OFC still the place to be

When Lightwave Online recently polled visitors about their projected conference attendance in 2003, more than 60% of the respondents admitted they would attend fewer shows this year than last year. Apparently, the Optical Fiber Communications Conference (OFC) does not apply. At press time—a full three months before the conference—more than 900 companies are slated to exhibit.

"We're still getting those folks who let the dust settle at the end of the year and are looking again at their marketing dollars," notes Elizabeth Rogan, executive director of the Optical Society of America (OSA—Washington, DC), co-sponsor of the event. Despite continued economic uncertainty, OFC 2003 remains the place to see and be seen.

Several improvements have been made to this year's event, to be held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, March 23-28. One of the more popular, standing-room-only programs at OFC 2002 was a session called "Technology Trends," led by Kevin Kalkhoven, former president and CEO of JDS Uniphase. "We are actually redoing it [this year]," explains Rogan. "We are revisiting what was said and what has come about based on those predictions—which I think is a responsible thing for a show to do." Key topics for this year's discussion include video on demand and MANs.

Rogan is most excited about the newly launched "Service Provider Summit," however, since she believes the service-provider community is one piece of the telecommunications food chain that has been underrepresented at OFC. The day-long event will feature panel discussions and a keynote speech by Bill Smith, chief product development and technology officer at BellSouth. Representatives from AT&T, France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Communications, Cogent Communications, Sprint, and Cox Communications will be on hand to address questions germane to the carrier community, including which new technologies will spur the next round of growth and how the competition from other alternatives such as cable and wireless affects their strategy. The summit will be held Wednesday, March 26. A separate registration fee is required.

Also making its debut is OFC's "Market Watch: Business and Technology Program," focused on innovative applications, business strategies, and emerging trends. Topics include "Global market potential: An international perspective," "Broadband access: The years ahead," and "Customer-owned fiber-optic networks." The program will take place Monday and Tuesday, March 25-26, and is included with full conference registration, Service Provider Summit registration, and short-course registration. Exhibit-only attendees must register separately to attend.

The technical program is a key reason why OFC remains on many vendors' must-attend lists, contends the OSA's Rogan. "As a nonprofit, our goal is really to strengthen the overall science of optical communications, and I think that's really carrying us through these couple of hard years for the industry. There's a lot of value there," she notes.

The technical program will include a plenary session—featuring Kalkhoven and Sean Maloney, executive vice president and general manager of Intel Communications Group—workshops, tutorials, and invited papers. Event organizers report a 9% increase in technical-paper submissions this year, further indication that this part of the conference remains a vital component.

OFC 2003 will feature more than 90 short courses, taught at a variety of levels ranging from beginner to intermediate. New courses this year include: "Basics of patenting: Safeguarding your invention," "Modulation formats and receiver concepts for optical transmission systems," and "Hands-on polishing, inspection, and testing of connectors." Each short course requires a separate registration fee. Early registration is recommended, say event organizers, since the number of seats per course is limited to 150 students or fewer.

Also of note is an intensive half-day "China Forum: Doing Business in China," sponsored by Lightwave and its parent company, PennWell, in alliance with the OSA, Sunday, March 23, at the Wyndham Hotel Downtown in Atlanta. The China Forum will explore such topics as equipment and component sales and distribution, channel and vendor partners, governmental and regulatory hurdles, local development and manufacturing, and the risks and rewards of investing in the market. Presenters include distributors, resellers, the legal and investment communities, market and equity researchers, U.S. trade officials, Chinese and North American optical equipment companies, and contract manufacturers. This event will kick off OSA's own "Executive Forum," which begins with a reception Sunday evening and includes a full day of presentations Monday and an analysts' breakfast Tuesday morning. For event and registration details, visit the OSA Website, http://www.osa.org/partner/china/, or Lightwave Website, www.lightwaveonline.com.For more information about OFC programs, presenters, and registration deadlines, visit the conference Website, www.ofcconference.com.

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