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ECOC 2012: Go Faster!

Ray Le Maistre
9/17/2012
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5:00 PM -- AMSTERDAM -- ECOC 2012 -- Take a walk around the European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC) exhibition in Amsterdam, which opened today, and you might think that 100Gbit/s connectivity was somewhat passé.

OK, so that's a slight exaggeration. A number of speakers presenting at the open-to-all Market Focus sessions on the show floor noted that the market for 100Gbit/s components and systems is still very small.

But it's growing, with more deployments announced each month. (See XO's Not Done Yet With 100G, VimpelCom Upgrades With Ciena, Euronews: NSN Lands 100G Deal and PLDT Deploys Ciena's 100G .)

And while those deals stoke the market, there's no harm in looking ahead, especially during an event like ECOC. (See ECOC 2012: Day 1 Pictures.)

"We're already doing 500Gbit/s superchannels," noted Geoff Bennett, director of solutions and technology marketing at photonic integrated circuit (PIC)-based systems vendor Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN), "and 1Tbit/s superchannels" -- that is, 10 x 100Gbit/s carriers on a single line card -- "are coming, maybe in two or three years." (See Infinera Intros DTN-X.)

Of course, Infinera isn't alone in talking about 1Tbit/s capabilities these days. (See Ethernet Group Starts to Talk Terabit , Switch Devices Ramp Up to Terabit Levels and Broadcom Switches Push Into Terabit Range .)

Why the rush? Video and data traffic demands, of course. That's the one thing everyone's agreed on here. In fact, often the reasoning isn't even mentioned: It's just accepted that much greater connectivity capacity is needed in the data center (right down to sub-millimeter connections) and in access, backhaul, metro and long-haul networks, and it's needed pretty much immediately.

The optical technology sector has the solution to the capacity problem, of course. But at what price?

That's always the key sticking point, no matter which part of the high-speed components sector you look at. A case in point is the emerging market for metro client-side silicon photonics modules, a market that received a real boost when Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) acquired Lightwire earlier this year. (See Lightwire Points Cisco Toward 100G and Silicon Photonics Signals Red Alert for 100G .)

Ovum Ltd. analyst Daryl Inniss pointed out during his Market Focus presentation that demand for 40Gbit/s and 100Gbit/s transceivers is driving demand for silicon photonics products, but that the products commercialized so far have been "highly complex" and produced in low volumes, meaning there's a way to go yet before the "end game of low cost, high volume products."

There's an end game? That sounds a bit final and it's clear from just a few hours at this show that there's no such thing as a finishing line for the developers here at ECOC.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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