Intel reveals 50Gbits/sec interface... but it's not Light Peak

Intel has unveiled a new high-speed optical interface – before its long-awaited Light Peak connector has even launched

Intel has unveiled yet another high-speed optical interface – before its long-awaited Light Peak connector has even reached the market.

The Light Peak optical interconnect can transfer data at 10Gbits/sec in both directions, and is touted as an all-in-one replacement for USB, DisplayPort and HDMI.

Intel has demonstrated working Light Peak models twice this year, as the technology moves ever closer to launch. But today it pulled a surprise by announcing an even faster potential successor to Light Peak.

This is not a technology that’s ten years away, but maybe three to five years

The new interface uses an indium phosphide hybrid laser inside the controller chip – a process which Intel calls silicon photonics – rather than using a separate optical module, as with Light Peak.

And by encoding data at 12.5Gbits/sec across four laser beams of differing wavelengths, the connector yields a total bandwidth of 50Gbits/sec, five times that offered by Light Peak.

“50Gbits/sec is just the beginning,” declared Intel fellow Mario Paniccia, introducing the technology. By increasing the data rate and using more concurrent beams, Intel plans to scale the interface up to 1Tbit/sec.

Paniccia made clear that the new system wouldn’t replace Light Peak in the short term. “This is a research announcement,” he emphasised. “This is not a technology that’s ten years away, but maybe three to five years. Light Peak, as we’ve stated, will launch next year.”

The new interface should also be cheaper to produce than Light Peak thanks to its simple integrated design. “We have a passive connector without any fancy stages, so we believe we’ve discovered a low-cost, high-volume assembly,” Paniccia announced.

“And with low-cost optics, in the future everything can be connected by fibre. We can revolutionise the way data moves about.”

Read more

News