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Spescom provides free-space optics links in city centre

19 November 2003 News

You would never know it simply by looking, but there are several buildings in central Johannesburg that are linked by free space optics (FSO) solutions. Provided by Spescom Telecommunications, these FSO solutions offer a viable alternative to fibre-optic cable and, in Johannesburg, are being used to connect several buildings belonging to various Gauteng local government departments that require a reliable LAN connection without the hassle - or expense - or installing cabling.

Paul Serfontein, Spescom Telecommunications' product manager says that Spescom supplies the LightPointe FSO technology to a major telecommunications operator, who in turn leases it to third parties.

"Buildings had to be linked across busy city streets and laying cable for this purpose would have presented a huge logistical challenge. Also, streets qualify as public property and the provision of links that cross public property is highly restricted," Serfontein explains.

FSO uses infrared laser beams to transmit data from one building to another through the air. The beams travel from one laser transceiver to the next, leapfrogging from building to building until the data arrives at the required destination. The lasers can be mounted on buildings' walls, roofs or behind windows, but they must have a clear line of sight between the transmitting laser and its receiver.

Fibre-optic connectivity is the promise of a networked and wired world. However, in reality, fewer than 10% of buildings globally touch fibre. The remainder must rely on copper-based infrastructure or fixed radio-frequency technologies that cannot provide fibre-like bandwidth to use the full potential of optical networks.

Serfontein points out: "The key differentiating factor here is bandwidth. FSO starts at 52 Mbps and goes up to 2,5 Gbps."

FSO equipment is one-fifth the cost to deploy compared to fibre-optic cable and deployments take a tenth of the time. For those who can afford it, fibre is the most common and trusted way to deliver bandwidth. FSO offers a compelling and complementary option. Of particular appeal to local business, FSO has the additional benefit of being unaffected by cable theft.

To date, LightPointe free space optics solutions have been implemented for several leading financial institutions, local government and a petrochemical giant, says Serfontein.

For more information contact: David Davie, Spescom Telecommunications, 011 266 1763, ddavie@za.spescom.com





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