'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness...'

This time of the year is often marked with nostalgic references to the opening words (see headline) of John Keats's famous poem, "To Autumn." As well as being a classic description of the renewed activity that the season brings to nature after a torpid summer, the ode is an apt metaphor for the resurgent activities and hopes of the optical communications sector.

The past month has seen market forecasts carpeting the desktop like so many falling leaves. And the general flavour can only be described as optimistic. Here's a taste of the reading material you may have missed while sunning on your lounge:

Ethernet in the first mile deployments on the rise; Merchant switch-fabric market shifting in positive direction (InStat/MDR); DWDM metro equipment market up 20%; high-end router market jumps 10% (Dell'Oro); optical spending to grow 5% (Infonetics); substantial growth forecast for opto-ASICs (ElectroniCast); opportunities ahead for metro test vendors (Frost & Sullivan); EMEA consumer fixed line and media market hits EUR100 billion (Yankee Group); and multiservice provisioning platforms' healthy growth (IDC).

Thanks to the editorial power of Lightwave Europe, that's a lot of surveys you don't have to buy now! Positive forecasts can be heartening, but as ever, the devil is in the detail. Analyst Mark Lum, speaking in his RHK swan-song at the WDM & Metro Optical Networking Conference in Cannes, on possibly the hottest day of the year, said RHK was still forecasting a 4% reduction in the industry's overall capital expenditures for 2003, although he reckoned there would be slow but measurable growth of 0.3% between now and 2007. "The industry still has to offer more for less money," he advised the several hundred delegates, emphasising that much installed network resource is not revenue-supporting. "Considering broadband, 50% of the bandwidth is used by just 4% of the customers," he warned.

IP is expected to increase its share of the core traffic network sector. Somehow service providers must persuade the heavier users of bandwidth to pay more. However, there has been improvement in the industry in the general reduction of the cost of handling bits.

With the summit of summer safely behind us (holidays are so last year, darling!), we are now ascending to the peaks of the expo/conference season, with ECOC and ITU Telecom World in full view and NFOEC just completed. Despite some industry misgivings about the location, 300 exhibitors are expected at ECOC's Italian resort get-together in Rimini (would they honestly rather be in Hanover?). A hint of some of the novelties on display is contained in the Product Preview (p. 28). "We are looking at a final total of around 300 exhibitors," says exhibition marketing manager Lucy Van Renselar. "This is very encouraging. I believe it shows real faith in the marketplace that things are starting to improve." Not another optimistic forecast!

As we return to business from our vacations (and many of my European friends still seem to be holidaying in the "fruitful" month of September), we also need to get back to reality. Keats's autumn mists and vines may be among the most poignant images in poetry, but as a brasher character in the movie "Jerry Maguire" said, "Show me the money!"

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

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