A brighter outlook

The downward spiral of the marketplace for communications components appears at last to have slowed and the newfound business stability was evident among the survivors on the floor of OFC in Atlanta in March.

May 1st, 2003

The downward spiral of the marketplace for communications components appears at last to have slowed and the newfound business stability was evident among the survivors on the floor of OFC in Atlanta in March. Expectations seemed realistic again in terms of the outlook for the telecom business and were centered on likely short-term opportunities in metro, access, and enterprise networks with continuing softness in the long-haul markets (see p. 15). Away from their booths, though, a focus of many exhibitors was the search for possible alternative markets for their technologies. Fiber Bragg gratings, for instance, are finding application in the oil and gas industry (see p. 123 ). Other possible opportunities for these technologies exist in defense and homeland security (see p. 15), in advanced lighting (see Optoelectronics World, which follows p. 128), and in the life sciences, where understanding the proteins that support our molecular structure has become a major focus and is the general goal of proteomics (see p. 80). While many of these optoelectronic applications are not entirely new, the telecom firms are eager to apply to them lessons learned from competing in the telecom arena.

One of these lessons—that technology has become (for now) less important than economics, so the value proposition of a product, along with the premium it commands, are closely scrutinized—has driven down the prices of tunable semiconductor lasers to the point that they are not far off their fixed-wavelength counterparts. This point is made by Conard Holton, Chief Editor of WDM Solutions in his new column, which will be appearing monthly in Laser Focus World starting with this issue (see p. 71).

Meantime, those seeking alternative outlets for their technologies could do worse than visit Baltimore, MD, in early June. The annual Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) will be held there June 1–6. According to the organizers (OSA; Washington, DC), the number of technical papers accepted this year (1105) is up about 10% over last and although the number of exhibitors is off slightly as this is being written, the OSA is relatively hopeful about the overall outlook for the event, which is still the preeminent broad-based technical conference in the industry. Perhaps this optimism is well founded—there are certainly a lot of telecom firms looking for those new opportunities.

Stephen G. Anderson
Associate Publisher/Editor in Chief
stevega@pennwell.com

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