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Optical Vs Wireless | Difference between Optical Communication and Wireless Communication

This page compares Optical Communication vs Wireless Communication and mentions difference between Optical Communication and Wireless Communication.

Optical Communication

fiber optic communication tutorial

The type of communication which uses light as medium of communication is known as optical communication. Light is an electro-magnetic signal like radio waves. It can be modulated by information and transmitted over fiber optic cable.

As frequency of light is extremely high, it can accommodate very wide bandwidths of information. This results into support for high data rates with excellent reliability.

The figure-1 depicts typical fiber optic communication system. Following steps describe the data flow through optical communication system.
• Step-1: The information (voice, video, data) to be transmitted will be converted into the form compliant to medium. Appropriate coder or converter is used for this purpose which converts analog signals into digital pulses. A/D converter can be used for this. The computer data can already be in the digital form.
• Step-2: The optical transmitter device (such as LED ) is used to flash light source ON and OFF based on digital pulses. Infrared beams are also used in the transmission of information. The other optical transmitter device is solid state laser.
• Step-3: The light beams are fed appropriately into fiber optic cable so that it can be transmitted over long distances.
• Step-4: At the receiving end, optical receiver devices such as photocell or light detector is used to detect light pulses. This devices convert electrical pulses into electrical signal. Amplifier is used to amplify and reshape the signal back to digital form.
• Step-5: The digital pulses are fed to decoder which coverts digital pulses into voice/video form. D/A converter is used for this purpose.
• To support long distances optical repeaters are used along the path of fiber optic chain.
Refer advantages and disadvantages of fiber optic system>>.

Wireless Communication

wireless communication

The type of communication which uses Electro-Magnetic waves as medium of communication is known as wireless communication. It uses different frequency bands based on distance coverage and terrain requirements. Various types of modulation schemes are used which helps in achieving different bandwidth/data rate.

There are different types of wireless communication which include satellite communication, microwave line of sight communication, cellular communication (GSM, CDMA, LTE etc.), short range wireless communication (WLAN, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Zwave, LoRaWAN etc.).
Refer Advantages and disadvantages of wireless communication, What is Wireless , wireless system basics and wireless propagation modes.

Following table summarizes comparison between optical vs wireless communication types.


Specifications Optical Communication Wireless Communication
Mode of data transport and devices used for it Light using optical transmitter (LED, Laser diode) and receiver (photo diode) EM waves using antennas at both transmit and receive end
Data capacity Unlimited It has become to have capcity in units of Gbps due to advent of wireless technologies such as LTE, LTE-Advanced, WLAN (11ac/11ad) etc.
Deployment time Depends on distance to be covered using fiber optic cable Quick
Deployment in terrain or hilly region Difficult Easy as just antennas and equipments are required to be installed
Relocation Fiber optic cable after deployment can not be reused and difficult to relocate to other places It is easy to dismantle and install the equipments at other places
Effect of Channel (i.e. travel during environment) No, as light travels within the fiber optic cable Yes, as electro-magnetic waves travels in the open air from one station to the other

There is a technology emerging which utilizes benefits of both optical and wireless communications and known as Optical Wireless Communication>>.

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