Telecom 95 hones in on technology convergence

Dec 1st, 1995

Telecom 95 hones in on technology convergence

ADELE HARS

The telecommunications trade show Telecom 95, which is held every four years in Geneva, has become the industry`s most important show. Its 1995 theme -- "Connect!" -- depicted the convergence of the computing, telecommunications and broadcasting industries.

Although this show, sponsored by the International Telecommunication Union, does not focus on fiber-optics-based communications exclusively, the broadband applications heralded by telephone companies, content providers, network and infrastructure suppliers, as well as computer-oriented companies such as Intel and Oracle, are fiber-optics-intensive. This year, for the first time, computer companies and video broadcasters had a substantial presence at this show.

Solutions for broadband communications, including asynchronous transfer mode, or ATM, synchronous digital hierarchy, or SDH, and optical switching abounded. Multimedia, especially video-on-demand, was also a hot topic.

More than 150,000 visitors made the trek to Geneva`s Palexpo -- 20,000 persons more than initially projected. The show sprawled over 100,000 square feet, both indoors and outdoors. The 1000-plus exhibitors came from more than 50 countries, with almost 190,000 people participating.

And while the organizers had predicted that participation in the Summit Forums would be down from 1991 levels, instead the numbers increased substantially, to include almost 4000 participants. The forums consisted of two categories: the Strategies Summit and the Technologies Summit. The latter featured a day devoted to optical technologies, chaired by Corentin Penn of Alcatel/CIT. Topics included soliton transmission from AT&T Bell Labs; ATM optical switching from Alcatel SEL; wavelength-division multiplexing in SDH networks from France Telecom/CNET and others.

Announcements and alliances

For the big telephone companies, the show was not so much a time of announcements as it was an exercise in global positioning for power and technical prestige. However, numerous announcements were made by suppliers in fiber optics communications.

"Broadband has finally come of age and that`s evident here at the show," said ADC Tele communications President and Chief Executive William Cadogan. ADC chose the international arena of Telecom 95 to make several broadband-related announcements, including collaborations with Nokia and Hitachi (see Lightwave, November 1995, page 3). The international part of ADC`s business has become important to the company. International sales grew by 70% this year, and Cadogan expects them to double again next year.

ADC may collaborate with Nokia Telecommunications (the parent company of which is best known for its global system for mobile communications, or GSM phones) on the next generation of end-to-end broadband solutions, which are targeted for 1998. The two companies established a relationship for distributing each others products, but Cadogan sees fiber, coaxial cable and wireless all coexisting in the broadband architectures of the future. ADC`s initial goal is to combine the strengths of the two companies in ADC`s Homeworx hybrid fiber/coaxial-cable broadband access platform.

Cadogan particularly cites the technology in Nokia`s ACM-2 multiplexer for the local loop. The agreement is also expected to help increase Nokia`s presence in the U.S. market. "Nokia today is not really an access company, but that`s clearly a direction they want to go in," he says. "And ADC can benefit from integrating wireless technology into the access platform."

Under another ADC announcement, the company may embark on a long-term alliance with Hitachi Telecom to support Hitachi`s telecommunications products in North America. ADC is well-positioned in the American transmission market, counting six of the seven regional Bells in its customer base for its Soneplex product, which runs at DS3/D3 rates of 44.736 megabits per second. Hitachi has little presence in the U.S. market, but has higher-speed products, running from OC-3 to OC-192, or 155.52 Mbits/sec to 10 gigabits per second, respectively. "This gives us an opportunity to move up the bandwidth ladder and offer customers a more significant range of solutions," explains Cadogan.

Under the ADC/Hitachi agreement, ADC is expected to sell Hitachi`s high-speed, multiplexing and ATM switching products. Although the two companies have never worked together before, Cadogan expects the agreement to evolve into a full joint-venture agreement over the next 18 months. He also expects that Hitachi`s high-speed synchronous optical network, or Sonet, platform may further increase ADC`s abilities in video distribution systems.

Pirelli, which has long been known for its fiber-optic cables, used Telecom 95 to unveil its optical capabilities. "Pirelli is serious about growing in systems. Not just optical amplifiers, but in end-to-end systems," said Mehmet Balos, vice president of marketing and business development for Pirelli Cables of North America, based in Lexington, SC (see Lightwave, November 1995, page 1).

"Pirelli is a global company with established distribution channels, so we can take products worldwide," said Balos. He noted that the company is currently looking at potential partnerships, technologies, acquisitions and licensing.

At the show, Pirelli showed its first entries into opto-electronics with its T30 optical amplifiers and T31 multi-wavelength systems. Customers already include MCI, Sprint, BellSouth, US West, Siemens, Telefonica, Telecom Italia and New Zealand Telecom.

"Look for an announcement regarding Pirelli`s broadband strategy for business and residential networks in the next three or four months," said Balos, "as well as for a next-generation set of products." The company also showed its submarine optical systems, optical access system and a range of related modules and components.

Pirelli is also involved in a number of other large-scale projects, according to P. Vergnano, the company`s corporate general manager of the telecommunications business. For example, it is in a consortium with Italtel, Siemens Italia and Sirti (a STET company) to provide cable and equipment for Italy`s Socrate project to cable 10 million homes with hybrid fiber/coaxial cable for cable TV and potential broadband applications. It is also participating in British Telecom`s Otian project for broadband services, France Telecom`s Dora project for fiber deployment, and a Spanish project to build a fiber link between Madrid and Seville.

Moving fiber to the curb

Also prominent at Telecom 95, 3M emphasized products that accommodate fiber`s move to the curb. "Our goal is to allow our customers to ensure the quality of the services they offer," says Dennis Hamill, business director at 3M Telecom Systems Division, in Austin, TX. For example, the company`s Fibrdome closure protects and organizes fiber splices while allowing entry without special tools, torches or a power supply for installations, changes and upgrades. That means technicians can install cables quickly without disturbing other fibers.

"New test equipment has been developed to better define what`s happening in the loop and the drop to the house," explains Hamill. The Photodyne 17XT series of handheld fiber-optic power meters works with the 7XT light source to provide testing capabilities for cable-TV systems, erbium-doped-fiber amplifiers, and Sonet and ATM digital systems, among others. The test system can upload data directly into a notebook computer. The company also showed a yet-to-be-announced fiber identifier that works in strong ambient light. New cable and fault locaters were also displayed.

The worldwide version of Telecom is held every four years. However, during the intervening years, regional versions of the show are held: The next one is the Americas Telecom, which will be held in June 1996 in Rio de Janeiro.

However, a brief comparison between the last worldwide Telecom, which was held in 1991, and the 1995 version is revealing. For example, 1991 was strictly a narrowband affair with a few hundred ISDN lines. The 1995 network, however, was based on ATM and SDH technology over 580 fiber-optic cables, with some exhibitors also connected to the Geneva pilot ATM metropolitan area network. According to a spokesperson for Swiss Telecom, which was responsible for the networks at both shows, the 1995 version could supply up to 13.5 gigabits of bandwidth -- more than three times the bandwidth available at the 1991 show.

The next worldwide Telecom will be held in Geneva in 1999. Reservations are being taken now by the International Telecommunication Union; telefax +41-22-733-7256 or +41-22-730-5939. Some 1995 attendees recommend the easiest way to attend the show in Geneva is to commute daily from Frankfurt, Germany, on commuter flights. q

Adele Hars writes from Paris.

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