Emergency crews and equipment sent by free space optics companies quickly reconnected businesses in lower Manhattan to the outside world.
"If were in a position where we can help people get back on their feet, thats something we want to do," said Terabeam spokesman Lou Gellos.
Terabeam last week set up access for Merrill Lynch & Co., linking the companys disabled office near the World Trade Center to its intact office in northern New Jersey, 1.5 miles away, across the Hudson River.
"They called us up on Monday and we had the link up by Friday," Gellos said.
Free space optics moves data traffic on lasers between buildings without an encasing fiber. Typically, the rooftop-to-rooftop or window-to-window link connects a building with optic fiber to a building without it. They can be set up in a few hours or a few days, versus the weeks it would take to reconnect a physical line. A single laser shot can carry a gigabit of traffic.
The free space optics system is so far faring well against the fog that hovers around New York Harbor, which can sometimes interfere with fiberless laser traffic. Merrill Lynch has asked Seattles Terabeam for two additional links.
Disaster recovery and backup have always been on the list of applications for free space optics. Its major application, though, is for companies that are a short distance from fiber, but cant spend the millions of dollars to dig up the sidewalks for last-mile connectivity.
"Its great to have a technology that can really help get people back to connectivity," said LightPointe Chief Marketing Officer Baksheesh Ghuman.
San Diegos LightPointe sent teams to Manhattan and is working with its reseller, the Rockefeller Group, to restore communications.
Optical Access, also in San Diego, has made equipment available to its reseller partners on the East Coast. "The tragedy affected us in a very personal way," said Steve Barrera, director of product management. Edmund Glazer, the chief financial officer of Optical Accesss parent company, MRV Communications, was on the American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the World Trade Center.
"We wanted our equipment to be put to good use right away," said Barrera.