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OFC Preview: Signs of Life

ANAHEIM, Calif. – OFC/NFOEC 2005 – No one is saying the recovery is complete, but the optical components business is starting to get busy again.

As OFC/NFOEC kicks off this week, plenty of vendors have put out product announcements already. The list includes a few names that went back into stealth mode in 2001 or 2002 after the telecom collapse and are just now re-emerging.

Based on this first document dump, here are a few of the "buzz" items for OFC 2005:

40-Gbit/s optics. The OC768 market seems to be inching closer every year yet always stays just out of reach. This year is no different. "We see the interest level ticking up, but we haven't seen the orders yet," says David Huff, vice president of marketing for laser manufacturer T-Networks Inc. "We aren't factoring [40-Gbit/s] into our business plan this year."

Keeping 40-Gbit/s in the news last year, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) added an OC768 interface to its CRS-1 core router, with help from StrataLight Communications equipment. Meanwhile, companies such as CoreOptics Inc., Mintera Corp., and Photline Technologies, continue to plug away at 40-Gbit/s technology as well, so it's reasonable to expect some OFC noise from this direction. (See StrataLight Powers Cisco's OC768, Mintera, Cernet Demo 40-Gbit/s, and 40 Gig Finds Friends.)

As for announcements at OFC, there's already been one of note: Opnext will be demonstrating a 40-Gbit/s transceiver in the standard 300-pin form factor (see Opnext Storms OFC).

10-Gbit/s advancements. Meanwhile, work continues on wringing the most out of the 10-Gbit/s generation, particularly when it comes to extending reach.

Kailight Photonics Ltd. will be discussing how it achieved a 1,600-km reach for the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). The NRL has the technology to send 10.7-Gbit/s signals 800 km before needing electrical regeneration (by comparison, telecom networks tend to use maximum distances of 80 km). Kailight used its all-optical signal regeneration to extend that to 1,600 km.

The NRL will be demonstrating its newfound power at OFC -- sort of. The lab's all-optical network is up and running on the east coast, but to pipe data to Anaheim for the show, they'll have to use everyday networks that aren't all-optical, says Neil Salisbury, Kailight's vice president of marketing. D'oh!

Avanex Corp. (Nasdaq: AVNX) has been busy with 10-Gbit/s work as well:

XFP. Within 10-Gbit/s, the XFP module form factor continues to be a hot topic. XFP was intended as a long-term answer to follow Xenpak, X2, and the 300-pin multisource agreement (MSA) that still represents the mainstream. But given the challenges of packing the necessary optics and electronics into the package -- XFP is the smallest of the 10-Gbit/s pluggable modules -- companies are eager to show they've gotten components' size and power consumption down far enough.



ROADMs. The era of the wavelength selective switch (WSS) is arriving, judging from the announcements that have already stacked up. The WSS is expected to usher in the next wave of reconfigurable add-drop multiplexer (ROADM) boxes, as it's a more flexible and compact option than the wavelength blockers currently used.

RIP at OFC. Not every company will survive and part of the fun of getting together every year is to see who doesn't make it.

To get you started: Don't bother looking for Chromux Technologies Inc. The MEMS switch company, which had its eye on the ROADM market, has gone under and is selling its physical assets at an auction March 15. It's at Chromux's Oxnard, Calif., home, just a hop and a skip from OFC in Anaheim.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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