Months after its July fly-by, New Horizons is still squeezing its images down pipe measured in bits-per-second – and that's a problem space boffins [theregister.co.uk] would like to solve in the future.
As we know from NASA's successful LADEE test [theregister.co.uk], lasers are a viable and truly broadband space comms medium – but firing a laser from (say) Mars and receiving it on Earth would need a Bloody Big Telescope.
That's what boffins from Japan and Madrid reckon the world will have, once the proposed Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) is built, so in this ArXiv paper [arxiv.org], they propose using that instrument for deep-space optical communications.
The CTA is going to have dozens of instruments of varying size (from 6m up to 24m) in both hemispheres, a requirement for deep space communications, and as Alberto Carrasco-Casado (National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Tokyo) and collaborators José Manuel Sánchez-Pena and Ricardo Vergaz (University of Madrid) note, the instruments should be good enough to do double-service as communications receivers.
That's because handfuls of photons are exactly what the CTA receivers are designed to detect – the tiny flashes of light that cosmic rays and gamma rays produce when they collide with the upper atmosphere.
Note: "Boffin" = "Egghead" = Scientist.