Free-Space Optics has several applications in Telecom Networks where an optical gap exists between the network core and the network edge. FSO delivers cost-effective optical connectivity and faster returns on investment (ROI) for enterprises and service providers. The number of FSO uses in Telecom Networks and beyond continues to grow as high-bandwidth demands and the need for economically viable optical solutions outpace the deployment of fiber-optic cable. FSO has moved from niche to mainstream:
Telecom network extensions: FSO can be deployed to extend an existing metro ring or to connect new networks. These links generally do not reach the ultimate end user, but are more an application for the core of the network.
Enterprise: The Flexibility of FSO allows it to be deployed in many enterprise applications such as LAN to LAN connectivity, Storage Area Networks, and intra-campus connections.
Last-mile connectivity: These are the links that reach the end user. They can deployed in point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, ring or mesh connections. Fiber deployment in urban areas could cost $300,000-$700,000 given the costs involved in digging tunnels and obtaining rights-of-way. By contrast, a short FSO link of 155 Mbps might cost only $15,000-$18,000.
Fiber Complement: FSO may also be deployed as a redundant link to back up fiber. Most operators deploying fiber for business applications connect two fibers to secure a reliable service plus backup in the event of outage. Instead of deploying two fiber links, operators could opt to deploy an FSO system as the redundant link.
Access: FSO can also be deployed in access applications such as gigabit Ethernet access. Service providers can use FSO to provide high capacity links to businesses.
Backhaul: FSO can be used for backhaul such as LMDS or cellular backhaul as well as gigabit Ethernet "off-net" to transport network backhaul.
DWDM Services: With the integration of WDM and FSO systems, independent players that aim to build their own fiber rings, yet they may own only part of the ring. Such a solution could save costly lease payment to ILECs, which are likely to take advantage of this situation.