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FSO start-up targets Middle East

Freewire Communications, a start-up employing free space optics (FSO) technology originally developed by the Soviet military and space agency, has begun targeting the telecoms market in the Middle East and Africa.

Freewire Communications, a start-up employing free space optics (FSO) technology originally developed by the Soviet military and space agency, has begun targeting the telecoms market in the Middle East and Africa.

After recently changing its name from Sceptre Communications, the UK-based Freewire has just formed a partnership with wireless infrastructure solutions provider, Alan Dick & Co., to distribute and promote its products in the region, as well as other areas.

Freewire's system which, paying homage to its Russian roots, includes a scope from a Kalashnikov rifle for line of sight functions, transmits data via light emitting diodes (LEDs) rather than lasers, the stock FSO approach.

Although it is generally accepted that this method limits the distance of high-speed connections and the bandwidth that is available, and while other FSO vendors are only tentatively studying LEDs, Freewire claims the technology will have a role to play in the region within carriers' networks and the enterprise market.

"The company is very small and only starting to move into the marketplace," says Stephen Stretton, business development manager, Freewire.

Despite the distance limitations, Freewire is promoting the system as more reliable than its laser-based counterparts because an LED's beam spreads across a wider area and is less likely to be cut off by changes to its alignment.

The vendor also claims to own patented 'multiple-wavelength' LED technology, which it says can keep links running in bad weather and adverse conditions.

"We're targeting 3G backhaul and DSL extensions, as well as company's virtual private networks (VPNs)," Stretton says.

"It's a complementary technology - it doesn't replace fibre or microwave because it only goes a short distance and [there are] certain capacity constraints. [But] its guaranteed lifespan is 28 years and the maintenance costs are next to nothing," he adds.

Although the vendor is yet to secure any deployments in the region, its technology is currently being tested by MTC-Vodafone, the Kuwaiti mobile operator, claims Stretton.

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