Besides carrying digital data, optical fibers can also transmit radio signals for wireless communication.
So-called "radio-over-fiber" technology has been used to provide access to radio dead zones, but new research is looking into using this technology to broadcast wireless closer to home.
Radio over fiber (RoF) modulates an optical wavelength in the fiber with a radio signal. This solves the attenuation problem during transport of the signal, while allowing the centralization of signal generation and processing equipment. A wireless signal can be simply relayed down the fiber to remote antennas that cost relatively little to install and should be immune to upgrades. RoF is already being used to transmit wireless signals into hard to reach areas like tunnels and stadiums.
In his talk, Mikhail Popov of Acreo AB in Sweden reviews options for taking RoF into homes and buildings along the optical access (PON) infrastructure, as part of a general trend toward merging wired and wireless communication. Fiber in this case would already be carrying Internet traffic, but it could also carry cell phone conversations transmitted over a remote antenna installed in the premises. In a multi-user scenario, the radio signals would pass directly onto the fiber without any processing. However, for a single home, it would make more sense to set up a "femtonode" that converts the radio waves from wireless devices into Internet data and uses the home Internet connection to connect to other mobile users. In any case, this network sharing could provide indoor wireless coverage at a fraction of the cost of relying solely on outdoor base stations, Popov says.
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