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Microsoft becomes a fibre player with Lumenisity acquisition

Lumenisity, a UK hollow core fibre (HCF) startup, has been acquired by US tech giant Microsoft to augment its global cloud infrastructure.

At least that’s what Microsoft says in its press release. The immediate rationale behind the acquisition is to ‘serve Microsoft’s Cloud Platform and Services customers with strict latency and security requirements.’ So we’re looking at organizations like banks and public sector, it seems, but Microsoft also lists healthcare, manufacturing and retail as possible beneficiaries of the high speed fibre tech.

HCF uses a fibre tube rather than a solid strand, which means the light travels through air, which enables higher speeds. Microsoft says light travels through HCF almost 50% faster than through standard silica glass and urges you to read this if you don’t believe it. We’re told the structure of the fibres also provides enhanced security and intrusion detection. In short, Microsoft reckons owning this technology will give its cloud services a competitive advantage by improving the connections to its data centres.

“We are proud to be acquired by a company with a shared vision that will accelerate our progress in the hollowcore space,” wrote Lumenisity in a blog. “This is the end of the beginning, and we are excited to start our new chapter as part of Microsoft to fulfil this technology’s full potential and continue our pursuit of unlocking new capabilities in communication networks.

“This announcement is timely, as earlier this month Lumenisity completed the development of the world’s first dedicated HCF manufacturing facility in Romsey, UK. The state-of-the art building spans 40,000 sq ft and will enable scaled up production of HCF technology in the future.”

Lumenisity was created as a spin-off from a University of Southampton research project. It came out of stealth mode in September 2020 and has since attracted interest from the likes of BT and Mavenir. In hindsight this sort of acquisition was always the most likely exit for the startup as it was always a long shot to expect it to be incorporated into general purpose fibre networks. While the purchase price hasn’t been revealed, Lumenisity probably didn’t cost too much and could give Microsoft a distinct edge over its big public cloud rivals.

 

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