‘Broadband explosion’ revitalizing industry

ANAHEIM, CA-Although communications service providers such as Verizon Communications (New York, NY) and Comcast Cable (Philadelphia, PA) may disagree on which optical network architectures deliver the most reliable voice, video, data, and wireless services, they do agree that the current “broadband explosion” continues to keep service and equipment providers happy as the optical communications industry experiences steady growth.

ANAHEIM, CA-Although communications service providers such as Verizon Communications (New York, NY) and Comcast Cable (Philadelphia, PA) may disagree on which optical network architectures deliver the most reliable voice, video, data, and wireless services, they do agree that the current “broadband explosion” continues to keep service and equipment providers happy as the optical communications industry experiences steady growth.

“Comcast has made a big bet on converged services,” said Vik Saxena, director, network architecture for Comcast Cable, at the annual press luncheon during the Optical Fiber Communication and National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (OFC/NFOEC; March 25-29, Anaheim, CA). The luncheon was aptly titled “The Broadband Explosion-How Optics Can Handle the Demand.”

Like Saxena, press luncheon panel member Mark Wegleitner, senior VP and CTO of Verizon Communications, feels that the seamless convergence of triple-play services, plus mobile communications and Internet protocol television (IPTV), will be the major challenge for service providers worldwide.

“Video is the 600-lb gorilla; the infrastructure will require a significant step forward from where we are today,” said Wegleitner, referring to the fact that the only viable solution to handle the tremendous amount of bandwidth needed by today’s video-hungry consumers is an all-optical network.

Press luncheon panel moderator Dana Cooperson, VP Network Infrastructure for telecoms and IT software consulting and market analysis firm Ovum RHK (www.ovum.com), explained that in 2006 there were already 300 million broadband users worldwide-30 million of which are fiber-to-the-home/premises and node (FTTH/FTTP or combined as FTTX) subscribers that are spurring 20% to 40% growth rates for this sector of the communications market.

Wegleitner also presented a talk entitled “Maximizing the Impact of Optical Technology” at the OFC/NFOEC Plenary Session and Awards Ceremony that described how low-cost, mass-produceable optical components are enabling optical fiber networks to move closer to the customer. According to Wegleitner, FTTX is not just an idea, it is now an actual network architecture being implemented on a broad scale; in 2006, Verizon offerings for FTTP-passed 6 million homes.

But with the success of FTTX and a move from 10 Gbit/s (G) to higher-bandwidth 40 G and even 100 G networks comes a host of new technical challenges for designers. In the Monday “40 Gig Networks and the Real World PMD Challenge” workshop-one of ten conference workshops this year free to technical registrants-Kim Roberts from Nortel explained that compared to 10 G networks, 40 G networks have a 4X reduction in polarization-mode-dispersion (PMD) tolerance (from 10 ps total PMD tolerance for a 10 G link to only 2.5 ps tolerance for a 40 G link). While modulation techniques such as Nortel’s two-pole quadrature phase-shift keying can reduce network costs by reducing the amount of electrical or optical PMD compensation equipment required, presenter Ross Saunders of StrataLight (Los Gatos, CA) said that long term, replacing the installed fiber in the ground will be the best payoff. According to presenter John Peters from Telcordia (Piscataway, NJ), fibers manufactured after 1997 have much less PMD.

With 975 paper submissions in 12 topical areas, making sense of the highlights in any one of the technology categories from “Fibers and Optical Propagation Effects” to “Networks” and “Emerging Applications and Access Solutions” was a task made much less daunting by the well-attended Morning Technical Briefings. The briefings were basically a one-hour overview each on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday of 4-out-of-12 total technology categories, presented by the Subcommittee Chairs for each category. The Chairs were able to summarize the major trends in each category of the technical sessions and highlight papers presenting ground-breaking work (such as 1550 nm light-emitting-diode pumped amplifiers, a 40 GHz 40-channel integrated source from Infinera, a high-sensitivity indium aluminum arsenide avalanche photodiode from Mitsubishi, and a presentation on transmitting radio frequencies over fiber).

This year’s conference had its share of new product announcements, including a germanium-enabled integrated photodetector on a silicon-on-insulator CMOS wafer from Luxtera (Carlsbad, CA), the first tunable dense-wavelength-division multiplexer (DWDM) transceiver from Pirelli Broadband Solutions (Milan, Italy), a 100 G Ethernet parallel optics technology demonstration from Avago Technologies (San Jose, CA), the first CMOS silicon-based tunable optical waveguide equalizer from Alcatel-Lucent, and a 980 nm laser diode pump module from Bookham (San Jose, CA) that is first to achieve an output power of 750 mW.

With approximately 600 exhibitors and 13,000 attendees, the IEEE/ComSoc-, IEEE/LEOS-, and the OSA-sponsored 2007 OFC/NFOEC conference had a renewed enthusiasm as memories of the communications bubble of 2000/2001 gradually fade. Most exhibitors on the show floor said they were glad the bubble days were over, noting that sales projections were “more realistic” and the industry was seeing “less hype” along with steady growth.
-Gail Overton

More in Home