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Growth seen for optical-switching device markets

Posted: 27 Dec 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:optical switching devices? mems switch?

The market for optical switching devices is predicted to grow at an annual rate of over 24 percent between 2003 and 2006, according to a report entitled "Optical Switching Markets, 2003-2006," by the Communications Ind. Researchers Inc. (CIR), an optical market research company. The report however warns that a switching manufacturer's success in the market will depend heavily on its technology choices and the timing of its product releases.

During the optical boom period, there was an assumption that victory in the optical switching space would go to the supplier with the most advanced technology. By contrast, CIR's recent interviews with customers at all levels of the optical value chain suggest that, for the next few years, the fastest growing markets for optical switching devices will be those with the most conventional technology.

Specifically, CIR reports that the most rapidly growing segment of the market is to be found in OEO switching subsystems, driven mostly by the growing need for OEO cross-connects in the public network. Further, a renaissance of liquid crystal technology in reconfigurable OADMs will help to give this sector healthy growth between now and 2006.

Even the optomechanical sector can expect to grow, CIR said, since switching devices in this sector are by far the most accepted type of technology for protection switching.

While noting that there will be significant new revenue opportunities generated from improving on older optical switching technologies in the next two years, CIR's latest report also claims that emerging customer requirements for small footprint, integration with other components, and rapid response times will ultimately lead to the decline of older optical switching technologies. For example, the now ubiquitous optomechanical switches are exactly what customers are not going to want in a few years time, the research firm said, they are huge, slow, and hard to connect to other devices.

The alternative to these older technologies is either MEMS switches, such as those made by OMM, or various species of PLC-based switch, such as those made by OpTun. Unfortunately, CIR research indicates that while in many cases they would like to adopt these technologies, many questions still seem to remain in users' minds about the reliability of devices built with these new technologies, and they are also usually much more expensive than "lower tech" alternatives.

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