Bandwidth fever drives technology trends toward flexible, all-optical networking solutions.
The number of companies claiming to be specialists in market forecasting for fiber optic communications should provide a clue to the immense size of this market. Stock analysts' abrupt coverage of fiber component manufacturers offers another indication. And traditional photonics companies' impulsive interest in the communications arena shows the powerful lure of telecom-hungry investors' dollars.
Suddenly everyone wants to be in communications. If you can't be a dot com, enable dot coms. It is much cooler to make things that enable the Internet than to make things that scribe serial numbers on car parts. And anyway, the Internet is going to let us work, shop and interact from home, so we won't need cars, right?
Whoa! Don't sell your DaimlerChrysler and Mobil/Exxon shares just yet.
Even the top communications researchers at Lucent Technologies' Bell Laboratories still travel to an office most days, despite having their fingers tightly clenched around bandwidth-enabling and videoconferencing technologies that regular people won't see for decades, if ever.
Still, there is great promise. Cheap, plentiful bandwidth and computers will change our lives. Imagine buying a Ferrari for $5000 (or a Kia for $200), paying $20 a month for unlimited gasoline, highways without bottlenecks and free parking near the front door. That's the carrot that photonics is dangling.