There is no doubt that optical networks are the answer to the constantly growing demand for bandwidth, driving an evolution that should occur in the near, rather than the far future. However, the 1998–2000 telecommunications boom followed by the 2000–2003 bust suggests that the once anticipated all-optical network revolution will instead be a gradual evolution. This means that the OEO network will be around for a good while longer, with all-optical components first penetrating the network at the points where they offer the most significant advantages and as soon as their technological superiority can be applied .
Today's end-to-end OC-192-and-beyond carrier technologies call for a best-of-breed mix of OEO and photonic elements. All-optical switching solutions are effective for OADMs, network nodes where most traffic is expressed without processing; or in network nodes where part of the traffic needs to be dropped and continued to other nodes .
All-optical switching is also crucial in optical cross-connects (OXCs) where fibers carrying a large number of wavelengths need to be switched. Ideally, OEO conversion should occur only at the exact network nodes where the information is to be processed, not at the many interconnect points on the way .
That said, the ideal optical network that fueled most of the late 1990s telecom hype is not really that far from reality. It will probably happen 8–13 years later than anticipated as a slow evolution of ...