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Where is the Telecommunications Industry Headed?

19th Aug 2019

Across the world, we have an insatiable appetite for new technologies. We are always on the go; continually developing, researching and pushing the boundaries of what is possible when it comes to digitalisation. Moreover, when breakthroughs are achieved, we relentlessly aim to make them better; whether it’s improving speed and efficiency or making them more user- and eco-friendly.

Time moves fast when it comes to technological developments, and the telecommunications industry is no exception. If you look back at mobile telecommunication milestones over the years, the results are astounding. It’s shocking to think that a mere three decades ago, the first generation of wireless technology (1G) had just hit the headlines, and considering we are now entering the fifth generation of wireless technology (only 10 years after the first commercial launch of 4G), the telecommunications industry could be turning to 6G sooner than we think. In fact, it has been reported that researchers are already looking to the future and have started investigating what 6G could look like1.

So, why the need for change, and why does the industry appear to be moving at the speed of light?

Everything is Connected

Nowadays, our phones and PCs aren’t the only devices that require connectivity. The concept of smart cities is slowly seeing everyday objects connecting to the internet. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor-based technology, our infrastructure is improving. Not only has IoT enabled the smart home movement, but it has also made the integration of smart cities possible. Connectivity allows sensors to inspect the safety of metropolises; for example, to monitor road degradation, bridge safety and rail decay.

With more and more connectivity and data transfer required, faster speed and additional capacity are imperative to keep up with the ever-evolving nature of technologies, and 5G is essential in driving smart cities forward.

With 5G-enabled smart cities, we will witness an exponential spike in:

  • Connected homes
  • Connected industries, such as agriculture
  • Connected cars
  • Enhanced gaming
  • Faster streaming and broadcasting
  • Immersive education
  • Enhanced data storage.

Communications in a New Light

Emerging optical communication technologies are assisting in next-generation wireless networks such as 5G, and with demand for data services increasing by the day, researchers are looking to photonics-based solutions to keep up with demand. Perhaps the more well-known method of optical communication amongst consumers is fibre optics, offered by many renowned service providers across the UK, and recognised for its faster-than-ever broadband speeds.

However, there are alternative approaches to optical communication to consider too. One example has recently been announced in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where one start-up is set to use laser-based free-space optics (FSO) for 5G communications in an industry-first for the telecoms industry. The firm’s laser technology has been altered to create a “more intense, more focused technique” of transmitting data via FSO2.

Free-Space Optical Communication

While visible light, microwaves, infrared and radio waves can all be used for communication, the latter has been more popular in past years for its wireless features; however, interference and an overcrowded band has resulted in new methods being explored.

Although radio technology is still used today, optical communication technologies have become most significant for the high-speed transport of large amounts of data. FSO is one example that has been noted as a cost-effective technique as it eliminates the need of laying fibre-optic cables — although the concept of transferring data via light remains the same. The difference between using fibre optic transmission and FSO is that the energy beam is collimated and sent through the air rather than directed through an optical fibre.

The line-of-sight technology is also documented as a more secure process of wireless communications compared to radiofrequency (RF) methods, due to its low probability of intercept (LPI) qualities; meaning the beams emitted from FSO technology cannot be detected with spectrum analysers or RF meters.

A Bright Future for Optics

Clearly, optical components are an integral part of FSO — from lenses for collimation to mirrors used to reflect energy. Such confidence has been displayed surrounding the prospect of using FSO to transfer data, video or voice communications, and Knight Optical looks forward to continuing playing its role in the telecommunications revolution.

Custom-Made Optical Components for the Telecommunications Industry

Knight Optical is a world-leading name in optical components, offering a range of precision optics for innovations within the telecommunications sector; all of which can be customised by our optical specialists to meet the unique needs of the application and requirements sought.

We provide an assured guarantee that all optical components for telecoms-related purposes are fully compliant with specification and comply with all regional quality and legislative standards. This guarantee comes courtesy of our ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 UKAS accreditation together with our state-of-the-art in-house Metrology Laboratory and team of dedicated quality assurance experts, all widely respected for their extensive experience and skill.

For tailored advice on optical components for the telecommunications industry from our multilingual team, please call +44 01622 85944 (UK & ROW), +1 401-583-7846 (USA & Canada), or email us at [email protected].