NWO perspective program optical wireless superhighways

10 March 2021

Building communication links with the tremendous capacity of a fiber, without needing a fiber.

The 5.1M€ NWO perspective program will run for 5 years, accommodating 14 PhD students and Postdocs. Like the Netherlands has been the cradle for WiFi (pioneered at WCND in Nieuwegein) and for Bluetooth (by Ericsson in Emmen), the program has the ambition to put the Netherlands again at the forefront of wireless communication, by this new powerful optical wireless beam-steered communication technology.

The application domains range from ultra-long reach (e.g., inter-satellite, ground-to-satellite, airplane-to-satellite), medium-range (outdoor like for instance between tall buildings, 5G+ masts), to short-reach (indoor like for instance inside homes, class rooms, exhibition halls, conference halls, and aircraft cabins). In comparison to fiber links, optical beams not only offer more capacity, but also have less latency (i.e. less propagation time) which amongst others benefits machine-to-machine communication. They do not need an expensive infrastructure and offer freedom of movement. Furthermore no radio spectrum licensing is required.

Within the program, key techniques for the wide range of applications will be investigated, such as techniques for dynamic beam steering, wide aperture broadband beam reception, user terminal localization, outdoor reliable communication links affected by environmental turbulence, resilient free-space networking, etc.

This new Perspective program is a cooperation of the academic partners TU Delft (program leader prof. Eberhard Gil c.s.), Eindhoven University of Technology (co-leader prof. Ton Koonen c.s.), University of Twente (prof. Pepijn Pinkse c.s.), Leiden University (prof. Niek Doelman c.s.), and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (prof. Visser c.s.). Also involved in this cooperation are a range of institutes and industrial partners. Next to our Institute for Photonic Integration, TNO, ESA, Dutch Optics Centre are involved, and many industries, among which Signify, EFFECT Photonics, Aircision, LioniX, VTEC, Airbus.