Data goes over almost anything!

Everybody knows how Internet goes through copper wiring, fiber optics and wireless? But are the other communications media that could be uses? Yes there seems to be some unexpected ways to transport data. A core part of the hacker mentality is the desire to test limits: trying out ideas to see if something interesting, informative, and/or entertaining comes out of it.

What is the bandwidth of your snax? How fast is your internet in bananas?
It is a common way to measure and MEME almost anything with a banana scale. There is now a banana scale for Internet speed: bananas transmit at about 53mbps on vdsl btw. VDSL over Banana is real – the tester got 53680/12658 kbps connection speed on a short run from in-house exchange/DSLAM, through banana, to a VDSL2 modem.
Here is a tweet from (also tweted at


It’s official, ADSL works over wet string Engineers at a small British internet service provider have successfully made a broadband connection work over 2m (6ft 7in) of wet string. The connection reached speeds of 3.5 Mbps (megabits per second). ADSL itself is something of an ingenious hack, carrying data over decades-old telephone wires designed only for voice. Some employees of Andrews & Arnold (a UK network provider) applied this mentality towards connecting their ADSL test equipment to some unlikely materials. The verdict of experiment: yes, ADSL works over wet string.

Here is picture of the experiment from article.

According to those experiments it seems that you can use anything that is electrically conductive to transmit data signals in a way or another. In other news, materials that conduct electricity can be used to transmit signal. Marvelous finding lads!

Could you do that even without strings attached?
Can You Send The Internet Through Water Instead of Cables? The Literal Web Streaming Experiment!

A lot of data goes through water, but using fiber optic cables instead of using the water itself as medium. There is a lot of data going under the sea. What’s more, 98% of the world’s internet cables are located undersea. This includes around 400 underwater cables around the world.

How The Internet Travels Under Sea

How about telecommunications or fast data over barbed wire? Yes this has been done also.

Barbed wire fences were an early DIY telephone network. In some early years of telecommunication, even over 100 years ago, fences became phones: The unexpected use of barbed wire. A party line (multiparty line, shared service line, party wire) is a local loop telephone circuit that is shared by multiple telephone service subscribers. Party line systems were widely used to provide telephone service, starting with the first commercial switchboards in 1878. Barbed wire telephone lines were local networks created in rural America around the turn of the 20th century. In some isolated farming communities, it was not cost-effective for corporations to invest in the telephone infrastructure. Instead, the existing extent of barbed wire fences could be used to transmit electric signals and connect telephones in neighboring farms. Nowadays VDSL can be done over a farm fence if you want internet access or a security camera somewhere inconvenient.

But can you run Ethernet over barbed wire? In 1995 Broadcom showed it’s implementation of a subset of Fast Ethernet called 100BASE-T4 (different from the 100BASE-TX version that ultimately prevailed in the market). The value of the Broadcom T4 design was its ability to work at high speeds on horrible cables, so Broadcom wanted to demonstrate its operation using the world’s worst cable.

At Interop that year, Broadcom set up a 2×4-ft glass case containing eight parallel strands of barbed wire configured as four differential pairs, each running straight from side to side, suspended in air. The wires were ugly and rusty and had nasty little barbs all over them. A transmitter and a reel of Category 3 data cabling were on one side of the case. The data cabling led to the glass case where it coupled onto the four barbed-wire pairs. The other side of the case coupled through more Category 3 cabling to a receiver. They showed that 100 Mbit/s Ethernet can run over this kind of poor looking wiring sing their technology. During the show, lo and behold, Broadcom’s demonstration flawlessly conveyed 100 Mbps of data through the barbed wire. “Buy our parts” was the message the Broadcom marketing folks wanted to impress on their audience. There was also a display of this in action at COMDEX in Vegas (2000).

In year 2002 WideBand Gigabit Ethernet Over Barbed Wire was on display. WideBand Corporation has been showing its Gigabit Ethernet Without Rewiring by using barbed wire to make the point at trade shows from coast to coast this spring. WideBand has used its barbed wire demo as a way to underscore the robust transmission capability of its Ethernet products.

So how is it possible to use this kind of poor looking wiring for high speed data?
Only four properties really affect the performance of most digital transmission structures. The “big four” transmission-line properties are impedance, delay, high-frequency loss, and crosstalk. Crosstalk in a barbed-wire configuration is controlled by enforcing a large spacing between the pairs. The T4 system divides its data among the four pairs, so that each pair operates at only 25 Mbps. At that low frequency the skin-effect resistance of 4 ft of barbed wire is insignificant, and the overall high-frequency loss in the glass case at 25 Mbps was practically nil. The signal delay is less on barbed wire than on an equivalent length of PVC-insulated Category 3 wiring, due to the use of an air dielectric between the barbed strands. You can intentionally set the spacing to create almost any impedance you want. Inside the glass case, the spacing between barbed strands was set to create an impedance of 100 Ω.

In summary, the barbed wire had zero impact on signal quality. The signals went through perfectly undistorted. The only thing the barbed wire did was impress the heck out of Broadcom’s customers.

Besides Ethernet running over many barbed wires, the are also demos that run high speed data over one pair of barbed wires. Westermo has demonstrated Ethernet extension based on SHDSL technology running over a pair of barbed wire. The wire pair doesn’t have to be barbed wire, but it does look rather cool for this demo. If you need to run data over barbed wire over some real distance, this might be the practical way to do it. SHDSL technology allows running quite high data speeds over quite long distance old wiring.
Westermo Ethernet extender demo over barbed wire!

Links to more information on ADSL over wet strings:

Barbed wire Ethernet links:

Barbed wire telephone links:

Phones, modems and barbed wire!

Barbed Wire Telephone Lines Brought Isolated Homesteaders Together
And then let them snoop on each other

When fences became phones: The unexpected use of barbed wire

Atrocious but efficient: How ranchers used barbed wire to make phone calls
A barbed wire telephone call didn’t sound great but could quickly warn others about something such as a wildfire.

Barbed Wire Fences Were An Early DIY Telephone Network

The Daily Herald
Delphos, OH, United States, Thursday, April 19, 1900
vol. 6, no. 266, p. 3, col. 5-6
Three Towns in Indiana Connected by Using Ordinary Fence Wires.

Wired for Sound
Between you, me and the fence post, barbed-wire telephone systems kept rural folks hanging on every word


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