Free Space Optics Q&A

Q: What is free-space optics (FSO) technology?
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 1.25 Gbps, more than 500 times the capacity of an E1/T1 fixed line.

Q: Is FSO 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 the skyrocketing demand for bandwidth where fiber-optic cable is unavailable — have created a need for FSO-based products (such as LightPointe's optical wireless family) in commercial communications 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-based products have been deployed worldwide. (In fact, LightPointe has its optical wireless products at work in more than 60 countries, and thousands of customer sites.

Q: What's optical wireless?
A: Optical wireless, based on the latest in FSO technology, is a new category of products that LightPointe has created to solve the need for high-speed, last mile connectivity across corporate campuses and between Mobile Carrier network towers.

Q: How does free-space optics technology work?
A: LightPointe's FSO-based optical wireless 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 FSO-based systems deployed?
A: LightPointe's optical wireless 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, an optical wireless connection can be made between two points.

Q: How far can an FSO-based optical wireless link go?
A: While many FSO technology providers quote maximum range figures, based on ideal conditions, LightPointe prefers to cite optimum distances and urges you to use these as points of reference. Q: What speeds (bandwidths) are available with optical wireless products?

A: LightPointe's current Flight Optical Wireless family provides bandwidth of 100 Mbps, 155 Mbps and 1.25 Gbps.
Q: Is free-space optics technology 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 are used in FSO systems?
A: LightPointe's FSO-based products are agile enough to integrate within any service provider network. LightPointe manufactures products that work with Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, SONET/SDS, ATM and FDDI.

Q: Does weather affect FSO-based optical wireless products?
A: LightPointe's FSO-based products can provide 99.9% availability. This availability is achieved through our multi-beam system — the only one of its kind in the industry — which links 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. LightPointe's 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 FSO technology deployed on a much larger scale sooner?
A: The broader market for FSO-based technology did not emerge until late 2000 when it became clear that fiber-optic cable would not reach into every building in the near future. Since then, steady growth has occured in the sector, largely driven by a market need for an unlicensed, easy to install product and technology which is immune to the type of congestion and interference some RF bridges encounter. Leveraging over 13 years of R&D and product development and more than a decade of industry acclaimed customer support, LightPointe has deployed state-of-the-art systems worldwide. With its industry-unique FSO and radio frequency experience, one of LightPointe’s key competitive advantages is its ability to provide customers with the ‘best of both worlds’ in wireless data transmission — the use of highly secure, ultra-fast optical transmission and robust wireless/RF solutions. In addition, the company’s products do not require frequency licensing, and there are no recurring costs as with leased-line data transmission solutions. LightPointe’s products provide fiber-like throughput at a fraction of the cost of fiber, and can be quickly installed in applications ranging from LAN backbone to carrier LTE backhaul/picocells to highly secure private networks for enterprise, defense and homeland security.