Free Space Optics

Free space optics technology (abbreviated as FSO), also referred to as open-air photonics or optical wireless or infrared broadband, transmits data from point-to-point and multipoint using low-powered infrared lasers. Unlike traditional copper wires or fiber-optic technology, which transmits data by light across glass, FSO uses laser technology to send optical signals through the air using lenses and mirrors to focus and redirect the beams and send data from one chip to another. And unlike radio frequencies, FSO technology does not require a spectrum license.

An FSO system uses optical amplifiers and a telescope that sends multiple wavelengths of light in direct line of sight through the atmosphere to another telescope waiting to receive the information. The receiving telescope is connected to a highly sensitive receiver through an optical fiber and a DWDM demultiplexer. Since the system is bidirectional, each telescope can simultaneously send and receive information. The only weather condition that affects an FSO transmission is fog. Fog can corrupt the direct line of sight between the two telescopes because the moisture particles in the air are so small and dense that they act as millions of tiny prisms dissipating the band of light sent from the laser.

Free space optics provides a higher bandwidth to the end user at a faster speed. The photons transmitted by the laser are much quicker than electrons moving along a wire and they can pass straight through each other, which charge-bearing electrons cannot do. Because of this, large amounts of data, such as IP -based voice and video, can be transmitted through a narrow corridor of space.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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