Editor’s Note: Welcome to the new Lightwave + BTR

May 2, 2024
The newly integrated publication evolves our content delivery, creating a more unified source for industry-leading information at lightwaveonline.com.

Having covered the broadband and optical networking industry segments since July 1998, when broadband and advanced optical technologies like DWDM were still relatively nascent, I have always considered the two segments complementary. 

I take the same view on how Endeavor Business Media has merged Broadband Technology and Lightwave under one brand. 

The fusion of Lightwave and Broadband Technology Report comes at a pivotal time when bandwidth demand is surging, driven by trends such as increased remote work, cloud computing, and advanced digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).  

Both platforms have historically centered on the critical role of fiber optic technology. This key component continues to evolve in response to new challenges and opportunities in internet traffic management.

A streamlined approach

Working alongside my partner and associate editor, Hayden Beeson, we aim to streamline content access. BTR's archive of articles, news, whitepapers, On-Topic Reports, and webinars will now be housed under the broadband channel on the Lightwave website. Professionals will now access the full spectrum of optical communications and broadband content through a single brand experience.

BTR’s key offerings, such as the BTR Networking Newsletter, Diamond Tech Reviews, and the Tech Breakfast at SCTE, will continue under the Lightwave umbrella, maintaining their dedicated focus on the broadband industry. This integration broadens the scope of Lightwave's coverage and strengthens our commitment to delivering cutting-edge information that drives the optical communications industry forward.

This merger simplifies access to essential industry insights for professionals in the field by providing a single brand platform on which to explore the interconnectedness of Lightwave and broadband technologies. The integration also seeks to enhance understanding, allowing professionals to easily see how advancements in one area relate to and impact the other. 

Two evolving industry segments

As we explore the benefits of the merged publications, it would be interesting to take a quick look back to 1998 when I entered the broadband and optical industry, and how the two industry segments have evolved.  

For anyone who remembers the year 1998, the main method consumers used to access the Internet was a dial-up line to get a whopping 56 Kbps connection. I can still hear the phone line connecting to a modem. According to a Wikipedia article, the dial-up sound illustrates a choreographed sequence that allowed these digital devices to piggyback on an analog telephone network.

An S&P Global Intelligence article pointed out that in 1998, just 0.6% (608K) of US homes had broadband. Since the dotcom bust around 2002, high-speed internet has gone from novelty to necessity, with 2022 penetration, including cable, telco, satellite, or fixed wireless, topping 87.4% (126.1 million).

Later in 1999, I remember using a copper-based DSL line from the now-defunct Covad Communications that likely offered 1-5 Mbps—speeds considered high then--in my Cambridge, Mass-based office. 

Today, telcos, cable operators, and a growing base of independent providers are offering a range of multi-gigabit speeds. Consumers in various markets can access 1-10 Gbps speeds. Looking forward, all of these operators are looking at what’s next, an evolution that will include 25, 50, and eventually 100 Gbps capabilities on a passive optical network (PON). 

At the same time, DWDM equipment and subsequent commercial deployments were still in their early stages in the 1990s.

According to an OSA article, Pirelli launched the first WDM system with four channels spaced relatively widely across the erbium-amplifier band during the 1994 OFC tradeshow. Later, during the 1996 OFC show, Ciena became the first vendor to offer dense WDM (DWDM) in a system with 16 channels at 1.6 nm (about 200 GHz) intervals. With each channel carrying the then-standard 2.5 Gbps, one fiber pair could carry 40 Gbps.

As a comparison today, emerging DWDM systems can transmit 800G and 1.6 Tbps speeds. 

One remarkable breakthrough came in 1998 when Ciena secured a contract with Sprint, now T-Mobile. At that time, Sprint owned the third-largest long-haul phone network in the United States. Sprint paid about $200 million to upgrade previously installed fibers to carry 16 wavelengths. The DWDM-based network was used to accomplish one common goal: to address the rapid growth of web traffic.

Bandwidth demands rising

Fast-forward to today, and users’ expectations continue to rise. As consumers and businesses continue to push for new applications, including AI, the need for higher speeds on optical networks is becoming even more pressing. 

One way to understand the broadband and optical growth barometer is to look at Corning, one of the largest fiber manufacturers. While the company reported fiber shipments are over 30% below trend, Wendell Weeks, CEO of Corning, said he is seeing greater demand for fiber.

“We fully expect that gap to close, adding more than 40% to our overall Optical Communication sales,” he said. “In conversations with our large carrier customers during the quarter, they reinforced their commitment to increasing fiber deployments in 2024 and beyond.”

With service providers deploying more fiber in the middle mile and last mile, it’s clear that the demand for broadband and optical will continue to rise. As the editor of the combined publication, I look forward to writing the following chapters of the broadband and optical industry story. 

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