EU project merges mobile and optical communications

A three-year project that ended in August has yielded significant advances in the merging of mobile and optical communications.

GRENOBLE, FRANCE - A three-year project that ended in August has yielded significant advances in the merging of mobile and optical communications. Designed to tackle the dominant position of the United States and Japan in broadband microwave photonic techniques, the pan-European Network of Excellence on broadband Fiber Radio Techniques and its Integration Technologies (NEFERTITI) network has enhanced European collaboration and raised awareness of broadband microwave photonic techniques in those microwave industries that have yet to appreciate the potential impact of this relatively new technology, especially for digital and analogue applications.

“Photonics for wireless communication is a technology area with increasing importance,” said Béatrice Cabon, from the Institute of Microelectronics, Electromagnetism and Photonics (IMEP/INPG) and project coordinator of the IST-funded NEFERTITI network. “Thirty percent of the cellular in-building market is using radio-over-fiber today, and it is expected to increase to 60% before 2010.”

According to Cabon, the project created an infrastructure allowing better interaction and collaboration between European specialists in the domain of microwaves, millimeter waves and terahertz photonics, grouping together 27 academic, industrial, and research organizations. In addition several workshops, seminars, training courses, and summer/winter schools addressing broadband fiber-radio techniques were conducted, bringing together telecom operators, system integrators, component suppliers, research institutes, and universities.

“The events provided a great opportunity for industry and academia to meet and discuss the future directions of photonics for wireless communication,” Cabon said. “The events have addressed the latest developments in advanced microwave photonic component technologies and demonstrated that the ever-increasing operation frequency of advanced high-frequency microwave photonic components is enabling a variety of new applications.”

After the project ended in August, the partners continued work based on NEFERTITI’s findings. Technical work from NEFERTITI on wave detectors and optically modulable antenna coupled transmission lines, for example, will be further exploited by the Communications and Remote Sensing Laboratory, Université Catholique de Louvain, and Ghent University and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), according to Cabon.

“Thanks to research conducted within NEFERTITI, a basic measurement infrastructure project has been successfully submitted by VUB, which gives the possibility to drastically improve the measurement infrastructure in Flanders between 60 and 260 GHz,” she said.

The University Duisburg-Essen established a bilateral project with the University of Valencia addressing optical filters for microwave applications. The University of Dresden created a small national project dealing with optical signal processing in a fibre loop, which should start end of 2005. ACREO, which provides contract research and development in optics and microelectronics, intends to build a so-called excellence centre in the field of microwave photonics to coordinate the Swedish academic organisations and industries active in this field.

The NEFERTITI network will continue through the ISIS network, which aims to strengthen European scientific and technological excellence in low cost optical solutions for broadband access and further promotes the merging of wireless and photonic technologies. In addition, ISIS is intended to address broadband analogue and digital communication systems and the contribution of optical technologies (in the domain of microwave and mm-wave photonics) for future fixed and mobile broadband access.

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