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  • Enabling the Future

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2011
Karen A. Newman

In the June editorial, I wrote about the US National Academies undertaking an update of its 1998 study, Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century. Now SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, which pushed for a second study, has launched a blog, “Harnessing Minds,” to provide the photonics community with an open online forum to offer input for Harnessing Light II. The blog is at

“The blog will extend to everyone in the photonics community the opportunity to help design the future of photonics through discussion with [the] committee,” said Eugene Arthurs, CEO of SPIE. “SPIE joins our partner societies in encouraging comments from all sectors using photonics on issues such as scope – what applications of photonics technology should be included in the study – and impact – how can photonics technologies boost the economy and quality of life.”

Broadband telecommunications is also thought by many to have the potential to improve quality of life around the world. That idea is now nearly universally accepted. I heard recently from David Chaffee, CEO of Chaffee Fiber Optics, which publishes and FTTH Prism; he is also the author of The Rewiring of America: The Fiber Optics Revolution (Academic Press, New York, 1988) and Building the Global Fiber Optics Superhighway (Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2000). “Broadband is an enabling technology that will help nations improve the lot of their citizens, whether it be via the Internet, or otherwise staying connected through cell phones and other devices,” he said. “There is a global race to broadband now going on, and the stakes are enormous.”

Further, Chaffee said there is an understanding that fiber optics is the critical enabler in being able to handle the accelerating traffic loads. “Every nation that has a successful broadband strategy has fiber optics at the heart of it.”

Chaffee is the author of a new report from Laurin Publishing that is a strategic guide to the next seven years in the optical components market. In The Market for Fiber Optic Components: A Seven-Year Forecast, he explains how the next seven years will bring major global movement in optical components and identifies the market niches and sectors to pursue.

There are a number of key influencers for growth of the market. Chaffee believes that primarily it is an understanding that people and the countries they inhabit can be more productive through broadband. “Those of us who have used the Internet are becoming more sophisticated with it: It is playing an increasingly important role in our everyday lives, and that is resulting in the need for more bandwidth,” he said. Further, its reach is growing into China, India, rural Australia and Africa – new points where it didn’t exist before.

With this expansion, there will be a need for new enabling technologies to meet it.“It is important to understand that there is almost a 1:1 relationship between broadband growth and the need for optical systems and components,” Chaffee said. “The fact that there is more wireless traffic going on out there via smartphones, tablets, etc., is a great thing for the fiber optics industry because it is the only pipe that can allow carriers to stay ahead of the network demand.

“Many people even in telecom don’t realize how critical the optical components vendor is to making sure we stay ahead of these networking traffic demands. Yet this industry continues to be very innovative in its ability to engineer new quality components that will allow us to continue to propel more photons down a fiber all the time.”

The Market for Fiber Optic Components: A Seven-Year Forecast is available from Laurin Publishing. For more information, or to purchase the report, visit, or call (413) 499-0514.

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