Americas Telecom `96 creates fiber-optic waves in Rio
n PETER H. WERTHEIM and DAYSE ABRANTES
The international fiber-optics communications market dominated Americas Telecom `96--the third regional Americas telecommunications exhibition and forum--which was held this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The conference attracted more than 18,000 attendees and 412 exhibitors from 30 countries.
Sponsored by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva, the forum showcased Brazil, as that country restructures and expands its telecommunications market. Sergio Motta, Brazil`s communications minister, unveiled an ambitious plan for attracting $77.4 billion of public and private sector investments for Brazil`s telecommunications sector by the year 2003.
Motta also noted that cable TV is a major market opportunity in Brazil. Today, cable-TV service is available in only 67 areas and serves fewer than 600,000 users, representing just one-half of one percent of the households equipped with television. By 1999, the cable network will have a capacity to serve more than 7 million users, growing to 16.5 million by the year 2003, Motta predicted.
Despite Brazil`s deliberate pace of reform, market analysts cite the country as one of the most attractive markets in Latin America because of its size, population (160 million) and potential. Economic growth rates are expected to run 4% to 6% through the end of the decade.
To illustrate this growth, Embratel, Brazil`s national telecommunications car rier, is installing an undersea fiber-optic link between the existing Unisur and Americas I undersea cables. The 2500-route-km festoon-type system and 120-route-km of terrestrial cable plant are going to link Rio de Janeiro in the south to Fortaleza in the north. Embratel has already completed a terrestrial link between Florianopolis and Rio (see Lightwave, November 1995, page 9).
Embratel also plans to put out to bid this year the rest of an inland fiber-optic network that will use a combination of optical ground wire and buried and duct cable to link Porto Alegre in the south, to Fortaleza. The approximately 5000-route-km system will interconnect with the coastal system when completed in 1998 to create a series of Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) rings that cover Brazil`s major population centers.
Also in Brazil, a group of nine telecommunications companies plan to build a 12,000-km fiber-optic submarine system linking South America, Africa and Europe. Plans call for a meeting to draft a request-for-proposals for a system designated as Atlantis II. When completed in 1999, the system will close a fiber ring in the Atlantic Ocean and provide Brazil and other South American countries with a redundant fiber link to Europe (see figure). Total project cost is expected to reach $320 million.
At the Americas Telecom `96 conference, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil`s president, said the country is in no way fearful of the opening of its telecommunications sector. Addressing an audience of industry leaders and top political officials, he rebuffed criticisms that this process was proceeding too slowly and said, "We accept the challenge of liberalization, but with the needed regulations to define norms in order to serve the global interests of the country and society."
Pekka Tarjanne, secretary general of the ITU, agrees with Cardoso. Says Tarjanne, "The outlook for the region is bright, with expansion in the telecommunications sector forecast to continue at a healthy 15% per year during the next five years and telecommunications investment in the region likely to exceed US$80 billion in the same period.
"G7 businesses (companies from the G7 international economic leaders) are increasingly finding the region a more attractive investment opportunity than the already saturated domestic markets. Telecommunications also has an increasingly important role in preserving and enhancing the quality of the environment--not only the natural environment, but the social and cultural environment as well," adds Tarjanne.
Jean Jipguep, chairman of the telecommunications board of the ITU, encouraged Americas Telecom attendees to see the ingenuity of the fiber, wireless and cellular solutions that are playing such important roles in the telecommunications development of the Americas region.
Jake (J.I.) Jung, manager of the overseas planning group of the telecommunications system division at Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. in South Korea, says Samsung is expected to start Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) technical and market trials in Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia.
Jussi Ruokolainen, a spokesman for Tellabs International Inc., based in Finland, described a multiservice platform known as Martis DXX integrated access and transport, that is scalable to support networks from a few nodes to thousands of nodes. The platform has multiple application windows, which can be opened simultaneously. The company just sold the DXX platform to Intel in Panama, and after the show, it plans to provide trials in Brazil and the rest of Latin America.
Pirelli Cable Corp. in Milan, Italy, exhibited a long-distance and access-telecommunications network based on photonic technologies. Stephen Harbour, vice president of marketing, and Ludgero Jose Pattaro, a Pirelli director, emphasized that "Pirelli`s optical and photonic technologies, together with the 622-Mbit/sec and 2.5-Gbit/sec terminal multiplexers, offer a high-speed transport network solution." They noted that construction for a new plant for optical fibers in Sao Paulo is under way and is expected to be finished in 1997. This plant will increase production capacity to 600,000 km of optical fibers by the year 2000.
Pirelli`s South American operations, which started in 1929 with the installation of a cable factory in Sao Paulo, now comprise six plants in Brazil, one in Argentina and installations in Uruguay, Chile and Venezuela. Last year, Pirelli Cable`s revenues in Brazil totaled US$500 million. Along with Simplex, Pirelli is providing cables for the northern part of the Brazilian submarine system.
At present, Pirelli cables are being deployed in the 870-km Grand Cayman/ Jamaica link, using three pairs of fibers operating at 622 Mbits/sec.
Ortel Corp. in Alhambra, CA, demonstrated a line of high-performance 1550-nm transmission products for Latin American cable-TV networks. This product line consists of broadband supertrunking and distribution links of externally modulated transmitters; an erbium-doped fiber amplifier producing 40- or 80-mW output power and a high-input power optical receiver.
RAD Data Communications in Tel Aviv showed carrier-access products. These devices provide access to SDH backbones and cellular networks; enable network operators to manage local-loop links over an integrated central site platform; and incorporate high-bit-rate digital subscriber line and high-speed fiber-optic modems. A RAD spokesperson said its most popular product in Brazil is a Synchronous Optical Network repeater and media converter that reconciles differences between various ATM, Fiber Distributed Data Interface and Fast Ethernet interfaces connected by multimode fiber, singlemode fiber, or unshielded and shielded twisted-pair or coaxial cable.
RAD, working through distributors in Brazil for the last nine years, also opened a subsidiary in Sao Paulo; the company already has a subsidiary in Buenos Aires.
Nortech Fibronic Inc. in Quebec, which already has distributors in Mexico and Argentina, offers an extensive line of fiber-optic test instruments, including power meters, fiber-optic multimeters, light-emitting diodes and miniature optical talk sets.
AGC Optosystems Ind. Com. Ltd. represents Bozeman, MN-based ILX Lightwave in Brazil. Jonas Trunk, president of AGC, says, "ILX, with GN Nettest`s laser precision division in New York, has supplied fiber-optic administration and measurement equipment and software as part of a system to monitor Embratel`s first submarine fiber-optic installation along the east coast of Brazil."
The system consists of optical time-domain reflectometers from Laser Precision; ILX fiber-optic sources and power meters; and personal computers and custom software, which are integrated with a Dicon fiber-optic switch that monitors power levels during the cable-laying operation. q
Peter H. Wertheim and Dayse Abrantes write from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.