The technology that uses parallel radio and laser links to move data through the air at high speeds, in wireless hops of up to 10 kilometres at a time. It is being trailed by three of the largest US Internet carriers and is being rolled out by one telecommunications provider in Mexico, and another in Nigeria.
AOptix, the company behind the technology, claims the system is cheaper and more practical alternative to laying new fibre optic cables because it does not require trenches to install fibre in urban areas.
However, it does face significant bureaucratic and physical challenges and because of its bandwidth is being seen as particularly attractive to wireless carriers.
According to MIT Review, the technology takes the form of a box with an infrared laser and a directional millimetre wave radio beside it. The two technologies form a wireless link with an identical box up to 10 kilometers away. A series of such connections can be daisy-chained together to make a link of any length.
It fixes the two problems associated with laser and radio. Laser beams are blocked by fog, while millimetre wave radio signals are absorbed by rain. Routing data over both simultaneously provides redundancy that allows an AOptix link to guarantee a rate of two gigabits per second with only five minutes or less downtime in a year, whatever the weather.
While fibre connection might be 10 or more times faster than that, due to the limitations of the radio frequency link. However, AOptix says the convenience of its technology makes up for that, and it could be increased to four gigabits or more in the future.
The radio and laser equipment inside an AOptix device move automatically to compensate for the swaying of a cell tower caused by wind.