12 March 2012 11:24:24 AM
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OFC has become well known for many reasons, including the fact that it provides strong glimpses into the future of the fiber optics industry. This is true in the development of the technology. But it often can become clear with regard to what the markets are going to be, as well.
I will never forget interviewing Charles Kao, seen by many as the founder of fiber optics, at an OFC in 1983. When I asked him about whether fiber would be used in the submarine environment, at the time a novel idea, his response was that “the oceans will be littered with fiber.” Five years later the first transoeanic fiber networks were cutover and fiber has been the sole undersea communications form ever since.
Probably the most cited source at OFCNFOEC regarding what role fiber optics will play in the future is the post-deadline papers. These are forward looking, often theoretically focused experiments sometimes known as “hero experiments” which provide a clearer understanding of where the technology is going.
Some of the major themes addressed by this year's post-deadline papers included multi-core fibers, an electrically pumped germanium on silicon laser, a 100 Gbps single VCSEL data transmission link, and space division multiplexed transmission.
However, when it comes to nearterm market direction, a close canvassing of leading edge vendors on the exhibits floor can also be very helpful.
For example, Corning this year is introducing its new VSDN optical fiber, the purpose of which is to support emerging high-speed optical interconnects between computers and other consumer electronics devices. It is based on the ClearCurve large bend fiber design that was introduced in 2007.
The potential here is for an enormous new consumer electronics market for optical fiber, and represents a departure in thinking from the normal high dollar order mentality that pervades the industry.
ClearCurve VSDN optical fiber actually has the ability to handle intermittent bends down to 1.5 mm in radius, surpassing Corning's regular ClearCurve product, while exhibiting ultra-low bending loss and superior mechanical reliability. “Copper is too big and comes up short,” said Paulo Dainese, a Technology Assessment Manager in the company’s Optical Fiber Division..
The fiber has an interesting core size of 80x100 microns and is designed for use for up to 30 meters, said Dainese. The product is commercially available although is in a very early stage. Marketing will represent an interesting challenge at the consumer level, which while consistent with some other Corning products, represents a departure for the company at the fiber level.
Corning enjoys positioning itself at next frontier levels of fiber and Corning spokeswoman Monica Monin told us the consumer in telecom represents one such area. The fact that a product is now available that demonstrates that gives the potential market a sense of authenticity.
An exciting product that OFS was demonstrating at its booth which speaks to the new market of bringing fiber into the residence is Invisilight. The process involves molding thin optical fiber cables literally into the woodwork to be aesthetically pleasing when fiber comes to the residence. “You can’t see it and the fiber is really protected,” according to OFS Technical Manager Chip White. The product will be commercially available in June
The Invisilight process points to the growing potential market for fiber in the home. Again, this has been something that has long been discussed. Yet with new products addressing what again could be a huge market there is a real sense of belief that this market is coming in a big way and not at some point 10 years from now.
In a very real sense, it is the innovative new products one sees on the show floor that form the bridge between what could happen in fiber optics and what is actually coming about.