The Thunderbolt interface has been available on Apple computers for some years now. It was a data connection interface developed jointly by the American manufacturer and the Californians, but has later been extended to PCs as well. This external PCI Express connection only allowed copper cables of a few meters to maintain the 10 Gbps bandwidth, but now Intel has signed an agreement with a fiber optic manufacturer to start production of Thunderbolt cables up to 30 meters.
One of the clear disadvantages of using copper cables is that the speed they can transfer slows down as the distance from them increases. Fibre optics are commonly used to transfer distances over long distances.
A pending issue for the Thunderbolt connection was that there were not yet any optical fiber cables that could transfer data at high speed over several meters , so these cables were made of copper and were only a couple of meters long. They were used only for connecting peripherals to computers.
But now Intel has gone one step further and signed an agreement with the fibre optic cable company Sumitomo Electric Industries, which will be responsible for the mass production of such cables .
These cables can be up to 30 meters long , and will maintain the 10 Gbps bandwidth of the Thunderbolt interface, offering low losses even when bending the cables at 90 and 180 degree angles. The cable maintains the same thickness as traditional copper Thunderbolt cables, but the connector is slightly longer.
At the moment we don’t know the retail prices or their availability, but it is quite likely that they are quite expensive , because a small two-meter Thunderbolt cable costs 50 euros at the Apple Store.
The use of these cables will be very useful in server clusters, such as some Mac mini clusters around the world, or for connecting remote NAS storage units in businesses. The main disadvantage compared to Thunderbolt copper cables is that fiber optic cables do not have the ability to power the equipment they are connected to , so they can only transmit data, but given the use they will have, this will not be an impediment.
Finally, it should be noted that Intel has assured that no changes will have to be made to the current Thunderbolt systems, which are all compatible with both copper and fiber optic cables.