Li Spoofs Industry at OFC

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- OFC 2002 --

    Like vapor from bubbles a’bursting
    from Lucent and Nortel and…

This is from the poem Ode to Irrational Exuberance, written by Tingye Li (borrowing heavily from Shelley).

Li retired from a 41-year research career at Bell Labs and AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) in 1998, and he now consults on optical technologies and systems. He delivered an OFC presentation yesterday that not only addressed how lightwave technology has revolutionized telecommunications, but also managed to slam nearly everyone in the industry.

Li entitled his talk “Innovation and Revolution in Optical Fiber Communications: Observations of an Avuncular Fiber Engineer.” He joked that he had been provided with a flak jacket so he could proceed with impunity.

So, who was the target of his avuncularizations? Anyone working in optical "time-diversion multiplexing," for starters. Or anyone working on all-optical packet switching, which Li called “fun, but not for profit.”

These were among the practices that Li characterized as "phantonics." Phantonics, he explained, is technology in search of applications.

“My advice to you if you indulge in phantonics: Encourage and applaud your competitors who follow… and quickly change course.”

Neal S. Bergano, managing director of systems research at TyCom Ltd. (NYSE: TCM; BSX: TCM), who received the coveted John Tyndall Award just moments before Li’s presentation, found himself a special target.

"Smart physicists upgrade themselves to become great systems engineers," said Li, pointing out that one “insightful” observation from a great systems engineer came from Bergano: "Optical non-linearities are always bad for data communications."

“But I say,” Li quipped, “optical non-linearities are pretty good for getting the Tyndall award.” (Li himself won the award in 1995.)

On a (slightly) more serious note, Li said that amplified Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) transmission is what will get us through the telecom winter, and that Erbium Doped-Fiber Amplifiers (EDFAs) have been "blessed by God" for WDM transmission.

God was unavailable for comment.

Li feels the telecom supernova in the United States has forced a return to rational business practices. In the future, he expects to see ultra-long-haul networks, Optical Crossconnects, and 40-Gbit/s transmission call forth “crouching technologies for realizing hidden profits.”

From rewriting Chinese film titles, Li moved on to hold the entire OFC arena spellbound while he recited poetry -- first Shelley’s, then his own:

    Like vapor from bubbles a’bursting...

— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com For more information on OFC 2002, please visit: www.nottheofc.com

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