Optical/IP Networks

Chorum Makes A (Small) Splash In Optical Switches

It's easy to see why Chorum Technologies Inc http://www.chorum.com decided to announce its latest developments in optical switches based on liquid crystal technologies last Wednesday (March 1). If it had waited to unveil them at the Optical Fiber Communication (OFC) exhibition in Baltimore next week, they wouldn't have made much of a splash.

Why? Because the products Chorum is launching - a Fast Add/Drop Switch, an 1x2 Optical Switch component and a Dynamic Variable Attenuator (a device for adjusting signal strengths in adjoining wavelengths) - aren't exactly cutting edge, according to industry experts. They say Corning Inc. http://www.corning.com is still way ahead of Chorum, having already demonstrated a 40 channel add-drop mux based on liquid crystal technology. Corning is now working on an 80 channel version, they add.

Some optical switch vendors are also dubious about liquid crystal technology, saying it's unproven. And so far, none of the technologies being touted for "all-optical" switches can scale to the thousands of ports required by carriers. Also, none of them can switch light from one port to another at nanosecond speeds - something that will be needed for gear to route traffic on a packet-by-packet basis, rather than simply speeding up the provisioning of wavelengths.

As Chorum will be far from alone in unveiling all-optical switching developments at OFC http://www.osa.org/mtg_conf/OFC/, it's worthwhile putting its announcements into perspective.

Next page:Liquid and Languid

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