Intel Corp. officially confirmed the rumours that the company's Light Peak interconnect technology in its initial flavour will not use optical cables, but will rely on common cables with copper wires inside. Such solution greatly lowers cost of LightPeak products, but naturally reduces performance substantially.
"The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought. Optical is always a new technology which is more expensive," said David Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's architecture group, in an interview with IDG News Service.
The first version of Ligh tPeak was supposed to have 10Gb/s bandwidth over distances up to 100 meters, two times higher than the maximum bandwidth of USB 3.0 (which maximum distance is 1.5 - 2 meters). With fiber optics cable it should be possible to increase the bandwidth of LightPeak to up to 100Gb/s eventually, according to earlier claims. But with copper wires, the speed and range of data transmission may not be as great, according to the executive. Earlier rumours claims that it should be possible to transfer data at up to 10Gb/s over copper wires.
Fiber optics are very expensive at present and it is natural that hardware makers would prefer to avoid them. At the same time, new interconnection naturally attracts attention of consumers and catalyzes them to upgrade their hardware, for example, digital cameras or external storage devices. Perhaps, in order to kick off the adoption of LightPeak by end-users, manufacturers need to make the technology as affordable as possible, which is why they decided to use copper cables instead of fiber optics.
Perlmutter declined to say on when devices using Light Peak would reach store shelves, adding that shipment depended on device makers. But earlier rumours pointed to the plan to start shipments of Light Peak-equipped devices in 2011. Even though it is possible that LightPeak will hit commercial market in 2011, it is unlikely that it will get popular. Very few devices, apart from external graphics cards or solid-state drives may actually need speeds like 10Gb/s. At the same time, the cost of USB 3.0-enabled devices has been decreasing and end-users may prefer to stick with the standard that offers 5Gb/s maximum speed at a very low cost.