Once in a while we find ourselves writing about topics which are relatively new to us.
My comfort zone as an author is RF engineering but suddenly it seems that free space optical wireless is becoming important in space and terrestrial networks.
Counter intuitively this became obvious when looking at the economics of subsea fibre prompted by the commissioning of the new Dunant subsea cable connecting Virginia Beach in the US and St Hilair de Riez on the French Atlantic coast.
The cable is claimed to be the first long distance (intercontinental) link to use space division multiplexing (SDM) supporting a data rate of 25 Tbps per fibre pair. Given that future cables are planned to have 24 fibre pairs then this implies a cable throughput capability of 500 Tbps.
In parallel I was reading a comment from Elon Musk about moving the internet into space.
Give that there are hundreds of subsea cables already deployed, there would appear to be plenty of long distance bandwidth already available so the idea of using space as an intercontinental routing option seems hard to comprehend.
However coupling photonic networks in space to terrestrial and subsea fibre via optical uplinks and downlinks could be a faster more secure more energy efficient more environmentally efficient more cost efficient way to deliver global data.
If you are interested in the economics of space photonics and the integration of space and terrestrial RF and optical networks you can read more in our monthly post
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