What are the advantages of fibre optics in comparison with the existing solutions?
Yves Pierre : The network is currently essentially made out of copper. But this metal is reaching its limits in terms of distance and speed. On the one hand, the data transfer capacity via copper depends on the distance travelled. The longer the trajectory, the bigger the metal's resistance will be, therefore limiting the total data capacity. Also, copper can only handle limited speed up to High Definition. Even if it is possible to transfer THD on 5m with copper, as soon as the requirements go up, the speed becomes too slow. Today, most transmissions are in SD or HD. Tomorrow, we will undoubtedly speak of transmissions in stereoscopy (the flow will need to double) or in holography.
What is the state of the fibre optics installation in Belgium?
Y. P. : Our country is a pioneer in certain ways. Almost the entire territory is connected to the fibre via the big networks. However, and this is the paradox of our situation, what is often missing is the last link, connecting the network to the users, this last part being in copper. When looking at Luxembourg, for example, we see there is a real will to connect every citizen with fibre, thus offering much higher speed and transfer rates. In Belgium such is not entirely the case yet even though the cost of the fibre periphery (the last link) tends to go down. All the more so since the price of copper is going up while that of fibre goes down and the applications possible with the latter are much broader.
Is it already being used on a professional level?
Y. P. : There is a 'mobile' use for event captations. It can spread over several dozen of kilometres without leading to complexities. The equivalent in so-called 'wireless' network means managing the risks of signal disruptions and controlling the still limited bandwidth.
If fibre can't transport energy, the fact remains that its speed is almost unlimited. It also offers possibilities for interactivity and multiplexing. In other words, it makes a new way of working possible in which the different intervening actors no longer need to be in the same room. A director could watch the colour grading of his film while the image treatment unit and the cinematographer were kilometres away.
You talk about changing work habits. I assume that means cinema, but also broadcasting...
Y. P. : If a site is connected with fibre, it will no longer be necessary to have a control room on the scene of the captation. In other words, mobile units could only be used when the sites are not connected to fibre.
Keywall, with its weather studios, is now connected to the RTBF through fibre optics (cfr A meteorological centre at the heart of KeyWall) ...
Y. P. : That's only logical. Using fibre in that optic stems from good reason. Fibre is much more efficient than its rivals in terms of information transmission because it's much simpler. If the composite signal is like a soup, the component offers the possibility to distinguish ingredients into categories, but fibre optics sends all elements individually wrapped and labelled. In other words, the degradation into composite is unavoidable, while digital puts verification procedures in place which allow sustaining the signal, despite transfers and the different coding and decoding systems.
Belram organises training sessions on fibre optics. For more information, contact Yves Pierre (firstname.lastname@example.org)