Optical Wireless Security

Written by Lightpointe Communications


Network security is one ofrepparttar major concerns for any business or organization transporting sensitive and confidential information overrepparttar 139080 network. Such network security concerns involverepparttar 139081 lowest network layer, typically referred to asrepparttar 139082 physical layer (layer one), as well as higher software layers ofrepparttar 139083 networking protocols. Most ofrepparttar 139084 interception activity by outside intruders occurs within higher protocol software layers. Password protection or data encryption are examples of counter measures to protectrepparttar 139085 network from outside and unwanted tampering. Intrusion ofrepparttar 139086 physical layer itself can be another concern for network operators, although it is a far less likely target for unauthorized access to networking data. This can be a threat if information is transported over a copperbased infrastructure that can be easily intercepted, but optical wireless transmissions are amongrepparttar 139087 most secure connectivity solutions, regarding network interception ofrepparttar 139088 actual physical layer. LightPointe’s optical wireless networking equipment is based on physical layer transport. This white paper discusses security aspects involvingrepparttar 139089 physical layer.

Optical Wireless Systems and Network Security

With its cost-effective and high-bandwidth qualities, optical wireless products operating inrepparttar 139090 near infrared wavelength range are an alternative transport technology to interconnect highcapacity networking segments. These optical wireless products, based on free-space optics (FSO) technology, are license-free worldwide. Optical wireless system installations are very simple, andrepparttar 139091 equipment requires very little maintenance. These features make optical wireless solutions appealing to end-users and service providers globally. As a result,repparttar 139092 number of optical wireless system installations to for enterprise, cellular, and metropolitan area network traffic demands has increased significantly—even duringrepparttar 139093 recent telecommunications sector slowdown.

Because optical wireless systems send and receive data throughrepparttar 139094 air between remote networking locations, network operators and administrators are naturally concerned aboutrepparttar 139095 security aspects. One ofrepparttar 139096 main reasons for this concern is based onrepparttar 139097 fact that wireless networking solutions is a category in which security and interference problems are very common in radio frequency (RF) or microwave-based communication systems. Such concerns are not valid for optical wireless systems.

Optical wireless systems operate inrepparttar 139098 near infrared wavelength range slightly aboverepparttar 139099 visible spectrum. Therefore,repparttar 139100 human eye cannot visibly seerepparttar 139101 transmission beam. The wavelength range around 1 micrometer that is used in optical wireless transmission systems is actuallyrepparttar 139102 same wavelength range used in fiber-optic transmission systems. The wavelength range around 1 micrometer translates into frequencies of several hundred terahertz (THz). These frequencies are significantly (roughly three to four orders of magnitude) higher thanrepparttar 139103 highest frequencies used in commercially available microwave communications systems operating around 40 GHz. This difference in frequency of operation is one ofrepparttar 139104 main reasons why optical wireless systems belong intorepparttar 139105 equipment category of optical communication systems first rather than wireless, RF or microwave, transmission solutions. While typical RF and microwave antennas used to interconnect two remote networking locations in a point-to-point architecture spread outrepparttar 139106 radiation over angles between 5 and 25 degrees, optical wireless systems use very narrow beams that are typically much less than 0.5 degrees. For example, a radial beam pattern of 10 degrees roughly corresponds to a beam diameter of 175 meters at a distance of 1 kilometer fromrepparttar 139107 originating source, whereas a beam of 0.3 degrees divergence angle typically used in optical wireless systems corresponds to a beam diameter of 5 meters atrepparttar 139108 same distance.1 This wide spreading ofrepparttar 139109 beam in microwave systems, combined withrepparttar 139110 fact that microwave antennas launch very high power level isrepparttar 139111 primary reason for security concerns. An outside intruder can easily interceptrepparttar 139112 beam or power reflected fromrepparttar 139113 target location and pick up sensitive network information by using a “spectral scanner” tuned torepparttar 139114 specific RF or microwave transmission frequency. To overcome these security concerns,repparttar 139115 microwave industry uses wireless encryption protocols (WEP) to protectrepparttar 139116 transmission path from being intercepted. Although it is extremely unlikely that it is possible to break into a sophisticated encryption code, there is alwaysrepparttar 139117 concern that it can be done.

Optical Wireless Solutions Based on Free Space Optical (FSO) Technology

Written by Lightpointe Communications


Amidrepparttar pervasive talk aboutrepparttar 139079 promises ofrepparttar 139080 information economy, it’s easy to overlookrepparttar 139081 logistical challenges of deliveringrepparttar 139082 necessary infrastructure to ensure everyone who wants connectivity is connected—regardless of where they live. Projected growth in customer demand for bandwidth will go wanting without connectivity, andrepparttar 139083 real challenge for fully realized networks is to create connections despiterepparttar 139084 very real physical and economic obstacles presented by today’s modern cities. The rewards for providing these connections arerepparttar 139085 likelihood of recouping previous investments inrepparttar 139086 fiber-optics network core/backbone—and establishing customer reliance on high-bandwidth networks for continued economic growth.

At one point, many telecommunications industry leaders and technology observers dreamed of all-fiber networks. But this vision is impractical for several reasons. The process of laying fiber in cities is time-consuming and often prohibitively expensive. Ongoing preservation and restoration of fiber-optic systems inrepparttar 139087 event of accidental disruptions or natural disasters is also time-consuming and technically challenging, as service providers must addressrepparttar 139088 concerns of bandwidth dependent customers frustrated with every hour of lost network access.

That having been said, all-optical fiber-optic networks—with their high-bandwidth capacities—are promising. Still, a world complete with fiber connections for all is decades from reality.

Deciding how best to complete high-bandwidth connections across networks is one ofrepparttar 139089 great quandaries ofrepparttar 139090 information age, and choosing which technologies to deploy to complete network connections will depend on costs and reliability(1) A combination of high-capacity access technologies providesrepparttar 139091 most cost efficient and reliable solutions for addressing both primary connections and backhaul. For all-optical networks, fiber optics and optical wireless solutions arerepparttar 139092 only two technology choices.

(1) Source: Free Space Optics, Merrill Lynch Global Securities and Economics Group, 15 May 2001

Parallel Histories

It may seem to telecommunications carriers and industry analysts that FSO technology only recently appeared, like a beam of light, torepparttar 139093 optical communications landscape. But FSO is only new in one respect: as a market proven technology for optical wireless solutions that provide customer connectivity in private and public networks spanning more than 60 countries.

FSO technology itself is older than fiber optics. Technically, optical communications includes all forms of communications using light, including mirror signals and lighthouses, offering a rich and storied history.

The electrically powered optical technologies referred to byrepparttar 139094 term “optical” or “electro-optical” began withrepparttar 139095 introduction ofrepparttar 139096 laser in 1960, which enabledrepparttar 139097 transmission of digital information as pulses of light.


Recent developments in FSO technology target telecommunications improvements for Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs), butrepparttar 139098 technology has its roots in government applications dating back to World War I when military units and covert agencies needed secure communication systems that did not require cable and could withstand intentional interference, also known as “radio jamming”. Portability of these early FSO devices was a hallmark and made them particularly valuable to military personnel who needed secure communications equipment that was simple to set up, transmit information and move from location to location. Additional optical communications developments occurred during World War II, and post-war economic restructuring led to further telecommunications technology progress. While electronics innovations such asrepparttar 139099 transistor and integrated circuits enabled post-war telecommunications progress,repparttar 139100 laser’s launching of electro-optical communication fueled research and development of advanced optical communications usingrepparttar 139101 only medium for laser transmission available then to military and aerospace industry physicists:repparttar 139102 atmosphere, or “free space,” hencerepparttar 139103 term free-space optics. Research and application of free-space optics continues to thrive inrepparttar 139104 aerospace industry to this day for applications beyond commercial and private telecommunications networks. Today’s commercially deployed optical wireless solutions arerepparttar 139105 result of a culmination of FSO technology advancements.


After 1970,repparttar 139106 introduction ofrepparttar 139107 fiber-optic cable as optical transmitter—along withrepparttar 139108 establishment of digital technology—combined to usher in a worldwide telecommunications revolution. Key among fiber’s attributes is its immunity to electrical interference (no electricity is run throughrepparttar 139109 fibers, so fiber signals do not interfere with each other); therefore, fiber can be run in areas without regard to interference from electrical equipment. Other benefits of fiber are:

• Security. It is resistant to taps and doesn’t emit electromagnetic signals.

• Compact size. Less duct space is required for these hair-strand sized fibers.

• High-bandwidth capabilities and low attenuation. Less fading or weakening of signals occur over long distances, which means fewer amplifiers are needed to boostrepparttar 139110 optical signals.

Given these advantages, fiber-optic cable heldrepparttar 139111 promise of revolutionizingrepparttar 139112 telecommunications sector, which was eager to buildrepparttar 139113 initial fiber networks.2 The first practical fiber systems were deployed byrepparttar 139114 telephone industry in 1977 and consisted of multimode fiber. Single-mode fiber, a more recent development, was first installed by MCI in a long-haul network system that went into service in 1983.3 The result of fiber-optic cable deployment is an extensive network of fiber crisscrossingrepparttar 139115 land. Duringrepparttar 139116 1990s,repparttar 139117 telecommunications network capacities grew nearly 10 times as much asrepparttar 139118 traffic itself, with most ofrepparttar 139119 bandwidth concentrated in dark fibers alongrepparttar 139120 network backbone often inaccessible torepparttar 139121 end-user.5 The massive investment to put optical capacity inrepparttar 139122 long-haul telecommunications network backbone looks relatively simple compared with today’s metropolitan network challenges.

Beginning in 2000, carriers intensified their focus to building fiber-optic cable connections betweenrepparttar 139123 United States’ 25 largest metropolitan areas torepparttar 139124 nation’s long haul backbone networks. This network gap is often calledrepparttar 139125 “last mile,” where only 7 percent to 10 percent of end-users have access to fiber. “Routes in cities typically run to incumbent telephone company central offices and carrier hotels, which often are clustered together inrepparttar 139126 same areas, frequently near AT&T’s switches.

From there, they have runs to customers, data centers, Internet service providers and application service providers.”5 While this network configuration sounds relatively simple,repparttar 139127 logistics of laying fiber connections in metropolitan areas are quite complicated and time-consuming. The expense of construction and right-of-way permits for laying fiber often amounts to 20 percent ofrepparttar 139128 cost of building fiber routes for networks. Moreover,repparttar 139129 convoluted process of obtaining permits can delay projects for 12 months to 16 months or longer. Metropolitan landscapes, with their busy streets, politically powerful neighborhoods, historic districts, and public works bureaucracies makerepparttar 139130 permit process more complex to navigate than those in suburban and rural long-haul network routes.6 Time delays can be created by municipal public works departments whose staff members feel a responsibility to protect public investments in road surfaces, water mains and gas lines, plus quality of life concerns regarding noise, dust and traffic disruption during construction projects to lay fiber.

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