STL has announced that it has developed the world’s slimmest fibre for telecommunications – 160-micron Optical Fibre. Commending the technology innovations which are Designed in India and Made in India, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Minister for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology & Railways, unveiled this world-leading product at STL’s booth in IMC 2023. Post unveiling the 160-micron Fibre, the H’onable minister ‘spliced’ or ‘joined’ two strands of optical fibre – a highly calibrated process of perfectly connecting the cores of two hair-thin optical fibres.
Cable made with STL’s 160-micron fibre can pack 3X more capacity than traditional 250-micron fibre. This has been conceptualised and developed indigenously at STL’s Centre of Excellence in Maharashtra, making STL among the first companies globally to develop and patent this industry-leading technology.
As India becomes the fastest-growing digital economy in the world, there’s a need for densely fiberised networks, both in backhaul and closer to customers. Laying ducts account for ~60% of the entire fibre deployment cost, making duct space a precious asset. Network builders all over the globe are in a continued quest to reduce fibre size to pack in more and more capacity in the available duct space.
By packing more capacity in limited duct space with a reduced diameter cable of 6.4mm (32% reduction compared to 250-micron fibre), STL’s 160-micron fibre will revolutionise deployment, bandwidth capacity and green quotient of the networks. The at-scale impact of this innovation on India’s broadband landscape can be immense. For example – In a large-scale project like Bharatnet, where India needs to deploy 20 Million fibre km cable by 2025, using 160-micron fibre instead of the standard 250-micron fibre can potentially reduce the deployment time by ~15%. This enables the use of ducts with a smaller diameter, thereby reducing the plastic footprint in the ground by 30%.
“This slimmest fibre is a noteworthy development and depicts our commitment to innovation and continuous R&D efforts in photonics and materials science,” said Dr Badri Gomatam, Group CTO, STL.
Incremental reduction in fibre size is an incredibly challenging feat that has captured the imagination of optical experts across the world. Some of the key challenges in reducing fibre size below 250-micron include enhanced sensitivity towards micro-bending and increased complexity in the fibre drawing process.
Talking about solving these challenges, Dr. Badri added, “Through highly calibrated process and material engineering, we have achieved a breakthrough in manufacturing processes and glass compositions to realise micro bend insensitivity. ”
We’ve had the opportunity to engage with Dr. Badri Gomatam, Group Chief Technology Officer at STL. He provided insights into the launch of the 160-Micron Fiber. Read on for more details:
Could you please provide an overview of the optical devices recently launched by STL?
Dr. Badri: We have unveiled several innovations, highlighting our 25-year presence in the optical connectivity, wire, and fiber optics corporate sector. Our showcase reflects our dedication to research and development, underscoring our advancements in the field.
The first product we introduced is the world’s thinnest optical fiber, accompanied by the world’s thinnest cable designed for this fiber. This represents a groundbreaking achievement, showcasing a complete “Make in India” initiative with manufacturing and patenting done within the country. We believe that this innovation will cater to various markets, both domestically, especially in Parapnet, and internationally through export markets.
Additionally, we have introduced innovations in the data center domain, focusing on software for artificial intelligence, alongside other services and advancements.
As 5G is coming all around and now 6G is also coming. So how do these optical devices contribute to enabling high speed, low latency, and communication networks?
Dr. Badri: Optical fiber connectivity serves as the backbone for 5G and future advancements. Our focus lies in innovations that revolve around higher density, an increased number of connections, greater capacity per connection, and cost efficiency. Our goal is to achieve lower deployment costs, reduced service expenses, and a significant decrease in the total cost of ownership for the infrastructure. This strategic approach propels us forward as we work towards achieving these objectives.
How do these new optical devices align with SDS’s overall technology vision and goals?
Dr. Badri: Overall, we invest a significant amount of time and effort in research and development (R&D). As a technology company, our primary focus is on innovation in optical connectivity. Everything showcased here is the result of several years of R&D investment, closely aligning with our core identity.
Are there any specific technological advancements or innovations featured in these optical devices?
Dr. Badri: Numerous intriguing advantages, not immediately perceptible, stems from substantial investments in fundamental research and development (R&D) across various domains. These encompass the chemistry of glass and polymers, as well as the design engineering for our data center solutions and KBM solutions. This cumulative progress arises from the interdisciplinary integration of chemical engineering, chemistry, systems engineering, and optical transmission.
Are there any unique features you would like to talk about?
Dr. Badri: Among the various activities we engage in, the spotlight of this presentation is on the world’s thinnest and slimmest cable, boasting the highest number of densely packed fibers.
What are the key performance metrics and benchmarks that potential customers should consider while adopting these optical devices?
Dr. Badri: In essence, if you require increased capacity in a specific location, this is the solution. Rather than deploying 2 or 3 fibers, you can now incorporate 5 fibers. Consequently, within the same area, the capacity can be expanded to 48 fibers, and further increased to 288 fibers or even 576 fibers.
This product meets telecom-grade optical performance standards and complies with the ITU G.657A2 standard. This announcement comes after a series of innovations by our R&D experts, including India’s first multicore fiber with 4X capacity and 180-micron fiber.
“This groundbreaking innovation exemplifies our passion to put Indian technology and R&D on the world map. I am extremely excited to imagine the future of India’s digital networks with this disruptive fiber design,” said Ankit Agarwal, Managing Director, of STL.