BALTIMORE, July 13 -- Internet and data traffic are the keys to the growth of optical networks said Tingye Li, former leader of the AT&T research team responsible for the development wavelength division multiplexing (WDM). Li, who heads Zolo Technologies technical advisory board, gave this assessment at a private luncheon at NFOEC hosted by Zolo. Li's presentation, "Crouching Tiger and Hidden Profits: Perspectives and Prospects of Optical Networks," examined the principles of network development, the challenges and the foundation for future networks, based on research began by AT&T Labs. According to Li, the number one driver of optical networks is Internet traffic. The voice traffic growth rate currently is below 10 percent, whereas data (mostly Internet) traffic has been doubling every nine to 12 months in 2000 and 2001. To counteract the challenges presented by necessary infrastructure upgrades and network evolutions, changing revenue structures, and rising capital and operation costs, networks need to be flexible and scalable, with fast and automatic provisioning managed by software. Li maintains that multichannel WDM transmission systems will meet the projected traffic demand of data. Li told the group that the guiding principles of network development are to reuse embedded fiber to save new constructions, to grow capacity incrementally to avoid overbuild, to support industry standards, to exploit technologies mature enough for application, to enhance network reliability and to simplify network operations and management. The foundation for future networks includes aggressive fiber expansion, ultra-high-capacity DWDM, end-to-end intelligent optical networking, multiservice platforms for service aggregation and state-of-the-art restoration and network management.