The serial transmission rate of 40 Gbit/s was a subject of much discussion at the Optical Fiber Communications (OFC) conference in March, but I can tell you that considerable parallel processing was also under way. From minute to minute and booth to booth, I heard opinions on the state of the industry that so completely contradicted each other that the only logical explanation is that we've moved out of the all-encompassing "telecom bubble" into a universe with innumerable dimensions, connected occasionally by chutes and ladders.
One day a panel of analysts would see recovery coming by year's end, while the next day's panel saw hard times through at least 2004. The announcement of several corporate mergers elicited either fear or hope that mass consolidation was under way, while deal makers rushed to offer matchmaking services to the unengaged. Some companies reported few or no sales until carriers work off inventories, yet inventory replenishment was a happy topic for nearby exhibitors.
And the list goes on—there were fewer attendees, but those who showed up were said to be better potential customers. And in a down year, it seemed as if a record number of new products were offered, and more companies came out of "stealth" mode than could hide behind the third moon of Jupiter. Skeptical observers muttered that these companies were just fooling themselves, but optimists saw clever timing and positioning that leveraged technology that was faster, less expensive, more dynamic, or all three.
There are sensible explanations for all of these doings (well, most of them anyway), and since this is a technical rather than business magazine, I won't attempt to outguess all the futurists. As it always does, OFC says some important things about the industry, and each of us must give it our own interpretation. This multidimensional, hard-to-read industry may be a source of strength, especially given that opportunity is often best found in such worlds.
W. Conard Holton
Associate Publisher/Editor in Chief