Cabling Installation & Maintenance

Optical wireless: increasing speeds, dropping prices: today's laser-based free space optics have reached gigabit speeds with new features and reduced cost.(technology)

Not your typical wireless data connection, a free space optics (FSO) system is a line-of-sight technology that uses beams of light instead of radio waves to provide a point-to-point means of connectivity through the air, eliminating the need for physical fiber-optic cable. Typically run from building to building, FSO systems are deployed either as primary or backup circuits.

Since FSO technology was first developed by the military to provide secure communications to remote areas, it has been prone to environmental interferers like fog that literally can get in the way of signal transmission. At the same time, FSO systems are providing many customers with a cost-effective alternative to trenching, or paying high monthly leased-line fees.

As network speeds and uptime requirements continue to increase, many of today's FSO system vendors have come a long way with a variety of Gigabit Ethernet solutions and new features to help maintain network availability.

Cost-effective alternative

A typical enterprise application for an FSO system is when two buildings are located within sight of each other, and trenching fiber or paying monthly leased-line fees to connect the network is either not cost-effective or possible. For example, a corporation may own two buildings separated by a physical barrier, such as water or a highway, or they may be located in a historical area where trenching is prohibited. Leased lines can cost upwards of $1,000 a month, while on the upper end of the scale, a trenching project can reach $500,000.

Because an FSO system can be set up in a matter of days, the Solution has also proven invaluable for disaster-recovery situations.

"We have found that many of the FSO systems implemented during disaster recovery were almost always kept as either an integral part of the network or as a viable backup," says Gordon Tubbs, assistant director of the Canon Broadcast and Communications Division (www. …

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