Options for remote LED display: Optical repeaters, infrared or fiber optic cable?
I am installing a sign outside an office building that has an LED display that is controlled remotely via a fiber optic cable. However, to run the cable I have to dig a trench through 100 feet of parking lot. Can I eliminate stringing this wire by using an optical repeater?
The bad news is that you cannot use an optical repeater to eliminate that strand of fiber that threatens to bisect your parking lot. Repeaters are placed between the transmitter and the receiver in a system to boost and regenerate deteriorating light waves that travels through the fiber optic cable. These light transmissions lose their strength because of things like dispersion and the scattering of the light. The problem increases with the length of the cable, so repeaters are used to refresh and amplify these signals and reduce or eliminate data errors.
The good news, however is that there are wireless LED signs available that can be controlled by infrared communications, your personal computer, or even your cell phone. It really depends on what kind of information you are displaying on that outside sign. If the data requires a wide bandwidth, then fiber is often the way to go and digging a trench or stringing overhead wires is inevitable.
This was first published in February 2004