Industry update

China announced the breakup of China Telecom (Beijing), the government's most powerful telecommunications monopoly, into four companies to try and inject competition into the country's growing industry. The long-awaited decision came as U.S. and Chinese negotiators held talks in Washington, DC, on China's bid to join the World Trade Organization. According to the Ministry of Information Industry, China Telecom will be divided into four companies, each specializing in a separate service: fixed telephone, mobile communications, paging, and satellite telecommunications. China offered no timeframe for the China Telecom breakup, but said new regulations for the telecommunications sector would be put in place in the first half of the year.

Frontier Communications (Rochester, NY) announced it will double capacity for commercial Internet traffic along its national high-speed Internet protocol backbone, a part of the Frontier Optronics Network. The backbone is being constructed using Cisco 12000 Gigabit Switch Routers to run IP directly over the optical layers, bypassing traditional Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) layers. Commercial traffic passes through the Frontier network at OC-48 (2.5-Gbit/sec) speeds. Frontier plans to have two OC-48 circuits linking Los Angeles and New York City by the end of the second quarter of 1999. By the first quarter of 2000, the company plans to deploy OC-192 (10 Gbits/sec) on its coast-to-coast backbone. Working with Cisco Systems Inc. (San Jose, CA), Frontier claims to be first to use the IP over dense wavelength-division multiplexing technology in its network segment that connects Los Angeles and San Francisco.

GST Telecommunications Inc. (Vancouver, WA) entered into a joint build agreement with Level 3 Communications Inc. (Omaha, NE) to build a long-haul network connecting San Diego to GST's West Coast fiber backbone. Upon completion, GST's network will span from San Diego to Seattle. GST's portion of the Los Angeles-to-San Diego route will tie into the existing California segment of its ongoing Virtual Integrated Transport and Access (VITA) network. It will serve to link the recently announced San Diego metropolitan area network, currently being built by GST, Level 3, and NEXTLINK Communications Inc. (Bellevue, WA), to its growing West Coast footprint. The VITA network, scheduled for operation in mid-1999, combines voice and data networks onto a single networking platform, using a combination of packet, frame, and cell technology.

Williams Communications Inc. (Tulsa, OK) announced the lighting of a 700-mi southern segment of its growing nationwide fiber-optic network, linking Atlanta and Miami via Jacksonville, FL. With the new segment operational, Williams has more than 17,600 route-mi of fiber-optic network in service, 20,000 mi of fiber in the ground, and plans to complete 32,000 route-mi connecting 125 cities by the end of 2000.

Cable & Wireless USA (C&W-Vienna, VA) announced it will invest $650 million to develop its new USA Internet network, linking more than 60 metropolitan areas across the United States. The network will deploy transmission equipment for OC-192 speeds and the latest in advanced routing and switching technology. Through an agreement with Level 3 Communications Inc. (Omaha, NE), C&W will purchase 15,000 route-mi of dark fiber to reach more than 50 metropolitan areas. Additionally, C&W has initiated the purchase of routers from Juniper Networks Inc. (Mountain View, CA) and switches from FORE Systems Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA). The network will link with C&W's global network, including its Internet backbone in Europe and the Asia/Pacific region. The USA Internet network is scheduled for completion in 2001, with certain segments coming online as they are completed.

Telecom Egypt (Cairo) has agreed to purchase capacity in Project OXYGEN, the planned global undersea fiber-optic cable network. Access to the oxygen network will be gained through landing points in Port Said, Suez, and Alexandria. As a landing party for Project oxygen, Telecom Egypt will be responsible for routing traffic between the domestic network and the global system. Telecom Egypt is an independently managed government-owned company and operates more than five million subscriber lines, with a modernized fiber-optic backbone and satellite stations.

SDL Inc. (San Jose, CA) announced it will acquire IOC International PLC, a United Kingdom-based company that develops and manufactures lithium niobate external modulators for the long-haul fiber-optic transmission market. The transaction, worth an estimated $50 million, could be completed as early as June. According to analysts at RHK Inc. (San Francisco, CA), the acquisition of IOC broadens SDL's product portfolio, allowing SDL to better serve its existing customer base. RHK believes the acquisition will significantly leverage SDL's existing DWDM product line and position the company to grow with the long-haul fiber-optic transmission market.

CIENA Corp. (Linthicum, MD) announced completion of its acquisition of Lightera Networks Inc. (Cupertino, CA), a transaction valued at more than $463 million. Lightera is part of CIENA's announced LightWorks Initiative, a concept designed by CIENA to reduce the number of network elements to lower network building and operating costs. The second acquisition in the initiative, Omnia Communications Inc. (Marlborough, MA), is expected to close in June or July 1999.

Kymata Ltd. (Livingston, Scotland) and Lynx Photonic Networks (Encino, CA) signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on the design, manufacture, and marketing of silica-on-silicon planar switch arrays. The companies plan to create a family of planar switch array devices for dense wavelength-division multiplexing applications. The two companies will work toward development of a 16x16 prototype non-blocking switch array product by September 1999, with a commercial product available about six months later.

NorthEast Optic Network Inc. (NEON-Waltham, MA) signed a five-year agreement with Lightship Telecom LLC (Nashua, NH), a competitive local-exchange carrier (CLEC), to expand voice and data services in New Hampshire and Maine, with future expansion into Massachusetts. Under the agreement, Lightship will lease high-capacity bandwidth on NEON's Northeast fiber-optic network, using a SONET-based backbone. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

COLT Telecom Group plc. (London) has plans to further expand its European presence with the launch of a new fiber-optic network in Stuttgart, Germany. Stuttgart is COLT's sixth German network. The initial 25-km network is planned to include the latest technologies for high-bandwidth data, Internet, and voice services for business customers. With the addition of Stuttgart, COLT now operates in 13 markets in eight European countries.

MFS Network Technologies Inc. (Omaha, NE) announced plans to develop, design, and construct a fiber-optic network in Michigan for Norlight Telecommunications Inc. (Brookfield, WI). MFS is a subsidiary of Able Telecom Holdings Corp. (West Palm Beach, FL). The additional work will expand the 130-mi project, announced last October, to more than 550 route-mi at a contract value of more than $17 million. MFS will begin construction immediately. Norlight is a network service provider based in Wisconsin. Completion of the network is expected in the third quarter of 1999. MFS also finalized negotiations with the Colorado Department of Transportation to develop a fiber-optic communications infrastructure paralleling Colorado's Interstate 25 and Interstate 70 highways. The network will carry voice, data, and video communications on more than 800 route-mi of fiber cable.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced scientists in its optoelectronic division have developed and evaluated a transfer standard for the calibration of optical-fiber power meters over the wavelength range of 750 to 1800 nm. The transfer standard is an optical-trap detector consisting of two germanium photodiodes and a mirror. The photodiodes and mirror are contained in a package that is thermally stable and accepts a variety of fiber-optic connectors. Benefits of this transfer standard versus previous standards include high optical-to-electrical conversion efficiency, reasonable cost, and improved spatial uniformity. Evaluations will continue on the standard to establish a calibration history and to determine any effects of aging on the photodiodes and mirror.

Siecor (Hickory, NC) was awarded a two-year contract by Williams Communications Inc. (Tulsa, OK) to provide fiber-optic cable for part of the expansion of its wholesale long-distance telecommunications operations. Siecor's ALTOS water-blocking optical-fiber cable will be used to expand the Williams network in Florida, connecting to the company's existing network in the Southeast; to establish a new Midwest route from Chicago westward; and to complete diverse routes providing additional connectivity to selected markets.

Sho-Me Power (Marshfield, MO) selected Cerent Corp.'s (Petaluma, CA) Cerent 454 multiservice SONET/Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) transport platform for deployment in Sho-Me's fiber-optic transport networks. Multiple Cerent platforms will be deployed to allow the company to use its fiber infrastructure to transport voice and data traffic at any bit rate. Sho-Me, like other U.S. electrical utilities, is taking advantage of telecommunications deregulation to enter the market. Sho-Me's network is designed to both control its electrical system and to lease transmission capacity to other service providers.

According to Fleck Research (Santa Ana, CA), the worldwide forecast for connectors, cable assemblies, backplanes, and interconnect devices in 1999 calls for net zero growth. Although many regions will show some growth, including China, European countries and some Pacific Rim countries, growth is offset by forecasted declines in North America and several Pacific Rim countries, resulting in zero growth for the global connector industry. China will lead with a 16% increase. North America will experience a 2% net decrease.

Berk-Tek (New Holland, PA) provided 4.5 million ft of fiber-optic and copper cable to UtiliCorp United Inc. (Kansas City, MO) for use in UtiliCorp's multi-state high-speed local- and wide-area network (lan/wan) structured cable network linking the corporate headquarters with some 80 other buildings and power plants. Berk-Tek also supplied more than 400,000 ft of fiber and copper cable for a LAN in seven school buildings in the Lebanon School District (Lebanon, PA).

General Cable Corp. (Highland Heights, KY) entered into a definitive agreement to acquire all the assets and certain liabilities of BICC PLC's (London) worldwide energy cable and cable systems business for a purchase price of $440 million in cash, subject to adjustment. The acquisition is planned to combine BICC's European, North American, Middle Eastern, Asia/Pacific, and African operations with General Cable's worldwide operations, creating the third largest wire and cable company in the world and the second largest in North America. Consummation of the transaction is subject to BICC shareholder approval and corporate and regulatory approvals for both parties. The companies intend to complete the acquisition in the second quarter of 1999.

FaciliCom International (Washington, DC) has completed the deployment of the new FCI-One fiber-optic submarine cable across the Oresund between Denmark and Sweden. FCI-One provides FaciliCom with transmission capability over its own facilities in the region. The 48-strand fiber-optic cable provides transmission speeds up to 2.4 Gbits/sec and, using DWDM equipment, has the capability to transmit more than 12 million simultaneous calls. FaciliCom International completed the cable deployment just five months after its planning in October 1998.

Kopin Corp. (Taunton, MA), a provider of gallium arsenide heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) device wafers for telecommunications applications, announced it will provide Nortel Networks (Brampton, ON, Canada) with production volumes of Kopin's indium gallium phosphide (InGap) HBT device wafers. These wafers will support Nortel's production of circuits for OC-192 sonet/sdh fiber-optic switching systems. Nortel uses Kopin's InGap HBT device wafers as a platform for HBT-based circuits in OC-192 fiber-optic backbone systems. Nortel also signed a three-year deal with Telergy Inc. (Syracuse, NY) to supply equipment and services necessary to extend Telergy's regional end-to-end optical network. Telergy is creating a statewide network in New York tied to a central core of resources with high-speed Internet access. The contract is valued at approximately $200 million.

Newbridge Networks Ltd. (Kanata, ON, Canada) was selected to supply high-capacity network equipment for the Cable & Wireless (London) global Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network. The equipment is based on the MainStreetXpress line of multiservice switching and network-management equipment. Newbridge also announced the acquisition of a 10% equity position in ITF Optical Technologies (Ville St-Laurent, QC, Canada), a design and manufacturing company for all-fiber optical components. Newbridge gains an insight into the passive-component market from ITF, a company that specializes in narrow-spacing, high-channel-count dense wavelength-division multiplexing products.

e-tempo communications ltd. (Fairfax County, VA) announced it will construct and manage a new fiber-optic submarine-terrestrial telecommunications network for South America. The Magellan Cable Internet backbone will supply international broadband communications to the region. The architecture uses a bidirectional line switched ring creating an "Internet island" that touches Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama. The design features a 19,000-km bidirectional IP backbone with two terrestrial crossings, one between Argentina and Chile and the other through Panama. Using DWDM technology, Magellan will have a maximum capacity of 1.28 Tbits/sec, but will initially operate at 80 Gbits/sec.

Global Crossing Ltd. (Hamilton, Bermuda) signed a contract initially valued at $700 million with Tyco Submarine Systems Ltd. (TSSL-Morristown, NJ) to have TSSL construct the South American Crossing (SAC) cable system. The SAC fiber-optic system will directly connect Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Panama, and St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands). Options for Global Crossing to purchase future upgrades to the initial base system to increase capacity are also provided for in the contract. Lucent Technologies (Holmdel, NJ) will provide fiber and equipment to TSSL, which will use the most advanced dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) technology available. Lucent will also provide financing to Global Crossing through a previously announced agreement. SAC is an 18,000-km fiber-optic cable system scheduled for installation in three phases. Initial service will begin in late 2000, with the full ring network targeted for completion by second quarter 2001. The system has several undersea segments as well as a trans-Andean terrestrial link.

Stockholm-based Ericsson made its first move into the Internet-based fixed-line networks by buying two U.S. firms for almost $500 million. Torrent Networking Technologies (Silver Spring, MD), a company specializing in Internet-class routing solutions for operators and service-provider networks, was purchased for $450 million in cash. Ericsson also paid $46 million for TouchWave Inc., a provider of Internet protocol telephony in Silicon Valley. Although relatively small in comparison to Nortel Network's acquisition of Bay Networks or Lucent's purchase of Ascend Communications, the purchases put Ericsson into the data-networking game, and it still hasn't ruled out the possibility of future larger acquisitions.

The article "Corning predicts continued growth in worldwide fiber demand" that appeared on page 1 of the April 1999 issue contains a pair of errors concerning the size of the North American market. North America accounted for 45% of the world market in 1998, not 20% as stated on page 48. The 20% figure represents the amount that North American fiber consumption grew over its 1997 level. Similarly, the chart on page 48 should reflect the 45% figure, not 25%. We regret any confusion these errors may have caused.

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