Optical Technology Update
by Michael Finneran

Published April 2002




Nowhere has the Internet bust been felt more acutely than in the optical market. Two years ago, when the Internet engine was running at full power, optical networking seemed like a sure bet. But today, with Global Crossing filing for bankruptcy, carriers slashing capital expenditures and questions arising over carriers' bandwidth swaps, we have what one CEO calls a "nuclear winter" in telecom.


Despite short-term market prospects, however, optical technology continues to march forward. Venture money is still coming in and advances are being made on a variety of fronts. However, many of the developments slated for last year have been deferred until later this year.


The ultimate goal will be to develop a flexible, transparent optical network—a user would be connected to the network with an optical interface, be assigned a wavelength that in turn is combined with other wavelengths and cross-connected through a network of optical switches. In essence, the customer would be buying a slice of the carrier's optical bandwidth and could transmit any signal, at any bit rate, up to the analog capacity of the channel.


The difficulty and the impetus for many new developments, is the fact that an optical network is analog, with all the attendant problems—like loss, noise and crosstalk.


Other technology developments center around:



Wave division multiplexing (WDM)


Tunable Lasers


Optical Packet Switching


Optical Control Plane


About the author:

Michael Finneran is president of dBrn Associates, Inc., an independent consulting firm in Hewlett Neck, NY, specializing in the design and installation of domestic and international networks. He is the instructor for several of BCR’s data communications and optical networking courses.



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