Metro is a 'shot in the arm' at NFOEC

Sept. 1, 2001
There was a clear trend this year at the 17th annual National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (NFOEC) July 8 to 12 in Baltimore, MD, and its name was metro. In spite of grim news of layoffs, cost restructuring, and the general malaise in the fiberoptic industry, the metropolitan optical space was vigorous, with numerous product announcements and technology advancements.

There was a clear trend this year at the 17th annual National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (NFOEC) July 8 to 12 in Baltimore, MD, and its name was metro. In spite of grim news of layoffs, cost restructuring, and the general malaise in the fiberoptic industry, the metropolitan optical space was vigorous, with numerous product announcements and technology advancements.

Exhibitors stressed that the health of the industry hinges upon reducing the cost and size of components so that carriers can hope to turn a profit. Optoelectronics-component leader Alcatel (Paris, France) showcased a suite of components and subsystems to that end, including a new 10-Gbit/s optical receiver for metro and long-haul dense -wavelength-division-multiplexing (DWDM) applications. Alcatel also announced a miniature distributed-feedback laser operating from 1260 to 1360 nm at 2.5 Gbit/s over 40 km, using a "revolutionary, cost-reducing" silicon planar-submount technology to facilitate integration of active and passive components.

Nortel Networks (Brampton, Ont., Canada) also launched a portfolio of no less than 14 optical components for metro and optical edge networks, focusing on innovative technology and automation to reduce cost, size, and power consumption. Among the offerings was a 2.5-Gbit/s "buried heterostructure" laser transmitting at 1550 nm, with low dispersion and a reach of 175 km. Nortel also claimed "best-in-class" performance for its new 10-Gbit/s preamp receiver, with very low cost for fast return on investment.

"We are using the technology and automation expertise gained through our leadership in long-haul, 10-Gbit optical components to develop solutions for the metro market," said Barbara Callaghan, president of Optical Components at Nortel.

Adva Optical Networking (Munich, Germany) announced a new all-optical switching (OXC) module using microelectromechanical-systems technology for metro applications. The plug-in OXC is integrated into one platform with Adva's carrier-class metro system, thus enabling switching of 4 bidirectional channels on 1550- and 1310-nm interfaces at the click of a mouse.

Bookham Technologies (Abingdon, England) also announced several new developments in the metro and long-haul markets. A new 1-channel and 8-channel electronic variable optical attenuator can respond to power spikes at speeds up to 2 MHz, with a remarkable dynamic range of up to 45 dB of attenuation. Bookham's compact mini-FLAT 10-Gbit/s receiver for metro and very-short-reach applications can be easily integrated into SONET/SDH systems and will reduce cost of assembly into systems.

Fiber-testing company GN NetTest (Brøndby, Denmark) introduced the first optical time-domain reflectometer to reach the technological milestone of 50-dB dynamic range, for testing on spans up to 250 km. With revised operating software, the company claims the testing time for a 48-fiber cable can be reduced from 2.5 hr to less than 1 hr.

Industry's pulse weak but present

The talk of manufacturing was reminiscent of the Optical Fiber Conference earlier this year in Anaheim, CA—a sign that the industry still has a pulse. Exhibiting companies Bookham Technologies, Scion Photonics (Valencia, CA), and Princeton Lightwave Inc. (PLI; Cranbury, NJ) all have high-volume manufacturing on the brain; the inauguration of PLI's 90,000-sq.-ft. advanced manufacturing facility is an example. In addition, at least four companies—Alcatel, K2 Optronics (Sunnyvale, CA), PacketLight (Kfar Saba, Israel), and W. L. Gore (Newark, DE)—announced strategic manufacturing agreements with Singapore-based Flextronics Photonics. The apparently popular electronics-manufacturing services provider will fabricate various metro components such as DWDM lasers for K2.

A plethora of technical sessions at the conference was presented to packed auditoriums. Researchers at JDS Uniphase (San Jose, CA) studied and demonstrated a new in-line optical-amplifier configuration that uses a bidirectional circulator and a single, unidirectional gain medium. When tested in a transmission experiment of 48 x 10-Gbit/s, 100-GHz WDM channels, interleaved, over 2 x 100-km spans of conventional single-mode fiber, the performance showed Q-factors better than 19.5 dB, which is believed to be feasible for multiple spans of bidirectional transmission of interleaved channels.

Outside the conference, other local activities included the WDM Solutions 40-Gbit/s Forum, held Sunday before the opening of exhibits. Companies such as Corning Incorporated (Corning, NY), JDS Uniphase, Agere Systems (Allentown, PA), Marconi plc (London, England), and Nortel gave presentations and participated in a panel on issues surrounding 40-Gbit/s technology. One of the conclusions of the forum, said John Grady, senior editor of WDM Solutions magazine, is that "polarization-mode dispersion is the biggest challenge facing the implementation of 40-Gbit/s. Other issues include whether to use return-to-zero vs. nonreturn-to-zero formats, use of gallium arsenide vs. indium phosphide substrates, channel spacing, testing, and cost."

Attendance at NFOEC was down from last year, but not drastically so. Conference organizers reported registration of more than 9200 people, which was down 8% from last year's turnout of 10,000.

About the Author

Valerie Coffey-Rosich | Contributing Editor

Valerie Coffey-Rosich is a freelance science and technology writer and editor and a contributing editor for Laser Focus World; she previously served as an Associate Technical Editor (2000-2003) and a Senior Technical Editor (2007-2008) for Laser Focus World.

Valerie holds a BS in physics from the University of Nevada, Reno, and an MA in astronomy from Boston University. She specializes in editing and writing about optics, photonics, astronomy, and physics in academic, reference, and business-to-business publications. In addition to Laser Focus World, her work has appeared online and in print for clients such as the American Institute of Physics, American Heritage Dictionary, BioPhotonics, Encyclopedia Britannica, EuroPhotonics, the Optical Society of America, Photonics Focus, Photonics Spectra, Sky & Telescope, and many others. She is based in Palm Springs, California. 

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