Optical Connections Magazine Autumn 2018

JOHN WILLIAMSON HYBRID NETWORKS

transmitting simultaneously, along with auto-tracking, to increase performance. Both CableFree and LightPointe argue that a hybrid combination of FSO with RF technology will pay dividends. The former’s UNITY system can, for example, combine FSO and radio and FSO and MMW. For the future, FSO’s suitability for short distance, high bandwidth applications, its licence-free standing and the prospect of increasing RF congestion are predicted to support robust market growth. LightPointe’s Dr Willebrand sets some store by the ultra-high capacity wireless backhaul and across-the-street distance components of this market. Either way, the “Global Free Space Optics Market Report”, published by Variant Market Research, calculates that the worldwide market could reach $1,223.1 million by 2024, up from $101.9 million in 2016 and growing at a CAGR of 36.4% from 2016 to 2024. OPTICAL DAS: SPREADING THE WORD The use of optical DASs to propagate and distribute RF signals around buildings, sports and entertainment venues, medical facilities, public buildings, campuses and subways and so on, also looks to have a continuing healthy commercial future. Like FOS, growth in optical DAS networking has a number of drivers. The

delivery of high bandwidth is a particular draw. “Fibre to the edge architecture enables high bandwidth capacity, eliminating bandwidth and distance limitations, and provides a migration path to 5G,” states Mike Collado, Corning Inc Director of Wireless Applications Marketing. The economics look pretty favourable too. Collado says optical DAS networks enable the convergence of RF and IP applications and services, and that this evolution in network strategy achieves lower TCO. “It also provides a long- term base building infrastructure that lasts the lifespan of the building to avoid obsolescence,” he points out. As with FSO, there are challenges. One identified by Collado is the requirement to travel into unfamiliar territory. “Fibre to the edge represents a paradigm shift among network designers and installers who are used to Ethernet /coax at the horizontal”, he ventures. Even so, Collado believes that leveraging cloud Radio Access Networks (RANs) and/ or virtualised RAN with optical DAS will reduce barriers to in-building deployments and open new market segments. He also thinks there’s an important role for software-defined networking in optical DAS, creating intelligence to simplify network design, installation, optimisation and management, as well as enabling analytics.

with the infrared transmission spectrum used by FSO systems being essentially licence-free throughout the world. “This is due to the common and worldwide adopted regulator approach to exempt frequency spectrum beyond 300 GHz from licensing fees for indoor as well as outdoor applications,” says Dr Willebrand. OVERCOMING LIMITS There are FSO downsides, too. As noted by Patrick, the weather can cause high attenuation, and adversely impact performance over longer distances. He also reckons that in the commercial here- and-now, the achievement of higher FSO bitrates extending from 10 Gbits/s to 100 Gbits/s is technically quite demanding. Meantime, the FSO community has mounted a number of initiatives aimed at improving the useful range, capacity and availability of the technology. Patrick lists FSO vendors with narrow beams with beam tracking to try to overcome inherent issues with narrow beam technology, other vendors with higher power, wider beams to remove the need for tracking technology, and others who use different wavelengths to match availability of optoelectronic devices, performance and cost to good atmospheric transmission wavelengths. LightPointe’s FSO wireless bridges use an overlapping multi-beam system, with four laser beams on each side of the link

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ISSUE 10 | Q3 2017

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