Is the industry half empty — or half full?

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When you pause to think about it, it wasn't really that surprising that ECOC and NFOEC, last month's European and US exhibition-cum-conferences, were not over-burdened with attendees. To talk to some of the disgruntled exhibitors, you'd think that the some people in the industry had had their eyes and ears taped up for the previous 18 months or so. But looking beyond the fact that people were staying away in droves, there were at least two positive sides to the pile of data generated from these events: technological research and market analysis.

By research I mean the high volume of quality paper, poster and post-deadline presentations showing that at the academic level and in the laboratories of the forward-thinking companies there is much work and still significant investment in developing tomorrow's solutions (see news focus pp16-17 and technology pp34-35).

Considering the other point, analysis, even if the attendance figures are down, at least they're generally following the forecasts from the beleagured analyst companies. Nobody likes bad news and it looks as if some of the messengers are in danger of being shot, now that juicy, positive forecasts for the venture capitalists to pore over have become an endangered species.

The analysts' upturn predictions may vary in terms of the exact date when it's going to happen but there seems to be a broad consensus that 2003 should be a better year — assuming that we can avoid another world war.

For some of us, after a month like September, it's easy to forget that there is a real world beyond daytime luke-warm pizza and night-time talking shop with colleagues or clients into the small hours.

But this month's issue should blow the cobwebs away with descriptions and reappraisals of optical technologies. In particular, 40G gets a lot of attention, notably from Agilent, newcomer Mintera, and an intriguing receiver-development partnership between Germany's u2t and Scotland's Kamelian. The message is underlined that 40G is becoming much more than a laboratory proof of principle. Indeed at ECOC, Mintera's Carsten Videncrantz revealed that the company was poised to sign a contract with a real European customer.

We revisit the question of whether there is a European bandwidth glut or not. Some familiar names from the industry beg to differ about this contentious issue and some possible build-out opportunities are detailed. In a similar vein, we assess the opportunities at the extremes of the optical network: the premises on the one hand, and undersea cabling on the other.

As for new technologies, detailed interviews with SPI (Southampton Photonics) and Ciena reveal some novel approaches to optical amplification and signal conditioning, respectively.

Lightwave Europe's new Spanish correspondent Maria-Angeles Grado-Cafarro reports from Madrid on a struggle taking place between the key players in that country's fledgling deployment of optical communications.

So here, on these pages, are at least a dozen explanations of why some of those people not attending ECOC and NFOEC 2002 could have had better things to do.

Matthew Peach
Editor in Chief, Lightwave Europe
matthewp@pennwell.com

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