The Center for Optical Wireless Applications (COWA), a National Science Foundation-funded collaboration between Penn State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology is working with partnerships within the industry to develop a new generation of wireless alternatives.
The current bandwidth allocated for mobile applications is getting too crowded resulting in spectrum crunch. One option to resolve spectrum crunch is to a higher frequency. Mohsen Kavehrad, COWA Director and W.L. Weiss Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering at Penn State, states that transmissions at higher frequencies don’t travel as far or survive as long bouncing off ridges and buildings –known as path loss and it leads to weaker signals.
In some locations like sitting on a plane in a close environment or in a coffee shop, Wi-Fi services could be moved up to a frequency the requires line-of-sight where more bandwidth is available. Kavehrad says “If I have to rely on line-of-sight, I might as well go to extremely high frequency. I might as well transmit using optical wavelengths: infrared, or even visible light.” Today’s vast fiberoptic communication networks are based on pulse light transmitted via glass fibers. Optical wireless technology is based on the same principles, except that the data-laden beams of light are transmitted through the air.