Milestone Touted for Fiber Links

SAN MATEO (03/10/2000) - LaserComm Inc. together with AT&T Labs this week announced that the two companies had completed key DWDM (dense wave division multiplexing) tests that could spur cost-cutting developments in optical networking.

Specifically, LaserComm, using AT&T's testing facilities, achieved a broadband transmission rate of 40Gbps while correcting crucial dispersion problems -- a phenomenon that occurs as light fans out when passing through a medium.

LaserComm and AT&T unveiled the benchmarking results at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exhibit 2000 held this week in Baltimore.

Mark Barratt, LaserComm's vice president of business development, described the testing: "LaserComm has managed to resolve dispersion on a broad spectrum to correct fiber completely. Once that was done, the question was, 'Will it now support 40Gbps?' " he said.

AT&T was in on the tests largely because of the carrier's extensive fiber holdings, Barratt added.

DWDM systems faster than 2.5Gbps often suffer dispersion problems that can lead to complications in separating individual wavelengths on a fiber.

But LaserComm claims that its Hi-Mode Dispersion Management Device (DMD) breaks those dispersion-slope barriers.

Networking giants including Alcatel and Lucent and newcomers such as Qtera and Sycamore have been waiting for such capability, Barratt said. LaserComm will now focus on commercialization of DMD, which could eventually drive bandwidth costs down by 40 percent, Barratt said.

Although the speed and physics barriers tackled in the tests are significant, some optical networking experts doubt whether such announcements have immediate impact on optical applications.

"I think we'll see announcements like these once a year, and they are important because they sort of define the state of the technology. But usually the parameters are so far ahead of the networking company's own product line, let alone their customers," said Tom Valovic, research manager for optical networks at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.

AT&T Corp., in Basking Ridge, N.J., is at www.att.com. LaserComm Inc., in Plano, Texas, is at www.lasercomm-inc.com.

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