ET Bureau: What future do you foresee considering the optical wireless communication in the years to come?
Barry A. Matsumori: Forecasting the future is always challenging, but some aspects are clear regarding wireless solutions.
- Usable RF spectrum is limited. Dynamic spectrum sharing is an example of how a good spectrum is being optimized.
- More throughput at rates above 10s of gigabits to 100 plus gigabits depending on the application, are already recognized as needed.
- Security of signal continues to be of concern, and certain sectors have strict requirements.
These factors can be satisfied by OWC, but with a bit more capability required. Point to multipoint capability is needed to cover the breadth of applications for ground, air, and space communications; otherwise, the solution set addressable will be limited with a point to point the only system.
ET Bureau: According to you, what is the biggest roadblock when it comes to the adoption of optical wireless communication technology?
Barry A. Matsumori: A clarification in that OWC has been adopted in certain sectors already. For example, space to ground links has already been done by JAXA (Japan), NASA, and DLR (Germany). A further example is the current set of LEO constellations that have incorporated or will incorporate Optical Inter Satellite Links for developing a relay system on orbit.
Read More: Agile challenges For Scaling an ERP Project
The question addresses the broader adoption in both government and commercial markets for such initiatives, such as 5G. There are several roadblocks, and they are based on historical events. In the early 2000s, companies such as AirFiber and Terabeam were closed after large-scale investments. Regardless of the many factors for closure, Dotcom was a principle factor. Another program that affected the future acceptance of OWC was TSAT for the US Gov’t in the late 2000s. These examples were large in scale and have affected the current thinking of OWC.
Further, the limitations that existed for OWC are not as broad as in the past due to new techniques for addressing environmental attenuation. Computational power has increased and allowed for better error correction. Additionally, capabilities such as point to multipoint now exist and dramatically increase the application space.
ET Bureau: Do you think that the space-based optical communication systems are poised to take a breakthrough role in commercial SmallSat missions? If yes, how?
Barry A. Matsumori: The space-based OWC systems have somewhat made a breakthrough already. As mentioned above, the LEO constellations for both commercial and US government predominantly intend to have OWC links. In consideration, the various lunar missions are taking an OWC-based system into account as large bandwidths are needed to support the data needs. The next step is to bring OWC to airborne and ground applications.
ET Bureau: What is the biggest factor for the fast-paced digital transformation efforts of enterprises during the pandemic? And has the pandemic pushed the need for optical wireless communication as well?
Barry A. Matsumori: Regarding the biggest factor for digital transformation during the pandemic, it could be suggested that the requirement for virtualization has accelerated the drive for digital transformation. Broader and more capable communications networks supporting distributed data systems that need to be synchronized drives this acceleration. Regardless of the remote work factor that the pandemic has driven, geographically dispersed locations for operations and development centers are the norm for most corporations. By framing this concept more broadly, supply chains need the same connectivity as corporations do to ensure the continual flow of product that meets common system designs and production flows.
Read More: Debunking the distrust around AI tech
The pandemic has slowed the execution of programs and downsized certain industries, but the complexity factor has only been increased in the process.
Regarding OWC, with those more-demanding connectivity requirements, the need for more speed, capacity, and security in communication systems has only increased. Some programs for deployment may have been delayed, but those delays did not lessen the requirements. Going forward, it’s difficult to imagine large-scale communication systems that do not include OWC as part of a hybrid of solutions assembled to tailor a solution to a given application.
Barry A. Matsumori is CEO of BridgeComm, Inc. His background in the mobile wireless and Space 2.0 sectors spans numerous leadership roles, including serving as senior vice president of business development and advanced concepts at Virgin Orbit, senior vice president of sales and business development at SpaceX, and nearly two decades at Qualcomm. He has also worked with several early-stage technology companies in development and management capacities. Barry earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Arizona.