The Data Rate Explosion

The user interfaces of mobile devices and consumer electronics devices have undergone a remarkable transformation in just a few years. We have gone from buttons and LEDs to ultra-high resolution 4K UHD displays with touch-sensitive functionality. Ultra-slim TVs, laptops and tablets with 4K UHD display resolution are available. In addition, VR / AR (virtual / augmented reality) products which require high resolution and high-speed data transmission are becoming mainstream. 8K resolution TV displays and PC Monitors are now available. There are not just displays which have high resolutions. Cameras in mobile and consumer devices are already capable of shooting 4K video. And, the new generation of gaming consoles features 4K resolution with high frame rate 120fps. Also, the new generation of VR / AR and super thin 4K UHD TVs require high-speed data communication from 20 to 100 Gbps.

But the data rate explosion does not stop here. In the next few years we can expect new standards to be developed which reach up to and exceed even 100 Gbps which will complete the transition from copper to optical.

This has led to the development of several high-speed consumer standards such as DisplayPort, HDMI 2.x and USB 3.x as well as new very slim connectors like USB Type-C which are needed for the latest slim form factor laptops, tablets, smart phones and TVs. However, conventional copper cables intended for these standards are thick, bulky, heavy and limited in length to 3m or so depending on the data rate. Copper has reached its limit.

The same data rate explosion has also occurred inside devices such as tablets, notebooks and TVs where high speed connections using standards such as MIPI D-PHY, eDP and VbyOne are needed between the application processor and the internal displays / cameras. In addition, these devices have very stringent requirements for low power consumption, extremely small form factors, and reduced EMI (electromagnetic interference). Optical connections are ideal for these applications.