updated 04:45 pm EDT, Wed March 18, 2009
Laser boosts rural access
The University of Melbourne and NEC in Australia are working on developing a high-powered laser that would cut the costs of bringing high-speed Internet access to rural areas of the country over fiber. Dr. Ka Lun Lee and his colleagues at the University are conducting an experiment in the state of Victoria, where the service can be sent to 99 percent of residents. Results of their work will be presented next week at a fiber optics expo in San Diego.
Bringing high-speed Internet service to remote areas is not cost effective due to the need of laying down cables and associated infrastructure. On the flipside, satellite and fixed wireless services are not reliable and more expensive to the consumer.
The experimental work is based on existing Gigabit passive optical networks (GPON), an example of which is Verizon's FiOS service. Data is carried through optical fibers to passive optical splitters, which split the signal to individual households. The signal of each individual cable is limited to about 19 miles from the splitter, as the signal is lost over this distance.
The research team used a Raman laser amplifier to boost the strength of the signal traveling through the fiber optic tube, boosting its signal and reach nearly tenfold. An experiment conducted by the team delivered data successfully over 37 miles at 2.5Gbps.
The researchers see a use for their technology in urban areas as well, as the added reach would allow certain current offices in densely populated areas to be closed, as it effectively halves the need for hubs as the delivery distance is nearly doubled. The system would require added safety measures to be applied to it, including a more careful inspection for breaks in the fibers.