OFC 2021 to go fully virtual

March 11, 2021
The dates of the show will be extended by a day to June 6-11.

After holding out hope that they could host at least some attendees onsite at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the organizers of OFC 2021 announced yesterday the event will be fully virtual instead. The dates of the show will be extended by a day to June 6-11.

Show organizers will present technical conference content in both live and on-demand formats. The agenda for the conference is expected to remain largely unchanged from what had been promoted previously. In the announcement of the format change, OFC management stated that the potential impact of quantum communications and machine learning on network operations and how optics may support machine learning and neuromorphic computing have emerged as trending new topics. Free space optical communications, photonic integration, spatial division multiplexing (SDM), and 5G also will pop up several times within the agenda. For the time being, anyway, the show’s website is still touting the Demo Zone, which is intended to showcase live technology demonstrations. With the schedule extended, workshops, the OIDA Executive Forum, and other special seminars may be moved from their traditional days.

The virtual format will extend to the exhibit floor, exhibitors were informed via email Tuesday. These companies will have access to “expanded and dynamic virtual opportunities as well as sponsorships and promotional opportunities,” according to a copy of the email Lightwave received. Money paid to reserve live booth space can be applied toward these new opportunities as well as bookings for the 2022 event. Refunds also will be offered.

This is the second year in a row that OFC has had to restructure itself due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The March 2020 event was converted to a hybrid model, which enabled conference attendees to view sessions online or in person (see "OFC 2020 exhibits open; conference sessions available online"). The exhibit floor remained open, although several sponsors either sent skeleton booth crews or pulled out entirely. Companies that did participate in the exhibition reported very sparse traffic.

The show organizers had planned to use a hybrid model again in 2021, with the dates changed from the traditional March to June in hopes that the pandemic would ease sufficiently to encourage live attendance (see "OFC 2021 moved to June"). Because of this planning, OFC management likely will leverage its plans for the virtual aspects of the hybrid scheme to accommodate participants.

Registration for the all-virtual event has not yet opened.

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