Optical fiber in full light: the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exhibition in Los Angeles

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The Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exhibition (OFC) is the largest scientific and technological event in the field of optical communication. The 2017 edition of the OFC took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center from 19 to 23 March. It brought together more than 14,500 participants and more than 650 companies exhibited their products. A French delegation, mainly from the industrial field, attended the event and presented the French innovative breakthrough in this field.

The importance of this event is justified because optical communications represent a considerable market. From the beginning of the 1990s, the transition from sending electronic signals via cables to sending of optical signals using fibers revolutionized the transfer of data, and hence the Internet, by allowing much larger speeds. Some figures: network operators would have collectively invested nearly $ 180 billion in 2016; each of the world’s top 10 operators (no French one in this list) has a market value of more than $ 50 billion (280 for China Mobile, the first on the list) [1].

In terms of scientific presentations, the French delegation was essentially composed of researchers from the industrial sector. In particular, there were several members of the French operator Orange, one of the only telecommunications operators in the world to have maintained an in-house research activity. Orange Research Labs employs more than 600 researchers or engineers, trains 140 doctoral students and has a scientific council (chaired by Cédric Villani). Several researchers from Nokia-Bell France (formerly Alcatel-Lucent, bought in 2016 by Nokia) also attended the conference.

Concerning more fundamental research, Laurent Vivien, CNRS researcher at the center of Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies of the University Paris Saclay, was invited to give a conference. His team (Silicon Photonics Group) is working on the use of silicium, a traditional component of electronics, for applications in photonics. This technology could be used to develop high-speed, low-power optical communications on a chip. This is a very competitive area of research that was pinpointed by the Obama administration for a major fundraising. [2].

Finally, a few French high-tech companies were among the exhibitors: APEX Technologies, BKTEL Photonics, CAILabs, Data-Pixel, Ekinops, IXBlue, Yenista Optics and CEA-LETI. Some of these companies are already installed on the US market (EKINOPS, IXBlue, Yenista Optics) or are in the process of being installed: CAILabs has just been selected by Business France as part of the IMPACT program to facilitate its installation in the United State .