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ECOC : A Ghostly Gathering

Conference is sparsely attended, but some interesting stuff is on offer... if anyone wants it

September 10, 2002

5 Min Read
ECOC : A Ghostly Gathering

COPENHAGEN -- ECOC 2002 – This year’s European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC) has turned out to be a brilliant show for anyone suffering from agoraphobia or kleptomania.

There’s plenty of wide open spaces. In other words, there’s hardly any visitors -- fewer than 1,000 have registered for the exhibit only, according to the organizer -- and there’s virtually no security preventing folk from walking off with examples of the latest developments in optical technology.

The show is also spookily silent. There are none of the dancers and jugglers found at U.S. shows, and (thank Heavens) the organizer hasn’t repeated last year’s deafening broadcasts telling journalists to get on over to Booth X to witness a new product announcement (see ECOC Show Report).

All the same, some of the developments on show are definitely worthy of note. Here are the ones that have piqued our interest so far:

  • Switzerland’s GigaTera AG is demonstrating a further development of its pulsed laser that’s drawing the closest things to crowds at ECOC. The laser now not only eliminates the need for expensive modulator drivers (see GigaTera Sends Pulses Racing but is also tunable. The bottom line is that it can be driven by a cheap'n'cheerful 980 nanometer laser, eliminating yet further costs.

    Gigatera’s development is being demonstrated at the Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) booth. The demo makes use of Agilent’s recently launched optical sampling oscilloscope, which is worth taking a closer look at anyhow, because it represents a significant leap forward in digital communication analyzer techynology.

  • Lynx Photonic Networks is showing an all-optical 1x4 protection switch based on its thermo-optic waveguide technology (see All-Optical Switching Tutorial, Part 2, page 7, and Look Ma, No Moving Parts!).

    Lynx is showing how these switches can help carriers cut costs by enabling one line card to be used as a backup for four line cards in an XDM platform from Lightscape Networks Ltd. The live demo also features the use of tunable lasers from Agility Communications Inc. in Lightscape’s equipment (see Clouds Lift on Tunable Lasers).

  • JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) announced no fewer than two dozen new products (see JDSU Demos Edge Products).

    These include a number of transceivers -- the hottest market segment for JDSU at present, according to Gerald Gottheil, the company's director of marketing communications. Indeed, JDSU's revenues for transceiver products have grown quarter over quarter recently, despite the fact that revenues have declined overall. New 10-Gbit/s transceiver products included small form-factor versions of 300-pin modules for short and intermediate reach (SR and IR) Sonet applications; and a Xenpak module, a product coming out of JDSU's acquisition of IBM Corp.'s (NYSE: IBM) enterprise transceiver division earlier this year. JDSU also introduced a 24-channel tunable transmitter: A complete set of spares for the C-band requires only four of these devices.

  • Luminent Inc. claimed to have the first-ever demonstration of a 10-Gigabit Small Form-factor Pluggable (XFP) Module Group. XFP competes with the X2 and XPAK multisource agreements (see The X-Wars: Agilent Strikes First). But this battle won't be as bloody as the "X-Wars" because there are clear differentiators between XFP and the other MSAs, says Near Margalit, Luminent's VP of marketing and business development. XFP is a serial solution -- it doesn't include the chip that breaks down the 10-gig electrical signal into four parallel 2.5-Gbit/s channels. This has a couple of big advantages, he says. For one, customers don't have to pay over the odds for the chip because it has been purchased by a middle man. And two, putting the chip on the line card distances the heat it generates from the optics. "It's a subtle point, but systems vendors appreciate it," says Margalit.

  • Kamelian Ltd. reported that it has started shipping against its first significant order for Semiconductor Optical Amplifiers (SOAs) (see Kamelian Ships Optical Amps). The order, which totals over $1 million, is for 1310nm wavelength devices, which haven't been its main focus to date, says Paul May, the startup's CEO. "We've flipped from looking around for business to wondering how the hell do we deliver this order," he says. "That's a very good position to be in." Kamelian also unveiled four-port SOA arrays, which cut the cost of amplification per channel by sharing the cost of packaging over several devices.

  • Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) announced its entry into the market for Arrayed Waveguide Gratings (AWGs) as its acquisition of Silicon Micro Systems in Italy comes to fruition (see Agilent Announces AWGs). The first product is specified with 40 channels at 100GHz spacing, making it applicable for the long haul. The announcement is interesting mostly because it seems to make no sense whatsoever -- many industry observers say there is no market for high-channel-count AWGs right now.

  • Alcatel Optronics (Nasdaq: ALAO; Paris: CGO.PA) also unveiled new AWG-based products, called hybrid combiners (see Alcatel Intros Hybrid Combiner). Made by Kymata Ltd., the chip integrates an AWG with tap couplers, variable optical attenuators, and detectors, to provide a subsystem for use in optical add/drop nodes. The product is notable because of the high level of integration. But again, there are questions over who is buying this type of product at the present time.

    — Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, and Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading
    www.lightreading.com

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