Photonics Promises Plenty
C. David Chaffee
Telecommunications is primarily a photonic endeavor in the 1990s. Optical fiber carries signals from lasers to detectors, which just happen to turn those photons into electrons for the ride to a switch that sends it to a television, a telephone or other consumer device.
As we tie more consumer devices to the end of those fibers, and send more data through those fibers, the networks become overburdened. Photonics has risen to the challenge, producing time and wavelength division multiplexing technologies that can send ever more signals through a single fiber. Technology and market factors indicate that wavelength multiplexing is the key to network growth.
Electronicast Corp., a marketing firm based in San Mateo, Calif., has forecast that the market for wavelength multiplexing equipment will reach $12.1 billion by 2005, a substantial jump from the 100.1 million spent in 1995. The market potential has prompted some changes in the industry, including the founding of new companies and increasing capitalization of older ones.
The trickle-down factor is significant for photonics as well. Component-level companies can expect to reap profits from the change: transmitter, receiver, amplifier, filter and integrated optoelectronics sectors stand to benefit from the growth.
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