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Posted by Meghan Fuller Hanna

While snowed in yesterday, I read the most recent issue of Time Magazine, which was chock full of end-of-the-year Top 10 Lists. (They even published a Top 10 List of Reasons Why We Love Top 10 Lists. I kid you not.)

Here at Lightwave, we compile our own version of the Top 10 List. Okay, so it's actually a Top 5, and it's not really an end-of-year list. Instead, we publish our Top 5 systems vendors, component vendors, and companies and trends to watch to coincide with OFC/NFOEC, that annual bellwether of a conference that unofficially marks the end of one year in optical communications and the beginning of the next. (For a complete list of last year's rankings, click here).

I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the February OFC/NFOEC issue to see which companies made the list this year (in part because we have yet to finalize them!)

But, this being the gift-giving season and all, I couldn't leave you empty handed.

So without further adieu, here are my Top 5 Trends to Watch in 2008 (in no particular order):

Packet optical network platforms (PONPs): When I first wrote about the PONP in our September issue (see "PONPs optimized for legacy and packet transport"), there was still some debate about the class of equipment to which it belonged. Is it an MSPP? An MSTP? Does it belong in the category of next-gen SONET/SDH? Well, it seems the industry has decided it's a bona fide equipment category all on its own. We know this because the analysts have begun to chart its progress! Infonetics Research forecasts the worldwide PONP market to account for $1.7 billion in annual sales by 2010. Not a bad haul for such a nascent market.

Silicon photonics: In its recent report, "New markets for telecom & datacom lasers: 2007 to 2012," CIR analysts argue that, "Silicon Photonics could be the single most important technology in the near term, gradually pushing short-wave optics and multimode fiber into niche oblivion." Luxtera, one of Lightwave's Companies to Watch in '07, is now spearheading the OIDA's Silicon Photonics Alliance, which also includes Corning, Kotura, Molex, and US Conec. Look for additional coverage on this trend in Lightwave going forward.

The North American cable multiple-systems operators (MSOs): Oh, those cable MSOs. Look for them to continue their strong push into the business services market in '08, and keep a close eye on potential FTTH-like activity as well. My sources tell me the cable MSOs are moving beyond the tire-kicking phase and into serious lab trials with emerging cable-centric PON technologies. There's a reason why "RFOG" (RF over Glass) is one of the hottest acronyms in the optical communications space today.

The European FTTH market: Some wonder whether the flurry of activity this year in and around the city of Paris will serve as a catalyst for the rest of the region. Competitive carrier Free jump-started the market with a sizeable investment in FTTH infrastructure around the city, prompting incumbent France Telecom to commit to its own FTTH plans. Alternative operator Neuf Cegetel also expanded its FTTH infrastructure in the city via the acquisitions of Erenis and Mediafibre. France's ARCEP is thus far the only European telecom regulator to champion FTTH, but will others follow? (See Kurt Ruderman's editorial, "Solving the infrastructure puzzle," in the Q4 2007 issue of Lightwave Europe.)

Consolidation: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, to borrow a phrase from my mom, I'm putting consolidation on the list again this year. (It made our official Top 5 Trends to Watch list last year too. Come to think of it, I think it made the cut in '06 as well.) The last few years have seen consolidation at the top of the food chain, but everyone is waiting with bated breath for notable M&A; activity among the component vendors. Thus far, any consolidation among the component guys has occurred on an opportunistic basis--and it's mostly involved profitable companies. Will '08 finally bring the consolidation many have predicted since the bubble burst?

That's all you get for now. As I mentioned earlier, you'll have to wait until the February issue to learn which companies made our coveted Top 5 Lists this year.

In the meantime, which trends will you be following over the next 12 months? Which companies impressed you this year, and who do you think seems poised to break out in '08? We'd love to hear from you!


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Night night FlexLight?

December 18, 2007

Posted by Stephen Hardy reported on December 6 that GPON pioneer FlexLight Networks has filed for bankruptcy. (See the story here.) Haaretz's Guy Griml quotes an unidentified FlexLight executive as suggesting the company came out with a product too early. However, the executive also blamed a lack of marketing and development focus.

"At some point it became apparent that FlexLight would be sold or closed down. The investors were impatient, and the big players, Alcatel, Siemens, and Telrad, released similar GPON products," Griml quotes the executive as saying. "As far as I'm concerned, this company is a huge miss."

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The Lightwave editorial staff uses The Lightwave Blog to share their thoughts on optical communications and whatever else might be the current topic of conversation from cubicle to cubicle. Feel free to add your own opinions.

Stephen Hardy is editorial director and associate publisher of Lightwave, which makes him responsible for the editorial aspects of the Lightwave franchise. A technology journalist since 1982, he once had his job duties described as "gets paid to tick off advertisers ".

Meghan Fuller is senior editor of Lightwave. She has degrees from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, and the University of Delaware and is a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation.