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OFC/NFOEC 2009 Preview

Craig Matsumoto
3/20/2009
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OFC/NFOEC starts Sunday, and companies are already working up buzz for the show. Here's a smattering of what they've been saying this week.

A bigger switch
Polatis Inc. has upped its all-optical switch to an 80x80 size, targeting metro switching. Companies in 1999 were talking about the eventual 1000x1000 kinds of all-optical switches for the core. Polatis agrees that those days are dead. (See Polatis Takes the White House.)

But reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers (ROADMs) are taking over the metro, creating a flexible mesh architecture. Polatis's 80x80 switch (or a selection of smaller sizes) can connect to a ROADM to connect any wavelength to any endpoint, creating a colorless drop for that node.

Eighty happens to be the number of wavelengths that will be carried by many DWDM systems, which is why Polatis chose it -- but not without some debate. "We spent a lot of time, with a lot of coffee, talking about what the perfect size was for this market," Wesel says. (See Polatis Pushes All-Optical.) As a result, smaller options like 48x48 will be available, too.

You'll recall Polatis also has a wavelength-selective switch (WSS) of its own, and Wesel says that's in the hands of some Tier 1 carriers. It's just in the lab, though, which means any deployments would be, best case, a year off.

Second act
You'll recall Menara Networks , the OTN transceiver startup, won a Leading Lights award last fall for its optical transport network (OTN) transceivers. (See LR Names 2008 Leading Lights Winners.) The company will be at OFC/NFOEC talking about the next iteration of its technology.

That involves adding in-house electronic dispersion compensation (EDC) that Menara claims has mind-blowing performance stats. The company is presenting an OFC/NFOEC paper on that. For its third trick, eventually, the transceivers will be made tunable, CTO Salam El-Ahmadi tells Light Reading.

With several chip vendors offering EDC parts, you might wonder why Menara bothered to develop its own. El-Ahmadi says this was part of the company's early development that started years ago.

Pumping up PON
The drums continue to sound for 10-Gbit/s EPON.

PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS) will be at the show saying that 10-Gbit/s EPON, the standard for which should be completed late this year, can coexist with 1 Gbit/s (a.k.a. GEPON), creating that gradual-migration story that vendors so love.

At the show, PMC will be showing off a complete Optical Network Unit (ONU) and Optical Line Terminal (OLT) for symmetric 10-Gbit/s EPON. (See PMC Unveils Symmetric 10G EPON.)

That's a followup to its asymmetric (1 Gbit/s upstream) demo of 10-Gbit/s EPON systems last year. But it's the symmetric technology that looks likely to win out, because it's not that much more expensive, says Gilad Aloni, a director of product marketing with PMC. "The carriers believe the gap between symmetric and asymmetric will be narrow enough to justify going to symmetric from the outset," he says.

You've also got the fact that many Asian deployments will touch crowded locations like apartment buildings. With all that bandwidth sharing going on, having 10 Gbit/s upstream doesn't sound like a bad idea. (See 10Gig EPON Warms Up.)

The 10-Gbit/s EPON technology isn't just for Asia. Aloni and others say the North American cable industry is interested, too, and there isn't another viable PON option yet that can promise 10 Gbit/s.

"They want to compete aggressivley against FiOS's 2.5- or 10-Gbit/s options," says Julie Kunstler, vice president of business development for Teknovus Inc. Any deployments wouldn't happen until next year, though.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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