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Optical Expo Preview

We're gearing up for Light Reading's annual Optical Expo, convening in Dallas on Oct. 6-7, marking the event's third year. We've put together an excellent agenda for this year's event, featuring some of the leading thinkers in the optical industry. Here's a sneak peek at some of the major themes we can expect to see.

Photonic integration begins to redefine optical economics. Although the photonic integrated circuit (PIC) has been talked about for decades, it did not see commercial applications until this decade. The biggest driver behind PIC innovation is that the entire telecom industry needs to resolve a huge dilemma: The bits on the network are increasing dramatically, but operator revenue growth is minimal. The PIC – with silicon photonics as an emerging subset – is poised to radically redefine optical cost, scale, and performance for optical networks. We are at the very beginning of an optical revolution here.

WDM-PONs gather momentum. This trend is yet another example of how much can change in the span of just one year. Last year, WDM-PONs were seen as interesting lab research with a future in commercial networks far on the horizon. This year, as my colleague Graham Finnie has pointed out, WDM-PONs have gathered significant industry momentum, with some predicting wide deployments as early as 2009 or 2010. (See WDM PON: Sooner Rather Than Later?) ADVA Optical Networking , for one, was showing off its WDM-PON technology at NXTcomm in June. And just this month, LG-Ericsson Co. Ltd. – a joint venture between Nortel Networks Ltd. and LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) – announced that it has purchased WDM-PON specialist Novera Optics Inc. (See LG-Nortel Buys Novera Optics.)

Optical switching experiences a renaissance. The first time around, optical switching failed to live up to its hype – mostly because vendors were promising all-optical crossconnects with 1,000 ports or more, which were technical marvels to create, but which no one really needed. Now we're seeing a revival in optical switching, with several paths open for this technology to move forward. The success of the ROADM certainly has a lot to do with this revival, but control-plane technologies such as GMPLS/ASON are also taking hold with carriers. At the same time, Ethernet continues its migration into the WAN, meaning that the next-generation optical switch must be built to handle Ethernet packets – potentially opening the door for true optical packet switching.

Operators wrestle with deploying 40G, 100G, or both. The trend toward 100-Gbit/s transport is not brand new (though it's still amazing to think about how quickly operator demand for 100G has materialized). With 40-Gbit/s volumes ramping up this year and 100-Gbit/s standardization pegged for 2010, operators are really struggling with how to handle the migration from today's 10-Gbit/s networks. We'll present the latest thinking on this critical topic at the conference.

In all, this is another exciting year for optical innovation. We hope to see you at Optical Expo 2008!

— Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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