Your next home network might feature lasers


Trying to work out whether ethernet, powerlines or wireless is the way forward for reducing your ping time? They're so old fashioned you might as well be playing by mail. In the not too distant future we're going to be gaming by laser.

Or at least, we will if Researchers at Taiwan's National Taipei University of Technology have their way. They've been working on ways to connect PC to router using lasers, and have discovered that they can create faster-than-WiFi optical links using the kinds of laser pointers you get free in a Christmas cracker.

The scientists achieved 500Mbps transfer speeds over a 10m range by basically turning a pair of green and red laser pointers on an off very quickly using a modified power source. In the paper, published in Optics Express , there's no discussion of how many cats were driven insane trying to chase these optical blips, but head boffin Hai-Han Lu did tell New Scientist that the equipment was relatively easy to reproduce at home.

Optical networking has been used to connect buildings together for some time, but it's generally very expensive and requires a lot of maintenance. One key problem, of course, is that it requires line of sight to work – there's an almost certainly apocryphal story about a Future Publishing (our parent company) magazine which missed its print deadline as a result of pigeons flying between the mag office and the IT department HQ on the other side of Bath.

Still, if a laser guided network isn't enough to make you put up with the mild inconvenience of sitting still for a bit, perhaps the other interesting network technology of the week is right for you. Asheridge Communications is sending one of their new 'echoBox' adaptors into the PCG Labs for testing next week, which taps into spare bandwidth on your TV aerial for file transfers. Aimed specifically at gamers, Asheridge reckons that the quality of the coax cabling from roof to TV is some of the best in your house, and is wasted carrying around nothing more complex than the latest issue of Casualty. They claim consistent transfer speeds of around 135Mbps – not quite laser standards, but better than most WiFi.

I'll be testing echoBox next week, lasers probably a long time after that.

(Lasers via New Scientist )