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EU sees high speed networking in Photonics

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An EU-funded research body has been demonstrating the potential of high-frequency wireless, including 10Gb/s connections that operate over a kilometre - and in the rain.

The snappily-named "Integrated Photonic mm-Wave functions for Broadband Connectivity", or IPHOBAC, has been spending EU money developing components for wireless connections in the extra-high frequency (EHF) bands running 30 to 300GHz - making 60GHz connections a reliable and cheap way to link up those lacking ADSL-supporting infrastructure.

The group includes academic and business representatives. The latter from Thales, Alcatel, and France Telecom, and it's coordinated by Andreas Stöhr, a professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen. The first product to emerge is a transmitter capable of generating a continuous signal across the whole EHF band, equally applicable to data communications and radar applications.

But most interesting is the use of 60GHz for data, which has been field trialled and demonstrated to provide reliable connectivity at 10Gb/s in 25mm/hour of rain over a link of 1km. Even in atypical conditions connectivity can be maintained, as Andreas Stöhr told PolicyTracker: "In an even worse case, rain of 85mm an hour, which is the worst storm you have ever experienced, we can guarantee 99.9999% availability at up to 600 metres".

In Northern Europe, rainfall tends to peak around 40mm, putting radio attenuation of 60GHz in the region of 14dB/km, from rainfall, so the technology is very applicable if one can get the transmitters and receivers in place. Even with considerable attenuation, IPHOBAC reckons that sustaining 3Gb/s should be easy enough, and that should support high definition television.

60GHz is attractive as it's already approved for unlicensed use in the USA and Japan, and Ofcom is considering making it similarly unrestricted in the UK. The explosive growth of applications at 2.4GHz demonstrates how quickly a frequency can be exploited in the right market conditions, though 60GHz will be limited to line-of-sight deployments. Having created technology for exploiting even higher frequencies, IPHOBAC is now exploring the potential offered by 300GHz connections, though such connections would likely be very short range.

The idea that 60GHz can be exploited, licence-free, for connecting rural communities is very nice - and good for garnering EU funds - but the reality will probably be greater competition in cities where user-density is high enough to make deployment cost-effective. Unless, that is, the UK government is serious about 2Gb/s for all - in which case, IPHOBAC could be a timely development. ®

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