Is that all there is?

Lightwave will join with the Optical Society of America to present the Executive Forum at next year’s combined OFC/NFOEC event in Anaheim March 6-11. (The forum will be March 6-7, if you want to save the date.) So I was on a conference call the other day to discuss what kind of speakers and panelists we would like to have participate, when one of the conference committee members said, “A lot of the topics we’re discussing are about fiber to the premises. I notice a lot of the technical conference covers fiber to the premises as well. Is that all there is to talk about?”

It’s a fair question. Ever since BellSouth, SBC, and Verizon issued their joint RFP for fiber to the premises (FTTP) systems in June 2003, fiber to the whatever (premises, home, curb, node, etc.) has dominated conversations within the optical communications market. Systems vendors argue whether PONs are preferable to active architectures, while component vendors have begun to churn out splitters, triplexers, diplexers, ICs, and transceivers. Cabling companies have developed new offerings and tempted U.S. installers with the blown fiber and cable technology that has seen success in European outside plant applications.

The FTTP frenzy has not been limited to the vendor side. The FTTH Council’s third annual conference in October drew record attendance and highlighted the appeal of optical access networks to municipalities, real estate developers, and independent telephone companies as well as to such major carriers as Verizon. Meanwhile, market research firms have stuffed mailboxes, both analog and digital, with reports on FTTP in a flood of information surpassed only by the media-with this magazine in the lead.

So lest we lose sight of the forest for one very large tree, let’s use the excuse provided by the end of the year to review what else besides FTTP is helping optical communications regain its feet as the post-bubble trauma subsides-or at least is providing fodder for speculation.

One place to look is the other side of the premises wall. I’ve touched on the premises market in a few editorials this year, and our recent coverage of the market prospects for laser-optimized 50-µm multimode cabling highlights the issues network managers face when evaluating optical alternatives to repeated copper overbuilds (see “Laser-optimized multimode finally gains some traction,” September 2004, front page). Significant uncertainty continues in this market, particularly as far as whether to extend fiber runs beyond the backbone and deeper into data centers. Even when network designers agree to take this step, should they adopt the new multimode fiber, particularly if they already have 62.5-µm multimode elsewhere in their network? A jump to singlemode also could prove tempting. This space will bear further scrutiny next year.

One factor that might determine the answer to the 50 versus 62.5 question is whether the network planner expects to support 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) traffic in the near future. We’ve given a lot of play to the competing transceiver options for stretching 10-GbE traffic down legacy pathways (see “LX4 vendors fight back” on the front page of last month’s issue for the most recent example). The race between LX4 development and the LRM standards process will continue to have an effect on both the transceiver market and end users’ perceptions of fiber’s ability to meet their requirements economically.

Were we to step beyond the premises or campus, we wouldn’t necessarily leave enterprise-driven applications behind. This year has seen increasing interest in fiber-supported remote storage networks. Here, carriers have begun to roll out managed data services for customers who don’t want to shoulder the burden themselves-although several enterprises have assumed responsibility for their requirements via networks they have constructed themselves, often using leased dark fiber. This trend has benefited system vendors and transceiver manufacturers alike, particularly as large enterprises become increasingly ambitious. As an example, you’ll read in Lightwave early next year about a large entertainment company that has decided to incorporate DWDM technology into its network.

There are other market spots worth highlighting-metro networks and wireless backhaul, to name two-but by now you should get the picture. There was more going on this year, and there will be more to talk about next year, than FTTP.

Of course, you better like FTTP, because you’re going to hear plenty about that in 2005 as well.


Editor’s Note: Due to a combination of unreviewed edits and other factors, the Analyst Corner piece from David Dunphy of Current Analysis published in the November issue did not accurately reflect the company’s viewpoint on the DSL and PON markets. Dunphy has provided a corrected and updated article entitled “DSL vs. PON: Why there was no clear winner in Round 1,” which is available for reading on the Lightwave Website at: http://lw.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=ARTCL&ARTICLE_ID=216277&p=13. The article will also appear in our January 2005 issue. We regret any confusion the November issue’s column may have caused.

Stephen M. Hardy
Editorial Director & Associate Publisher
stephenh@pennwell.com

Stephen M. Hardy
Editorial Director & Associate Publisher
stephenh@pennwell.com

More in Home