Free Space Optics

What Does Free Space Optics Mean?

Free space optics is an optical communication technology using light propagating in free space to transmit data between two different points. It is used in conditions where fiber optic cable connections cannot be used because of high costs.


Free space optics is a fiberless, laser-driven technology supporting high bandwidth along with easy to install connections. The light pulses are transmitted through the atmosphere in small conical-shaped beams using low-powered lasers.

The most important advantages of using free space optics are a high bit rate, low bit error rates, license-free long range operations and immunity to electromagnetic interference.

Techopedia Explains Free Space Optics

Free space optic installations require line of sight availability between laser units and are referred to as link heads. Preinstallation site evaluation is performed to ensure that paths between free space optic units are clear. The vendors of free space optic systems provide products operating in the physical, data link or network layers of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) Model. These products allow protocols running on fiber-based installations to run on free space optic systems, including the ability to map T1 onto links. Systems including network layer operability use routers to segment the free space optic links.

Applications of free space optics include LAN to LAN connections on campuses and cities, crossing public roads or barriers not owned by the sender and receiver, speedy service delivery of high bandwidth access to optical fiber networks, converged voice data connection, inter and intra chip communication and communication between spacecrafts.


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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.