Research Note

September 2021 Highlights from ECOC 2021

September 2021

Abstract

ECOC – 2021, held in Bordeaux, France was a success

Yes, yes, excellent Bordeaux wine and cheese have something to do with this, but it was a very productive event. COVID-19 travel restrictions were a barrier for ECOC attendees this year, but many of them were able to jump over those barriers and enjoy the show. Extra efforts required meant that majority of the attendees had an important agenda at the event. It was an excellent venue for meetings and discussions. Less crowded, a bit less hectic, more effective and enjoyable.

The majority of large US and Japanese companies did not attend or exhibit at ECOC 2021, as illustrated in the figure below, giving more visibility to European companies as well as the Europe-based sales and marketing teams of some foreign vendors. Accelink and Hisilicon were among the few foreign exhibitors at the show, represented by their local teams. Absence of large exhibitors, dominating the event in the past, gave more visibility to smaller vendors, including a few that had to cross the border to attend.

Accelink has been a staple at ECOC for years, but Hisilicon probably had the largest and the best staffed booth at the exhibit this year. Security concerns related to deployments of Huawei’s networking equipment in Europe do not stop Hisilicon from selling optical transceivers worldwide. If Huawei’s optical equipment business slows down, Hisilicon will have more capacity for supporting other customers. The company developed internal manufacturing for a wide variety of optical chips (GaAs, InP and Silicon Photonics) and for the design of electronic ICs. There is probably no other company, which can match the technology resources and the track record of Hisilicon. The company delivers and customers like that.

It was also refreshing to see a broader range of topics discussed in presentations and private meetings. The usual hot topics: Silicon Photonics, 400/800G and Co-packaged optics were touched on, but it was great to see other technologies and applications for optics highlighted at the event, including:
• Electro-optics polymers and other types of hybrid opto-electronic circuits,
• Thin film Lithium Niobate modulators,
• GaN LEDs for short reach, high bandwidth interconnects,
• Low loss photonic crystal fiber,
• Free space optics in space communications.
• F5G, the Fifth Generation Fixed Network (covered in a separate research note, see Stéphane Téral’s Perspective: When 5G met F5G)

Electro-optics polymers have been around for decades, but these materials are getting more attention now as modulator speeds reach above 100Gbaud. Apart from speed, electro-optic polymers can be integrated with a variety of materials, including silicon photonics. Michael Lebby, CEO of Lightwave Logic and recipient of the ECOC award, also mentioned the potential use of polymer modulators in LIDARs - a key word for the global financial community, searching for the “next big thing”.

Michael Lebby attended ECOC just a few days after ringing the stock exchange closing bell in New York. Lightwave Logic went public years ago, but it was up-listed at NASDAQ on September 10, 2021. Not to mention that the company officially reached a unicorn status with a $1.1 billion valuation. Congratulations to Michael Lebby and his team.

We would love to see more “optical unicorns”.

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