KAUST pioneers high-speed wireless data transmission, advancing communication infrastructure in the Kingdom.

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KAUST Successfully Tests High-Speed Data Transmission System Based on Laser-Optical Technology

Communication experts from KAUST and Taara from X Corporation have successfully tested a high-speed data transmission system based on laser-optical technology in the Red Sea in the Kingdom. It is a promising step towards full digital data packet connectivity across all regions of the Kingdom at high speed and low cost.

The Importance of Wireless Communications

Wireless communications have become one of the basic elements of modern lifestyle and one of the necessities that cannot be done without due to its great benefits in improving life, especially in areas that lack communication means or suffer from poor and disrupted communications, such as remote rural villages and isolated marine sites.

The Limitations of Fiber Optic and Radio Frequency Technologies

Fiber Optic (FO) is a popular data transmission solution due to its high speed and stable data delivery in many locations, but at the same time, it is a very expensive technology that is not sustainable for all locations and conditions. Radiofrequency (RF) data transmission technology is presented as an alternative to optical fibers in data transmission, but it is unstable as its quality is greatly affected by wave interference, in addition to its limited speed.

KAUST Researchers Experiment with Laser-Based Technology

In this context, a team of researchers led by Professor Muhammad Salim Al-Alwini, a Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and his Ph.D. student Fahd Al-Qurashi, conducted an experiment to investigate the feasibility of using a low-cost laser-based technology known as Communications. Free Space Optics (FSO) as an alternative to optical fiber and radio frequency in Saudi Arabia. The new technology relies on the propagation of light in free space (air, outer space, or vacuum) to wirelessly transmit data for gigabyte-scale high-speed Internet or communications.

Successful Implementation of Technology by KAUST and Taara

Recently, KAUST successfully implemented this technology in collaboration with Taara of X, an American R&D organization founded by Google and now operating as a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., where the free-space optical communication technology was launched at a speed of 20 GB. In the second, between the beach of KAUST and the island of Umm Misk, two kilometers away in the Red Sea. It is the first time that this technology has been used by Tara in the Kingdom to improve maritime communications.

The Importance of Free-Space Visual Communication Technology

Free-space visual communication technology is very useful and needed when physical communications are impractical in many locations, including thousands of small villages across the Kingdom, which are currently not sufficiently connected, as well as offshore sites in the Red Sea, which they are the future of tourism and coastal development in Saudi Arabia. This technology is characterized by its low cost and is ideal for areas that require a temporary communication network, such as tourist areas in deserted destinations or remote islands. Additionally, this technology will play an essential role in environmental monitoring efforts in the Kingdom, particularly monitoring and tracking coral reefs, ocean currents, and other marine phenomena from underwater sensors, buoys, or boats and transmitting their signals to shore.

Challenges and Future Deployments

The implementation of this technology is a major achievement and a first step towards understanding how it works in Saudi Arabian environments, particularly in the field of maritime communications under a range of severe and unpredictable environmental conditions. In this light, free-space optical communication technology offers a unique compromise. Lasers provide the high speeds needed for low-cost data transmission, but at the same time, they are vulnerable to the effects of climate and the atmosphere, unlike optical fibers, which are protected by cables. To address this challenge, the research team has installed on-site weather stations to monitor and test the technology over the next year to evaluate how different environmental conditions affect the system’s performance. The data will be used to improve the system, with the ultimate goal of broadly deploying this technology to other regions of Saudi Arabia.


Global internet connectivity will be among the discussion topics of Professor Mohamed Salim Al-Alwini’s seminar on 29 May 2023, titled ‘Digitalization to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’, which is part of the Global Conference on Sustainable Development to be hosted by KAUST.

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