Free space optics is a telecommunications technique which is already being used for everyday exchange of information and has many advantages over other techniques (bandwidth, low cost, mobility of the equipment, security, etc.); within the next decade, it is likely to become an integral and essential part of data-processing architectures and telecommunications.A history of wireless optical telecommunications is given, together with a recapitulation of the application of the principles of electromagnetism to free-space optics. Coverage is also given to the transmitters and receivers of optical beams, whih are the basis of any optical communication system. These devices were responsible for the first truly significant advances in the performance of these systems.Special attention is given to the problems associated with the propagation of photons, both in the presence and absence of obstacles, since these are key issues in gaining an understanding of future telecommunication systems based on wireless optics. Finally, the authors considwer standards, as well as safety and confidentiality issues.

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