Free-space optics (FSO) uses optical signals as carrier frequencies to provide point-to-point transmission of information through the atmosphere. Free-space optical (FSO) communication transmits data wirelessly for computer networking and telecommunications through the light propagating in free space. Unlike optical fiber cables which require a physical connection for transmission of data, free-space optics (FSO) can use any free space such as air, vacuum or outer space as a medium. Free-space optics, being a line-of-sight communication technology, can be used where it is impractical to establish physical connections due to high costs or several other considerations. Adding to the benefits of optical fiber communication technology, free-space optics communication offers lower costs, easy installations and quick establishment of network.
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One of the major factors driving the FSO market is that licensing is not required for establishing a communication network using FSO. Thus, unlike other wired or wireless communication networks, FSO installation doesn’t incur a high initial cost. Other factors such as increasing number of internet users and incorporation of FSO in the existing 3G and 4G networks have provided immense opportunities for the FSO market. Technological aspects such as faster activation of service, scalability and flexibility are leading to the growth of FSO communication market. Free-space optics is also preferred over other communications due to the need for high-speed access interfaces, real-time provisioning and metro gap elimination. However, since it uses light beams to transmit data over the atmosphere, FSO faces a serious restraint of environmental interference. Any environmental interference faced by the optic signal causes degradation of signal in terms of speed, quality or efficiency. Other challenges such as standardization and initial installations hamper the growth of FSO market in communication technology.
Due to its benefits such as easy installation, cost-effectiveness, and quick establishment of communication channel and high band width provision, FSO has found a wide range of applications. The increasing demand for communication links in telecommunication applications, broadcast, disaster management and security systems and mass transit has led to the growing number of applications of FSO in various industries. The FSO application market comprises mobile application, terrestrial applications and satellite applications. Terrestrial applications encompass numerous uses of FSO in healthcare, enterprise connectivity, engineering and design, defense security and disaster recovery. FSO has also found applications in various other industries such as under water automotive, aerospace, smart stores, casinos, museums and healthcare.
Companies in the free-space optics industry have identified various opportunities for FOS applications and have invested heavily in research and development activities in several segments. Opportunities such as solution for outdoor connectivity, affordable extensions to the existing fiber network, replacement of old technologies in enterprises and increasing number of programs for space research have shown promising growth in the FSO market. Some of the key players in the FSO market include Nakagawa Laboratories, Inc., Outstanding Technology Co. Ltd. and Casio Computer Co. Ltd. from Japan, Oldecomm-France LiFi from France, fSONA Networks Corp. from Canada, Gallium Lighting LLC, LSA Associates Inc., Supreme Architecture Inc. and LightPointe Communications Inc. from U.S. and IBSENtelecom Ltd. and Wireless Excellence Limited from U.K.
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