University brains developing hybrid network

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are working on a hybrid network that could carry both wired and wireless signals on a single optical fiber. The benefit for enterprise customers would be increased availability of high-speed wired and wireless services -- including video, corporate applications and broadband Internet access -- at conference centers, airports, hotels, and eventually small offices.

The hybrid network would split into two components the signals being carried on optical fiber into a building. One component would be accessed through standard wall outlets, using a low-cost receiver and optical filter. The other would be picked up by high-speed receivers built into the ceilings of rooms and transmitted wirelessly at between 40- and 60-GHz.

Either way, end users would receive data at rates of up to 2.5Gbps. And the network would be able to take advantage of wave division multiplexing to carry as many as 32 different channels, each delivering 2.5Gbps.

Of course, there are still issues to be ironed out, such as reducing the high cost of components and developing more efficient antenna to deal with in-building interference. But researchers predict that optical-wireless access networks will be deployed within five to seven years.