OFC Reflects Back, Looks Ahead in Special Fiber Anniversary Keynote

By OFC Communications

Thomas Friedman’s best-selling book, The World Is Flat, proclaimed, “Several technological and political forces have converged, and that has produced a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration without regard to geography or distance--or soon, even language.”

Over the last 50 years, optical communications fueled that convergence, guiding us to the very place we are today.  

“There’s this incredible connectivity that we’ve created, and the global connectivity in it, is changing the basic infrastructure of our society,” remarked David Welch, founder and chief innovation officer, Infinera, and keynote speaker at OFC 2020’s “Celebrating 50 Years of Light-Speed Connections” session.

David Welch presenting the fifty years of fiber innovation keynote at OFC 2020

Caption: OFC 2020 celebrates fifty years of fiber innovation with a keynote address and special themed exhibit

Welch’s remarks looked back at what brought us to this tipping point of globalization. The first demonstration of low-loss fibers and the first room-temperature semiconductor lasers fifty years ago were what led us to today’s world of instant connection. From the life-saving techniques of telemedicine to entertainment like gaming and streaming, data fuels the personal connection pipeline for all of us.   

“Five out of the six largest companies in the world sell data,” said Welch. “The most valuable companies in the world, in one form or another, sell data. It’s the fiber optics technology and industry, and its ability to scale, that allowed that to happen.”

According to Welch, scalability has been what’s helped the industry progress. The continuing demand for greater speed, efficiency and lower cost has fueled much of the industry growth and created a state where both transatlantic traffic and ethernet standards have grown tenfold per decade. Just looking at ethernet standards alone, if this trend continues, in 20 years, 80 terabits will be the new norm. 

“This is what’s amazing: It’ll happen because the market and the people need it to happen,” Welch concluded. “How we do it, we don’t know. That’s some of the incredible magic of both this conference and the way the fiber optic community has developed... It’s driven by creativity to an end goal.”

In addition to Welch’s keynote address, the celebration included a “timeline of innovation” exhibit on the show floor featuring innovations over the last 50 years through artifacts and imagery, an interactive exhibit on the John Tyndall Award recipients and a themed conference reception. For more information, visit the conference website

Posted: 12 March 2020 by OFC Communications | with 0 comments

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The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition (OFC)  or its sponsors.