U.S. military laser/radio comms tech an affordable alternative to laying cable
Mon 17 Nov 2014
Internet communications technology company Aoptix is set to bring its hybrid laser/radio solution to general market after successful development of the technology for the U.S. military.
The system employs parallel laser and radio frequencies to span distances between existing masts of up to 6.5 miles (10km). Since it requires no additional infrastructural work, the California-based company is putting the technology forward as a practicable and cheap alternative to the huge costs of laying new fibre-optic cable.
The Aoptix Enhanced Air Ground Lasercom System (EAGLS), designed to provide high altitude, high speed comms links for the U.S. military via the Air Force Research Laboratory, took 10 years and $100mn (c. £64mn) to develop.
Aoptix was founded in Hawaii in 2000 to exploit new technologies in Curvature Adaptive Optics, and the laser side of the new comms system uses a wavefront sensor controlling a deformable mirror via a control algorithm, to correct atmospheric distortions in the laser-driven data flow in real time.
The laser element of the technology is matched with a redundant radio transmitter, to guarantee throughput of 2gbps – though that is reported to be increasing to 4gbps in the near future. The radio component has low attenuation in rainy conditions with large refracting raindrops, while the laser is more vulnerable to dense fog.
The company’s Active Beam Steering (ABS) system compensates for mast sway, freeing space on established mast structures which the technology is set to occupy.
The system is being trialled with three high-end U.S. internet providers, as well as a telco in Mexico and a development in Nigeria, which has only recently received high-speed broadband access via a submarine cable.
Aoptix SVP Chandra Pusarla is reported to have stated that the technology is primarily aimed at mobile carriers with a growing customer-base with ever-greater data demands. Since the cost of laying fibre cable is so high, many major Stateside carriers hesitate to make the business commitment in a climate of uncertainty over net neutrality, and some doubt about the length of time needed to recoup investment while retaining affordability. Although a fibre cable can best the Aoptix Laser/radio system by a factor of 10, the enormous cost of investment seems to have left room in the market for the new system.
Aoptix announced in 2013 a new initiative with financial industries networking company Anova Technologies to create an ultra-low-latency wireless comms network to the stock markets.