MURRAY HILL, NJ, April 16 -- Lucent Technologies plans to open a new optical networking research and development facility at North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus. The facility will house members of Lucent's Optical Networking Group who are developing software for the company's WaveStar family of optical networking products. Optical technology will be as important to the 21st century as electricity was to the 20th century, said Gerry Butters, president of Lucent's Optical Networking Group. Photon Valley -- a virtual community of researchers, developers and manufacturers working to further advance the power of fiber optics -- will be as much a part of the American lexicon as Silicon Valley is today. Lucent plans to begin construction in the next few weeks, and to move into the new 120,000-square-foot facility by the spring of 2000.