FSO Technical FAQ

FSO Technical Frequently Asked Question

Q: What is Free-Space Optics?
A: FSO is a line-of-sight optical technology in which voice, video and data are sent through the air on beams of light at speeds up to 2.5 Gbps -- more than 2,000 times the capacity of a traditional "high speed" connection such as DSL.

Q: Is Free-Space Optics a new technology?
A: FSO systems were first developed during the 1960s both domestically and internationally for secure communications by military. Recent advancements in the technology-and gnawing demand for bandwidth where fiber-optic cable is unavailable-have created a need for FSO in commercial telecommunications networks. FSO systems have been deployed for several years commercially in enterprise networks where a single end-user has a local area network linking two or more buildings. FSO links are deployed worldwide.

Q: How does Free-Space Optics work?
A: FSO systems act the same as a piece of fiber-optic cable. The systems take information data streams from fiber-optic cable, transport it on invisible beams of light between locations, where it once again connects to fiber and to end-users through an add/drop multiplexer.

Q: How are Free-Space Optics systems deployed?
A: FSO systems can be installed outdoors or indoors on building rooftops, exterior walls, towers, behind windows or any combination. If there is a line-of-sight and appropriate distance, a connection can be made between two points.

Q: How far can a Free-Space Optics connection go?
A: Many FSO providers quote maximum range figures, based on ideal conditions. We prefer to cite optimum distances and urge you to use these at points of reference.

Q: What speeds (bandwidths) are available with Free-Space Optics?
A: Our current FSO product line provides bandwidth of 10 Mbps, 52 Mbps, 155 Mbps, 622 Mbps, 1.25 Gbps at 850nm and 2.5 Gbps at 1550nm. 

Q: Is Free-Space Optics safe? 
A: Yes, our products are eye safe and environmentally safe. They meet or exceed standards set by U.S. and international regulatory bodies.

Q: What protocols does Free-Space Optics use?
A: Our FSO products are agile enough to integrate within any service provider network. The products are manufactured to work with Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, SONET/SDS, ATM and FDDI. Our products can be used for metro network extension, DWDM services, access/last mile, wireless backhaul, disaster recovery, storage area networks and LAN, as well as WAN solutions.

Q: Does weather affect Free-Space Optics?
A: Based on more than two years of field studies and installations, our FSO products can provide carrier-class availability when deployed in a network. This availability is achieved through our multi-beam system-the only one of its kind in the industry-link distances, weather data and network management tools. In addition, we can combine FSO and license-free RF technology to provide an extra layer of redundancy. Our products have been proven through both deployment and successful field trials with carriers. They operate in a variety of weather conditions, from -13°F to 122°F (-25°C to 50°C).

Q: Why wasn't Free-Space Optics deployed on a much larger scale sooner?
A: The broader market for FSO did not emerge until late 2000 when it became clear that fiber-optic cable would not reach into every building in the near future. The costs and challenges associated with trenching fiber in metropolitan areas can be prohibitive and bandwidth demands today in many cities are outstripping service providers' ability to deploy fiber-optic cable. Combined with shrinking capital budgets, other gaps and applications in service providers' networks must also be addressed through viable alternatives such as FSO.

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