Four hot topics for 2008

At the same time some of our readers will be in Paris for the FTTH Council Europe’s conference, others will be at OFC/NFOEC in San Diego. While at the show in California, attendees will have a chance to attend this year’s Executive Forum, co-presented by the Optical Society of America and Lightwave.

One new wrinkle at this year’s Forum will be a panel entitled “Four Hot Topics.” In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit that I was one of two Forum Committee members responsible for this panel, so in large part the topics under discussion represent what I think will be hot in 2008.

Let me tell you about them.

High-speed communications is a “no brainer” as the first topic. On the 40 Gbit/s side, the choice of modulation format is beginning to coalesce around two alternatives, DQPSK and DPSK. But other alternatives continue to be explored—perhaps with an eye toward giving them a trial run at 40 Gbit/s in order to ready them for 100 Gbit/s applications.

The problem is that no one’s really sure what the first generation of 100 Gbit/s technology will look like for carrier applications. However, we can feel confident that data centres initially will see some sort of parallel, rather than serial, implementation. That’s why parallel optics will be our panel’s second hot topic. Of course, parallel optics has already found use in applications that require much less than 100 Gbit/s. I expect our panellists will highlight what the future holds for these applications as well as new areas of opportunity.

And one of these new areas will undoubtedly be our third hot topic, consumer electronics. Anyone who has purchased an HDTV is now familiar with HDMI cables, which could just as easily be optical as coaxial or any other copper-based medium. Meanwhile, both the IEEE 1394 FireWire and USB specifications have received data rate upgrades into the gigabits, which may open the door for more optical ports on home electronics devices and personal computers. Can companies whose experience revolves mainly around the telco or data centre environments successfully cash in?

Many of these advancements and opportunities I’ve discussed here so far will be enabled by new developments in our fourth hot topic area, wafer-level integration. We’ll undoubtedly hear arguments for and against the various approaches our panellists espouse.

These four areas don’t represent the only topics or trends that will shape 2008. But they are a good place to start a discussion of what 2008 will bring.

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

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