Montana State University

MSU licensing fiber optic invention

October 25, 2005 -- by MSU News Service

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Fiber optic communications may be what traditional phone companies might use, but the technology is far too expensive for the average consumer, right?

Maybe not. A new invention from Montana State University, now being patented, may help advance fiber networks to homes and businesses.

"When people talk of fiber optic communication links, they are usually thinking of high-speed data and often very expensive equipment," one inventor, MSU electrical engineering professor Richard Wolff, wrote in a recent e-mail.

But Wolff and co-inventor and graduate student Yanchang Dong have developed a way to use existing high-speed communication links to send additional low-speed data with very little additional cost or complexity.

The invention could result in advancing fiber networks to homes and businesses.

"As fiber optic networks become more widely deployed, this technique will become increasingly valuable," Wolff wrote. "Fiber communications networks are now widely used for long distance links, but as demand for high data rates by end users rises, there is increased interest in extending fiber links all the way to the customer premises."

Wolff said more than 600 fiber-to-home networks exist in the US today, and two are already installed in Montana. The growth trend, he added, is rapid.

MSU is now licensing the invention that would create secondary channels on such networks. Interested companies have until Nov. 18 to respond to the MSU Technology Transfer Office at (406) 994-7868 or e-mail nzelver@montana.edu.

Wolff, who previously was a vice president of research at Telcordia Advanced Network Systems Research Lab in New Jersey, is a specialist in adapting emerging technologies to commercial use.

He occupies the Gilhousen Telecommunications Chair housed in the MSU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The chair was endowed by, and named for, telecommunications pioneer Klein Gilhousen and his wife, Karen. Klein Gilhousen is a founder of Qualcomm, a communications company based in San Diego, Calif.

MSU so far has licensed 104 technologies, 65 of them to Montana companies. Ninety-three patents have been issued on the university's inventions, with another 151 pending.

Contact: Nick Zelver, (406) 994-7868 or nzelver@montana.edu