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September 1, 1999
Lucent Unveils Optics Minus Fiber
By Peter Lambert
Telecommunications carriers soon may be able to take the fiber out of local fiber optic
economics, thanks to WaveStar OpticAir, an over-the-air optical laser technology
introduced by Lucent Technologies Inc. on July 14.
By next March, Murray Hill, N.J.-based Lucent promises to deliver an initial OpticAir
system capable of delivering 2.5 gigabits per second (gbps) of information through the air
over distances ranging from 4.4 to 5 kilometers (km). Hamilton, Bermuda-based
international carrier Global Crossing Ltd. has committed to test that system in the field
by next December.
"This is effectively metropolitan-area DWDM (dense wavelength-division
multiplexing) technology, except it’s point to point, and it doesn’t use fiber," says
Kathy Szelag, vice president, optical networking, for Lucent. In terms of design and cost,
she adds, OpticAir lasers and attending electronics will be virtually identical to fiber
optic lasers and electronics.
In a prepared statement, Global Crossing senior vice president Wally Dawson said,
"If our testing of the product meets expectations, it could offer a breakthrough
method to help our global customers bypass local bottlenecks and offer leading-edge
services." The carrier declined to make further comment.
Noting estimates that approximately 95 percent of U.S. buildings remain unconnected via
high-capacity fiber optic cable, Lucent executives said competitive and incumbent
carriers, government institutions and private enterprises have expressed interest in the
According to Ken Kelly, senior analyst for San Jose, Calif.-based Gartner Group
subsidiary Dataquest Inc., users typically could save $100,000 or more per building by
avoiding fiber construction. In urban areas where companies wish to install high-speed
links between buildings in sight of each other, Kelly adds, "this could be the most
OpticAir employs the same DWDM technology now to multiply a single lightwave into
multiple wavelengths in fiber-based optical systems, and Lucent promises to deliver a
second version of OpticAir designed to deliver 2.5 gigabits per second (gbps) over each of
four wavelengths (adding up to 10gbps) by mid-2000.
Eventually the company plans to deliver 10gbps per wavelength, thereby outpacing the
capacity of current 155- to 622-megabits-per-second (mbps) digital wireless transmission
systems by a factor of 65. And unlike wireless systems, OpticAir will require no spectrum
The system includes a "telescope" transmitter-receiver that can be mounted on
rooftops or in office windows to deliver voice, data or video traffic. To answer
environmental concerns, the Telescope employs a 2-inch lens to disperse photons and lower
the density of the 1550-nanometer optical beam as it travels over the air.
Like wireless systems, WaveStar OpticAir throughput will be subject to attenuation from
fog and other atmospheric conditions. However, the company says that users will be able to
achieve 99.999 percent or greater network availability through manipulation of power,
capacity, distance, alternate paths and other factors.
Read more about:Agents
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