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Inside the glass fibers connecting our wireless world

You wouldn’t be reading this without them

All modern means of communication rely on glass, from the Gorilla Glass on our phones to the infotainment screens in our cars. Most of the time, the glass is right in front of us, but when it comes to the internet — whether it’s 5G, Starlink satellites, or Wi-Fi — it’s easy to miss the 750,000 miles of fiber optic cables currently running under our oceans.

These tiny strands of glass carry our photos, emails, and video chats from our phones to data centers to friends and family all across the world. It’s through these hair-thin strands of fiber that we are able to instantly communicate to almost anyone, anywhere, and it all relies on a 5,000-year-old technology: glass.

A telecommunications-grade strand of single-core, optical fiber.
Image: Alix Diaconis / The Verge

Very little has changed in the way we use glass throughout its long history. It has always been a transparent and durable material through which light passes. And since light can travel quickly and at high frequencies while carrying loads of encoded information, a cable made of near-perfect glass is a secure medium to send all of our communications.

When I began researching materials that were shaping our future, Gorilla Glass was the obvious choice. But my path quickly turned to fiber and the urgent need to not only improve data transmission speeds but also provide all of humanity with internet access. Tune into our video to learn more about how these tiny strands of glass create the backbone for present and future of communication.