.

slice-plastic-optical-fiber

split-plastic-optical-fiber

insert-plastic-optical-fiber-into-OptoLock-connector

press-OptoLock-to-hold-plastic-optical-fiber-in-place

Summary

Plastic optical fiber does have its unique advantages: low cost, easy to terminate and immune to electro-magnetic interference. Despite a lack of standard on Ethernet over Plastic Optical Fiber (POF), it still offers big potential to become a serious competitor in home networking.

You can find many plastic optical fiber networking products on COMOSS web site and Firecomms web site.

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