Dark fibre could be the light that guides 5G

By James Rogerson 22 January 2019

Dark fibre

Most of us typically think of 4G and 5G as being wireless signals that travel over the air, and while that’s true for the last part of the journey, they still use cabling to get to masts and other last-mile infrastructure. As such, cabling is a vital part of 5G infrastructure, and to meet the demands needed networks are likely to leverage dark fibre.

We’ve created a dark fibre guide explaining all about this important infrastructure, including what dark fibre is and when and how it will likely be used. It’s well worth a read.

In short though, dark fibre is unused fibre optic cabling in the ground. The UK is littered with it. You’ll find the full explanation for why that is in the aforementioned guide, but as this fibre is unused (or unlit, hence the name), it makes sense for mobile networks to leverage it, rather than laying their own, which would take a lot of time and money.

A simpler, speedy solution

Of course, for the most part the UK’s mobile networks don’t own this fibre, but they may be able to lease it at cost, making it affordable and meaning they’ll just have to build infrastructure at either end of the cabling.

Using dark fibre rather than fibre optic cables that are currently being used for other purposes also means mobile networks won’t suffer extra congestion from having to share, which is vital given the likely speeds and traffic demands of 5G.

So, in many ways dark fibre is ideal, pre-built infrastructure that’s ready and waiting for mobile networks to make use of. There are obstacles, which are also discussed in our guide, but despite that it’s likely that dark fibre will form the back bone of the UK’s 5G networks.

About James Rogerson

Sub-Editor at 5G.co.uk

James is sub-editor at both 5G.co.uk and TechRadar. Also works as a researcher/ technical writer for 5G.co.uk and several other websites including TechRadar, T3, Smart TV Radar, 3G.co.uk with work on the web, in print and on TV.

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