Optical technology soars

Optical technology soars

George Kotelly

Senior Editor/Features

As detailed on the pages of this annual technology forecast issue of Lightwave, virtually all optical industry analysts and technologists agree that a sharp upturn is expected in sales and speeds of fiber-optic networks and products from now to the turn of the century--and even beyond.

In fact, most observers forecast double-digit growth in many optical markets (see page 1). The major driving force for this explosive growth, they say, comes directly from customer demands. Users are apparently calling for massive quantities of voice, video, data and imaging information at seemingly instant speeds, unlimited bandwidth and inexpensive prices, and they want all of these capabilities now.

To satisfy these needs, suppliers, providers and users confront numerous challenges. The industry landscape is littered with near- and long-term optical technology selection and economic obstacles.

For example, speaking at Kessler Marketing Intelligence Corp.`s 18th Annual Newport Conference on Fiber-optics Markets last October (see page 1), Jay Hassan, president of global interconnect systems business at AMP Inc., feels that constant tune-in to customers` changing needs is more critical than ever. He expects smart products and niche marketing to become the wave of the future. The successful companies, he says, will be those that are a step ahead of the rest--those that make the best use of the many new information and communications tools.

William B. Smith, president of Telco Systems, agrees (see page 26). He contends that customers are shaping business markets, demanding lower costs, asking for more flexible products and insisting on quality services. The telecommunications company, cable operator, software vendor, utility or financial institution that quickly meets these customer needs will win the business, he says.

Even new cost-saving copper transmission technologies cannot seem to blunt fiber`s advancements. AT&T and Broadband Technologies have joined encoding and transmission convergence chipset techniques to deliver nearly 52 megabits per second of switched digital video over 100 to 300 meters of existing unshielded twisted-pair wiring (see page 1). This chip platform supports multiple interactive channels of video and high-speed data and a 1.6-Mbit/sec upstream data rate when emplaced in a neighborhood optical network unit and in a home set-top box. Getting that information to the optical network unit from the central office, though, mandates fiber-optic cable. Consequently, by lowering information-delivery costs to homes, network planners can afford to push fiber-optic cable deeper into the neighborhood.

As for the most impressive lightwave technology expected soon, Chinlon Lin, director of lightwave video systems at Bell Communications Research, reports that wavelength-division multiplexed optical systems have been demonstrated at transmission capacity rates of 10 to 160 gigabits per second (see page 28).

Indeed, Northern Telecom claims to have already installed a commercial OC-192, 10-gigabit-per-second synchronous optical network along a 200-kilometer section of long-distance carrier MCI`s network in Texas.

To ensure long-term network growth and cost savings, network planners may opt to leapfrog megabit transmission and jump on the accelerating gigabit express.

To the Editor:

Paul Palumbo`s article titled "Transceivers flash at gigabit speeds" (see Lightwave, August 1995, page 1) states, "Finisar provides connectivity products that allow transport of data at rates to 2 gigabits per second over multimode fibers capable of covering distances to 20 kilometers." This statement is misleading. Multimode fiber can transport data at rates of 2 Gbits/sec for short distances and at low data rates for distances to 20 km. However, no available system is capable of reliably transporting data at 1.5 Gbits/sec over multimode fiber for distances exceeding 1 km. For example, Finisar`s FTR-8510 optical transceiver claims a transport distance under 1 km on multimode fiber with a 1.5-Gbit/sec data rate.

James Roth, P.gif.

The RMH Group Inc.

Lakewood, CO

Finisar responds:

Mr. Roth is generally correct. Multimode fiber is limited in the distances that it can transport high data rates. A more accurate statement would have been: "Finisar provides connectivity products that allow transport of data at rates to 2 Gbits/sec over multimode fiber at distances to 500 meters and over singlemode fiber at distances to 20 km."

Jerry Rawls

Finisar Corp.

Mountain View, CA

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