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Humans are social creatures, so it’s no surprise that we’re constantly striving to improve our means of communicating and sharing information. From letters delivered by riders on horseback, to telegrams, to telephones, to the advent of the internet and mobile communications, we’re always looking for better, faster, easier ways to stay connected.

Of course, communications these days are about more than just having a friendly chat. Communications technology can be used to transmit voice, video, and other kinds of data. For the uninitiated, the differences between mediums can be confusing.

Whether you’re interested in different forms of communications technology for personal or professional reasons, it’s important to understand what makes each one unique. In terms of free-space optics, there are several features and benefits that could make it the perfect medium to suit your needs. Here is a brief overview of free-space optics to get you started.

What is FSO?

FSO, short for free-space optical communication, or free-space optics, is essentially a wireless means of sending data through space. Free space refers to the fact the data is transmitted through the air instead of via wires, such as fiber optic cable.

How Does it Work?

This “line of sight” technology is actually similar to fiber optic communications in that data is transmitted using light frequencies. In the case of FSO, lasers are used to send voice, video, and data information through the air between a transmitter and a receiver at a rate of up to a couple of GB per second (although the exact rate depends on factors like equipment, environment, and so on).

However, FSO differs dramatically from fiber optic cable communications in that data is wirelessly transmitted from point A to point B. With fiber optics, light signals are passed through cabling that is specially designed and insulated to bounce light along a relay. FSO is much more direct.

Of course, this does shorten the range of transmission. Because the signal is being sent through open space, a clear line of sight between the transmitter and receiver must be maintained. You couldn’t, for example, expect the signal to go through a building uninterrupted.

The optical bandwidth provided by free-space optics is in some ways limited, but it transmits data at the speed of light, making it an ideal option for certain purposes. While fiber optic cables also transmit data via light waves, it must be bounced along cables, slowing the transmission somewhat.

In addition, FSO technology doesn’t require wired infrastructure or the ongoing fees to use it, which makes it an affordable alternative to many traditional forms of communications.

Where Did it Come From?

Incredibly, free-space optics technology has been in use as a means of communication for over thirty years. It was first utilized for data transmission purposes by NASA and military interests. The FSO devices and services we use today are relatively new to the consumer market, however.

If you’re interested in using FSO technology as a means of transmitting data quickly over short distances, it’s wise to speak to vendors that are familiar with this and other comparable technologies. This way you can make sure FSO is the best choice for your needs.

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