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Laser amplified network sent data over 37 miles along fiber cable

The digital divide in America is significant when comparing the availability of high speed internet access in urban portions of America to those of rural America. The same digital divide exists in many other countries as well and a big push is underway around the world to reduce and eliminate this divide.

Dr. Ka Lun Lee and other researchers at the University of Melbourne and NEC Australia are experimenting with a new way to boost the reach of broadband using existing technologies. The researchers have discovered a method that will be able to cheaply cover 99% of people living within the Victoria province of Australia.

People who live close to cities can choose from DSL and cable broadband sources, but those living in rural areas often only have fixed wireless or satellite broadband to choose from, both of which are less reliable than DSL or cable and cost more. The high cost means that many rural dwellers can’t afford broadband.

The researchers have developed a method to boost the distance that gigabit passive optical networks (GPON), like those used by Verizon's FiOS network, to provide high bit rates over long distances. Lee says that the roughly 19 miles that GPON networks are capable of reaching now would still leave many rural locations in Victoria without coverage. He and his team have conducted experiments using a device called a Raman amplifier to send signals over 37 miles.

The amplifier is a powerful laser that is installed in the central office of a network provider and feeds the optical signal that carries information with energy as it heads out over fiber optic cables. The laser is able to increase the reach of the broadband signal by a factor of close to ten times.

In experiments, the team of researchers was able to build a mock system with a signal transmitter, simulated splitter, and a receiver at the other end. The experimental setup was able to transmit error free data at a speed of 2.5Gb/s over single mode fiber 37 miles long.

Lee estimates that a distance of 37 miles would allow the existing central offices of providers to service 99% of those living within the Victoria province. Not only would rural customers be able to access broadband data speeds, Lee says that the technology could also help urban areas as well.

By increasing the distance that a central station can send data, fewer central offices would be needed and a provider could close some offices and would need less real estate to set up a network.

The new system isn’t without drawbacks though. Lee says that the significantly increased strength of the amplified signal would require additional safety measures and careful inspection of fiber cabling for breaks.

Lee said in a statement, "We have proven that long-reach PON is cost-competitive with other broadband technologies in rural areas and can easily provide much higher access speeds."

Lee believes that this technology could also be used in the U.S. and that the team will be investigating ways to enhance system performance and constructing a prototype network.

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10 times his imagination?
By toyotabedzrock on 3/18/2009 9:25:03 PM , Rating: 2
It says "The laser is able to increase the reach of the broadband signal by a factor of close to ten times."

So how does increasing the range from 19 to 37 miles equal a factor of 10 increase?

RE: 10 times his imagination?
By atlmann10 on 3/19/2009 12:15:21 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking. I think the point is this, if the could extended the data path to that length I would imagine they could build a sudo hub at the end of it say 36.5-37 miles out. Kind of like a cable terminal in a neighborhood, except I would imagine they would want a piece of equipment like this under a building or at least under ground in a thick sealed enclosure. Rather than having to use that 50 coaxial to cover the US you could use far less terminals and the range and throughput levels would be considerably higher. Then like someone else said copper to the house from the line. So Comcast or Verizon could blanket with less repeater terminals and considerably less maintenance w/a higher return in data availability. I think repeater terminal have to be every .33 of a mile, and major terminals roughly every 3 miles plus all the maintenance that goes with it. So in the end it would be cheaper for the companies to maintain and more could travel over the wire to more customers with a higher bit rate up and down. In the end it equals more ground at a lower price for large data distribution conglomerates, therefore more customers equaling more money.

RE: 10 times his imagination?
By FredEx on 3/21/2009 6:14:01 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps it could increase the signal reach by a factor of 10. They only said they tested it in a 37 mile fiber and that 37 miles would be enough to get service to 99% of the households in Victoria. They never said that was the limitation of the set-up.

There could be other factors afoot as to why just 37 miles besides for them it being good enough to cover 99%. There could be a cost break over. Going past that the cost could exceed the benefit and the safety of the system could be a factor too. Longer distance would mean possibly more powerful and costly lasers and increased safety issues making it not worth it at this time.

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