We have all been there. Scratching our heads at how those wires got that entangled. Secret: the wires have a mind of their own and become a mess when we are not looking. Earphones are a classic example. They never come out of the bag looking anywhere as neat as they were, when placed inside. TV units are another notorious lot. Set-top-boxes, sound bars, Gaming consoles, DVD players – all of these only mean cables and cables and some more cables. Anyone who has tried to hide this ugly lot of wires or put them away neatly, can vouch for the pain.
Now, let’s cast our mind towards the networking labs and data centers of the world. Those places are full of networking equipment and how are they connected? Yup, cables – the optical kind or the copper kind. Miles and miles of cables snaking between the racks and connecting one device to the other, carrying precious data. Of course, better management and smarter methods of collating the cables together means that they are not necessarily as much a mess as it can be at the home. Nonetheless, wouldn’t it be nice if the wires could be done away with?
The lossless medium that is fiber optics means that the best medium for data transfer remains through wires. Advances in this technology mean that the connectors are now capable of speeds up to 400 Gbps and soon, likely to be 1 Tbps per port. Compare that to a wireless medium. Even with Wifi, the frequency of data transfer only means that we can go up to speeds of 1 Gbps. The fact of the matter is that for every jump that the wireless technology seems to make, the wired seems to be making a similar leap in speeds possible.
Let’s take cellular data, for example. Starting off with 64 kbps, we are now talking of up to 1 Gbps speed with 5G. Many technologies have been introduced to reduce the distance between the cell tower and the end-user (the wireless medium) and have fallen by the wayside: femto cells, mesh networks, wireless sensors, etc. All of these are promising, all suffer from transmitting signals in the air, which is by its very nature, a lossy medium for transport.
As the world of data networks has moved from a centralized model to a decentralized one and now, to a cloud based model, the wired speeds have grown exponentially. We seem to be doubling data transfer speeds every 3 years. This will slow down eventually, just as Moore’s law has shown signs of slowing down in the past decade or so, after holding good for decades before that. Maybe when the increase in speeds of the wired medium hits its peak, is the time that the wireless will take over. Until then, the cables will continue to rule the roost!
What do you think? Do you see us gaining freedom from a wired world anytime soon? Do let me know your thoughts!