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Single-photon detectors used in free space communication

The increase in demand of high speed internet, video conferencing, live streaming, real-time imagery, and information technologies in general, put a strain on the current satellite communication systems based on radio frequencies.

Optical technology has been considered as an alternative that can significantly improve the performance of free-space communication systems (such as radio-based communication) due to its advanced state. Indeed, national laboratories and industry have focused their efforts towards the development and commercialization of free-space optical (FSO) systems.

Among the advantages offered by FSO systems are: a higher operating frequency than radio systems, providing an increment in the channel capacity or data rate.(The data rates provided by FSO communication can range between 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps). Another advantage is that FSO communication operates at smaller wavelengths than radio communication, resulting in a beam with lower divergence, and hence providing higher precision and intensity for a given transmitted power.

Furthermore, FSO systems offer absence of interference between different data links allowing for a large number of channels. Optical systems are typically low cost, reliable, have little power demand, and they are available in compact sizes, all desirable qualities for system components.

FSO systems are composed of three main elements: emitter (laser), a receiver (detector), and an unobstructed line of sight between the two (communication channel) through which optical signals are sent. FSO communication systems can be used in scenarios such as satellite communication, military applications, last mile access, intra-campus communication, disaster recovery, etc.

FSO communication, however, also faces technical challenges. Discover in this white paper advantages of single photon detectors used in free space communication.