Science fiction writers have always had an amazing ability to invent new technologies that don't exist in order to advance the plot.
For example, space travel would be a long boring arduous thing for the reader or viewer to enjoy if it weren't for the fictional invention of faster-than-light-travel. Star Trek called it the "Warp Drive". Other fictional future universes have referred to it as hyperspace or some variation. Regardless of nomenclature, it solved a big problem for the creators of these future universes.
Similarly the "transporter" allowed crew members to "beam down" to a planet without a boring shuttle trip solved another plot challenge. But one that's always fascinated me as someone involved in communications for a long time is subspace radio.
Subspace radio solved a huge plot problem in the Star Trek universe: how to allow the crew of the Enterprise to communicate with Starfleet when they are hundreds or thousands of light-years away? Just like writers invented the warp drive to explain how a spacecraft could move from point A to point B faster than light, they invented subspace communications as a technology to allow them to send messages faster than the speed of light.
All this leads me to what I think is an interesting question that does not have an answer yet. What comes after fiber optics? In other words, is there some un-invented technology like subspace radio that will come along at some point and replace those tiny glass conduits as the way we communicate?
It seems like it's always a question that consumers ask when broadband providers tout the necessity to invest in fiber optic networks. "Yeah, fiber optics is great, but what will replace it?"
It's an understandable question, especially if a community is concerned about investing in a technology that will someday be obsolete. The wireless folks would like you to believe that they will invent that new technology. Whether they call it 5G or millimeter wave or something else, a lot of time, effort, energy, and research is going into trying to find a technology that could supplant fiber.
But like the world of science fiction, what we know today is that fiber optics works. And we can't yet grasp any telecommunications need that it will not be able to fill for many, many years to come. That won't stop people from dreaming. And somewhere in a lab or garage somewhere, someone may be working on the thing that will replace FIBER. But just like the Starship Enterprise is not yet ready to come out of drydock (at least for another 200 years), that new technology is still the realm of science fiction.
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.