Resilient communications with dark fibre networks

Published on
January 29, 2024

In 2022, a fibre optic cable was installed underneath the University of Birmingham’s campus, connecting all the way through to the National Physical Laboratory’s head office in Teddington, south-west London. This project marked the first time a fibre optic cable network for precision timing was extended to such a large area in the UK.

But what does this mean for us? Well, researchers are hoping to test the possibility of using fibre link networks to support GPS networks in the future. This will represent a big step in the technology that currently underpins our current communications network, which in turn is the foundation for many services which make up the UK’s critical national infrastructure, such as hospitals, transport and utilities. It’s also the network that we all have become very dependant on in our everyday lives without realising – to do our online shopping, or talk to our friends on an app.

Known otherwise as dark fibre, this fibre optic network will be an independent connection that will uniquely use optical amplifiers to simultaneously boost multiple signals, which typically deteriorate every 80 km.

And there is a security advantage too: fibre link technology can only be interfered with if it is physically cut, which would take a lot more effort compared to satellite signal spoofing and hacking. Fibre optic cables are also much less susceptible to interferences, as the data is concentrated within the fibre itself. Accuracy is also expected to measure a hundred times more precise than our current national time network.



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