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A review of communication-oriented optical wireless systems

Deva K Borah1, Anthony C Boucouvalas2, Christopher C Davis3, Steve Hranilovic4 and Konstantinos Yiannopoulos5*

Author Affiliations

1 Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, USA

2 Department of Telecommunications Science and Technology, University of Peloponnese, Tripoli, Greece

3 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

4 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada

5 Department of Telecommunications Science and Technology, University of Peloponnese, Tripoli, Greece

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EURASIP Journal on Wireless Communications and Networking 2012, 2012:91  doi:10.1186/1687-1499-2012-91

Published: 7 March 2012


This article presents an overview of optical wireless (OW) communication systems that operate both in the short- (personal and indoor systems) and the long-range (outdoor and hybrid) regimes. Each of these areas is discussed in terms of (a) key requirements, (b) their application framework, (c) major impairments and applicable mitigation techniques, and (d) current and/or future trends. Personal communication systems are discussed within the context of point-to-point ultra-high speed data transfer. The most relevant application framework and related standards are presented, including the next generation Giga-IR standard that extends personal communication speeds to over 1 Gb/s. As far as indoor systems are concerned, emphasis is given on modeling the dispersive nature of indoor OW channels, on the limitations that dispersion imposes on user mobility and dispersion mitigation techniques. Visible light communication systems, which provide both illumination and communication over visible or hybrid visible/infrared LEDs, are presented as the most important representative of future indoor OW systems. The discussion on outdoor systems focuses on the impact of atmospheric effects on the optical channel and associated mitigation techniques that extend the realizable link lengths and transfer rates. Currently, outdoor OW is commercially available at 10 Gb/s Ethernet speeds for Metro networks and Local-Area-Network interconnections and speeds are expected to increase as faster and more reliable optical components become available. This article concludes with hybrid optical wireless/radio-frequency (OW/RF) systems that employ an additional RF link to improve the overall system reliability. Emphasis is given on cooperation techniques between the reliable RF subsystem and the broadband OW system.

optical wireless; personal communication systems; indoor systems; outdoor systems; hybrid OW/RF systems