The exploding need for in-door wireless communication capacity is getting beyond the capabilities of traditional radio techniques. The available radio bandwidth gets exhausted, wireless devices start interfering with each other in this overcrowded radio spectrum, and high-capacity radio is consuming increasing amounts of power. Optics can offer a breakthrough, by means of the huge bandwidth of its spectrum, together with intelligent networking.
In a five-year frontier research project funded in the FP7 Ideas programme of the European Research Council, we aim to create this breakthrough by a revolutionary combination of novel techniques: a multitude of dynamically-steered free-space optical beams, an intelligently routed optical fibre network backbone, flexible radio communication techniques, and intelligent heterogeneous network management. This hybrid network concept will increase the available wireless bandwidth by several orders of magnitude, while improving energy-efficiency. The optical beam communication techniques will be combined with intelligent optical signal routing techniques in the fibre backbone network to optimize the end-to-end network performance, and with advanced low-power highly-integrated radio techniques for upstream communication which will also provide for user localisation and tracking capabilities, in order to deliver ultra-broadband services to every user, tailored for their device. Advanced network management and control functions are needed in order to make the heterogeneous physical layer entities working together in a well-coordinated way and to make them adapting dynamically to the needs of the users and of the environment.