Opportunities emerge for optical switches in protection applications

The current economic downturn has forced optical-switching components and subsystem manufacturers to seek "greener pastures," details a new report from Communications Industry Researchers Inc. (CIR-Charlottesville, VA). All-optical crossconnects from the likes of AcceLight, Corvis, Calient, and Lucent are now considered niche products, while OEO crossconnects from Ciena and Tellium use mostly conventional electronic switching chips-all of which is forcing vendors like OMM, Onix Microsystems, C-Speed, and Corning to look for business elsewhere.

While optical crossconnects and reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers may be "sexier," say CIR analysts, the traditional protection/restoration segment may provide the greatest market opportunity. The market for optomechanical switching devices will continue to grow over the forecast period, claims the report-good news for JDS Uniphase, the dominate player in this space for several years. But CIR also believes that there is room for startups with innovative technologies based on photonic crystals or moving fiber designs.

CIR analysts also see an increasing role for two-dimensional (2-D) micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) in optical protection switching applications, because they offer smaller footprints and lower costs when manufactured in high volumes. Companies like ADC and DiCon have already introduced small MEMS devices that compete directly with traditional optomechanical protection switches. It is not surprising, therefore, that OMM, a champion of MEMS technology, has abandoned its three-dimensional MEMS designs in favor of such small matrix switching devices. According to CIR, 45% of the revenues from the protection switching segment will come from 2-D MEMS devices.

For more information on CIR's report, "The Future of Optical Switching: A Market Forecast 2002-2006," visit www.cir-inc.com.

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