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We have all experienced a bad internet connection from time to time. While not being able to stream TikTok videos from everywhere isn’t the end of the world, those in rural areas can experience a bad connection for everyday tasks. This will change in the coming years because of new internet connections through wireless optic signals. The Eindhoven based company Aircision and TNO have successfully tested such a connection over a 2.5 KM distance.

The technology is Free Space Optic (FSO) systems, which have the potential to make 5G and broadband networks stronger and more accessible. FSO uses light to transmit data. TNO have previous experience using the technology for satellite communications.

Download a movie in 30 seconds from the middle of nowhere

In their test, Aircision and TNO made a stable connection of 10 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps). This is fast enough for an individual to download a 4K movie in 30 seconds. The tests were conducted between the Tower in the TNO Oude Waalsdorperweg facility in the Hague and the Luchtwachttoren in Scheveningen. This shows the ability of FSO to reach more rural areas.

“This is an important step in our efforts to build systems that can deliver 100 Gbps over a distance of 10 kilometers,” said Luis Oliveira, CEO of Aircision. “By demonstrating that our technology works at 10 Gbps and 2.5 kilometers, we are well on our way to exceeding the technical specifications of current solutions.”

The trouble with cables

The Netherlands is very well connected already. We get our internet mainly through a network of cables. This works well in the typically flat Dutch landscape. However, it is not perfect – as residents in Roosendal might attest to. They have the slowest connection in the country with an average of 51.7 mbit per second. And broadband cables everywhere are still susceptible to floods, cyberattacks and human error.

At the same time, developments in AI, quantum computing and e-health, mean a growing need for faster internet that can also process larger amounts of data. The promise of FSO is to have super-fast connections everywhere without the same drawbacks of cables.

New possibilities

This test opens up new doors, such as the expansion of 4G and 5G in rural areas or 5G business networks. It is also in line with the European Commission’s commitment to fast internet for all. The next test is to establish a data connection with a speed of 20Gbps over 5 kilometers. This will be field tested by the end of this year. Commercial pilots are planned for 2022.