Higher bandwidth - through the air

Networking giant Lucent Technologies announced Wednesday an alternative system for high-speed Net access. Based on light beams, the system will carry Internet traffic through the air.

Dubbed WaveStar OpticAir, the system uses lasers, amplifiers and receivers placed on rooftops or window ledges and is designed for cities and campuses where cable laying is impractical.

Based on DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplexing) technology, the system will transmit up to 10GB per second -- that's 15 CD ROMs worth through the air in less than a second. It will be 65 times faster than via radio frequencies.

Like other wireless solutions though, Lucent's solution has little stamina. Three miles is the farthest the light beams will reach and a clear line-of-sight is required between transmitter and receiver.

Fibre-optic firm Global Crossing will be the first to test the system in December and Lucent reckons it will be commercially available by March 2000.

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