Intel: Optical Thunderbolt cables coming this year

“Optical cables for Thunderbolt ports that enable faster data transfers over longer distances on computers such as Apple’s Macintosh will be available later this year, Intel said Monday,” Agam Shah reports for Computerworld.

“Thunderbolt, introduced just over a year ago, is a high-speed connector technology that shuttles data among computers and with peripherals,” Shah reports. “Current Thunderbolt installations are based on copper, but optical cables could provide more bandwidth and longer cable runs in the future, according to Dave Salvator, an Intel spokesman.”

Shah reports, “Thunderbolt was co-developed by Apple and Intel and is considered a faster alternative to USB 3.0, with transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps. A full-length, high-definition movie can be transferred from an external storage device to a laptop in less than 30 seconds.”

“The upside to optical is that it allows for longer cable runs, and as the technology develops, more bandwidth, Salvator said in email. But when connected via optical cables, devices that need power also require their own power supply. Running power over longer optical cable runs may not be practical due to impedance-induced power drop,” Shah reports. “Copper has the advantage of providing up to 10 watts of power, which saves a device from requiring a power outlet, Salvator said.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. Obviously, optical fibers aren’t going to carry power – only data. However, given that optical wouldn’t really be necessary until we’re into distances of more than 3m (a bit less than 10ft), this really seems little more than a quibble. (I can see a “hybrid” cable for up to 10m which is optical plus power, which would suffer very little from impedance losses, and I think that would be practical.)

  2. The communication around Thunderbolt has been really crappy. Especially around this copper vs optical issue.

    There’s no “killer application” for Thunderbolt yet (yes RAIDs, but that’s a very small market).

    The only thing I can think of is that Apple is laying the groundwork for their assault on the living room. Getting a key component of the infrastructure rolled-out and tested in the real-world before we see the killer app (maybe this fall?).

  3. I don’t really care about killer apps so much right now. What i do want, really want are some value for money external drives, scanners and other peripherals. But external drives NOW please.

    1. I’ll check back with in a couple of days after you have backed up your computer with that USB 1.1 cable
      That standard was fine back in tha day but it’s a high data world now.

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