Most fiber connections offer far greater bandwidth than microwave links. One reason is that fiber uses light instead of the much longer wavelength employed in microwave radio systems. What if it were possible to use light to send data between satellites, instead of relying on scarce microwave frequencies? That’s exactly what researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology demonstrated by establishing a laser link between German satellite TerraSAR-X and the U.S. satellite NFIRE over a distance in space of more than 5,000 kilometers. Data was transferred without any errors. The Fraunhofer Institute research news article Satellite communications by laser said the data was exchanged at data rates 100 times greater than could be achieved using radio frequencies.
Another advantage to using lasers instead of RF is laser beams can be more tightly focused, reducing interference and the chance of interception. While the article focuses on communication between satellites, it appears the technology may have some use in terrestrial links as well.
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Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. As vice president of Broadcast Technology for NBCUniversal Local, H. Douglas Lung leads NBC and Telemundo-owned stations’ RF and transmission affairs, including microwave, radars, satellite uplinks, and FCC technical filings. Beginning his career in 1976 at KSCI in Los Angeles, Lung has nearly 50 years of experience in broadcast television engineering. Beginning in 1985, he led the engineering department for what was to become the Telemundo network and station group, assisting in the design, construction and installation of the company’s broadcast and cable facilities. Other projects include work on the launch of Hawaii’s first UHF TV station, the rollout and testing of the ATSC mobile-handheld standard, and software development related to the incentive auction TV spectrum repack.
A longtime columnist for TV Technology, Doug is also a regular contributor to IEEE Broadcast Technology. He is the recipient of the 2023 NAB Television Engineering Award. He also received a Tech Leadership Award from TV Tech publisher Future plc in 2021 and is a member of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society and the Society of Broadcast Engineers.