Lying in the gutter, staring at the stars

Before Christmas, I attended an Alcatel Optronics press conference, followed by a social event themed as a "Bollywood" night, resplendent with Indian film, food, music, and dancing. The lavish entertainment included a winsome tarot card reader who proffered her pack, examined the cards I chose, and gave me a reading. "You will be successful and rise to the top of your profession, it's absolutely certain!" she told me excitedly. This was music to my ears. If the cards are right (King of Swords sounds quite good!) then it should also be good news for the industry with which Lightwave Europe coexists symbiotically.

Traditionally, this is the time of year for reappraising the year that has passed and looking forward to the new. In our feature "Happier New year" (p11-13) we sample the expectations of industry players who perhaps have the edge over a tarot card reader in predicting what will happen in 2003. I did say perhaps. They are not quite as ebullient as she was — but neither are they completely downhearted, despite the recycled gloom of the past twelve months.

Highlights to look forward to include the market opportunities arising from: Ethernet-based build-out, especially 10 Gigabit Ethernet; "next generation" SDH/SONET; metro-edge (see Lightspeed Europe report on p9); and the promise of business activity in relatively new territories such as Russia and China.

What exactly is next-generation SDH/SONET? A good explanation of the voice and data supporting protocols is given in the feature by Ericsson's Per Andersson's feature.(p14-15).

As you should expect, the 2003 forecast is not all wine and roses (and all that kind of stuff is behind me until after April's London Marathon) because the very same positive pundits are certainly not expecting much to happen in any great volume. Most of the industrialists LWE.quizzed expect further consolidation.

It's not just a tarot reading that can turn ones thoughts to the possibility of life after death. Marconi was last month detailing its proposed restructuring. Where could you possibly go from EUR5.7bn worth of debt? It would definitely spoil my roast turkey and probably force me to consider Bulgaria for the skiing, but Marconi — or Marconi Corp as it will be known after 15 March — has neatly managed to restructure its debt and is now looking forward to active "cash business" to service its new manageable debt. The intriguing restructuring arrangement will see this debt reduced to EUR1.4bn and "positive" cash of EUR1.1bn.

The company is also planning to recruit a North American non-executive director to grow its business there, which it considers to be the biggest market, despite current conditions. The new-look Marconi Corp will be based on its "core" European business activities: optical networking (including DWDM, optical, and multilayer solutions); access (broadband); and services, whereby Marconi services multi-vendor installations.

I'm sure the industry will be fascinated to see if Marconi can emulate the legendary Phoenix from the flames, but if the company can pull it off against the recent dismal background, then the rest of us should also seriously consider joining Mother Theresa and working a few miracles.

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

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