OFC attendance down, but innovation still up

March 31, 2009--Even though 9500 people attended the Optical Society's (OSA; Washington, DC) Optical Fiber Communication Conference/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (OFC/NFOEC) in San Diego, CA March 22-26 compared to the usual 12,000, there was no shortage of technological innovation, with paper submissions coming in at nearly the same numbers as last year (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/323294).

March 31, 2009--Even though 9500 people attended the Optical Society's (OSA; Washington, DC) Optical Fiber Communication Conference/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (OFC/NFOEC) in San Diego, CA March 22-26 compared to the usual 12,000, there was no shortage of technological innovation, with paper submissions coming in at nearly the same numbers as last year (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/323294).

Even though the economy has negatively impacted the telecom markets, "[We will] emerge out of this process," said Philippe Morin, president, Metro Ethernet Networks at Nortel (Toronto, ON, Canada). In his Plenary presentation on March 24th, Morin described the global megatrends that are driving optical innovation, and why he thinks these trends will usher in a bandwidth explosion in coming years.

Morin sees three major megatrends. First of all, new business models are accelerating bandwidth growth. Travel budgets will never return to historic levels and newspapers are dying, increasing the need for video conferencing, telecommuting infrastructure, and even virtual tradeshows. Second, personal connectivity is moving from a "nice to have" to a necessity, says Morin. In 2000, the Internet was an experiment. But in 2009, he says, it's clear the Internet will play an ultra-powerful role in driving the need for bandwidth both for businesses and residential citizens. And finally, Morin sees the demand for high-definition video as fueling the next wave of bandwidth growth.

A panel of communications experts at Tuesday's press luncheon debated whether the challenge was to keep up with the existing bandwidth needs, or to stimulate traffic--especially considering the trend that several countries are achieving higher rates of broadband and optical fiber penetration. Other Market Watch and Plenary sessions pondered whether new types of optical fiber were needed and whether coherent communications lessens the optical component innovation through increased electronic compensation. Though the economy is the toughest that many attendees have seen in a long while, the post-bubble lesson for many in the telecommunications industry is that now is the time to innovate to meet the growth demands in the not-so-distant future.

A full review of OFC/NFOEC 2009 will appear in the April 1st issue of Optoelectronics Report. Please subscribe at www.optoelectronicsreport.com, the twice-monthly eNewsletter from the editors at Laser Focus World and BioOptics World that covers both national and international business news and market trends and tracks technology advances to interpret their business implications.

--Posted by Gail Overton, gailo@pennwell.com; www.laserfocusworld.com.

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