Optical wireless gateways


Wireless applications

Optical wireless gateway technology promises application of photonics to enterprise wireless LANs and mobile infrastructure.

In late May Microwave Photonics joined BTexact Technologies' corporate technology incubator, Brightstar, which takes ideas and patents from BTexact and enables their developers to create businesses, initially under the BTexact Technologies umbrella. All Brightstar ventures are expected to have a minimum market capitalisation of £50m within the first three years.

Microwave Photonics is based on BTexact-invented optical wireless gateways. These convert light in an optical fibre directly into radio signals without any electronics, making them compatible with all protocols and data rates up to 40GHz and allowing wireless networks to be effectively future-proofed against changes of protocols, spectrums and data rates.

Base-stations are powered from just the light in optical fibre. Protocol-specific electronics are also centralised, reducing installation and maintenance for wireless networks and micro-cellular deployment. The ability to site base-stations in areas that don't have ready access to mains power further increases flexibility. The absence of active electronics other than optical solid-state devices also makes the technology highly reliable.

Microwave Photonics is also backed by a set of network design and micro-cell implementation services. Initial product offerings will be aimed at the enterprise wireless LAN market, including 802.11-based products.

Joining Brightstar as CEO-designate for Microwave Photonics is Maurizio Vecchione, chairman and CEO of venture capital and management adviser Synthetica Ltd. With over 20 years experience in telecoms, wireless, optical networking, broadband and semiconductors, Vecchione has led mergers and acquisitions totalling USD1bn, raised over USD100m in equity capital and executed multiple IPOs.

"Our gateway technology provides the answer to the biggest issue currently associated with wireless networks deployment: the dependency of current infrastructure solutions on standards that are constantly evolving," says Vecchione. "Another significant feature is the absence of any active electronics and its substantially lower emissions."

Suitable applications include certain indoor environments, high-density micro-cell and pico-cell deployments, and specialised requirements such as military, underground, and other environmentally sensitive situations.

Hybrid optical-rate networks enable provision of multiple broadband services to the metro edge.

Tel Aviv-based Millimetrix Broadband Networks claims that its Unity multi-service, multi-transport medium platform for emerging metro edge and next-generation mobile networking is the first multi-medium platform for optical rate services. It enables construction of hybrid optical-rate networks that include fibre, high-capacity microwave radio links and free-space optics links for the provision of multiple broadband services to locations in one unified transport network.

Unity also allows scaling of existing networks. It integrates TDM, IP, and ATM services and provides migration to next-generation services. "The lack of fibre at the metro edge has become a persistent barrier to the growth of high-speed networking," says Communications Industry Researchers analyst David Gross. "By enabling optical line rate IP, ATM, Ethernet, and SONET to operate over multiple media, Millimetrix allows carriers to create new services that build on existing infrastructure." The first field trial will be undertaken by a major carrier in Q3/2002.

The technology is based on a new Optilinx transport layer which provides networking functionality for legacy and emerging optical services - originally designed only for fibre transmission - over multiple mediums, as selected by the corresponding Outdoor Units (ODUs).

The system includes an Indoor Unit (IDU), multiple types of ODUs and Unity Transport Manager software. The Unity 2500 IDU offers 2.5Gbit/s overall capacity - a record for a network element not fibre-only.

It supports service protection in flexible topologies such as mesh, linear, ring and dual ring. Up to four network side connections can be comprised of any combination of fibre, radio ODUs and free-space optics ODUs.

Record spectral efficiency delivers over 622Mbit/s (OC-12/STM-4) in a single FCC/ETSI-licensed spectrum channel. With the RF ODU, wireless capacity 2.5Gbit/s can be supported in a single network site.

Benefits for both metro edge and mobile back-haul applications include simpler multiple service collection and aggregation, and native transport to the metro POP or mobile 2G/2.5G/3G base-station sites.

Connecting high-bandwidth office buildings, broadband access feeding hubs and campuses to the core fibre network, Unity simplifies multi-service transport over multiple media and has the capacity, modularity and scalability to deliver broadband services to the dynamic metro edge.

In the mobile network, Unity is deployed in back-haul transmission, connecting base-station concentration points to the Base Station Controller. It has the spectrum efficiency and the support of TDM, ATM, and IP that is needed for the migration of the mobile network from 2G to 2.5G to 3G and also to all-IP mobile networking.

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