10 December 2019

Celebrating 50 Years of Light-speed Connections at OFC 2020

Enhanced fiber optics and compact lasers together launched modern telecommunications era

WASHINGTON -- Two breakthrough technologies—low-loss optical fiber and room-temperature semiconductor lasers—came together in 1970 to transform global communications and enable light-speed connections across continents and oceans.

To mark this half-century milestone, a special celebration titled “Celebrating 50 Years of Light-speed Connections” will be part of the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exhibition (OFC), the world’s largest conference and exhibition for optical communications and networking professionals, held 8-12 March 2020 at the San Diego Convention Center, California, U.S.A.

The special programming associated with this anniversary will feature a dedicated keynote address, a show-floor exhibit on the history of fiber optics and a reception. Corning Incorporated will be the Innovator Sponsor of the reception.

“The development of high-performance, low-loss optical fiber coupled with the critical technology of room temperature semiconductor lasers created a watershed moment in telecommunications,” said OFC General Co-chair William Shieh of the University of Melbourne, Australia. “Subsequent improvements in these and other technologies paved the way for greater bandwidth, faster speeds and a more resilient architecture for communication networks. It’s hard to image our world without the near instantaneous access to information, entertainment and services we now enjoy. The transformative impacts of these innovations are truly worth celebrating.”

Time for a Revolution in Telecommunications

By the middle of the 20th century, data and communications were hitting a major bottleneck. Most long-distance communications relied on electrical signals flowing along bulky copper wires. The fundamental technology of this network was both expensive and limiting in the amount of data it could transmit.  

With a growing demand for greater speed and data capacity, it was clear that a technological revolution was needed. Optical fibers, which were first developed in the early 1950s, were a promising solution, but impurities in the manufacturing process caused signals to attenuate, making long-distance transmission impractical. That hurdle was overcome in 1970 when researchers developed a new generation of low-loss optical fibers that could carry signals over vast distances. Coupling that with the development of room-temperature semiconductor lasers, the powerful-yet-compact light sources to carry the data, the pieces were in place to transform communications and build a new information superhighway.

Modern Impact of Innovation

Over the past several decades, numerous other breakthroughs have led to increases in bandwidth and a greater reach for fiber links, enabling the World Wide Web, video streaming, trans-oceanic high capacity links, high-capacity wireless communications and many other data services. Today, thanks to these innovations, nearly 100,000 gigabytes of data travel the globe every second through millions of kilometers of optical fibers.

Timeline of Innovation Exhibit

OFC will unveil a unique show-floor exhibit that will encompass 50 years of optical fiber innovations: from the first demonstration of low-loss fiber in 1970 to efficient 400 gigabit Ethernet transport at any distance today. OFC attendees will be able to browse the timeline of these milestones and see the progression of invention through artifacts and imagery.

Special Keynote

Dr. David Welch, founder and chief innovation officer of Infinera Corporation, Sunnyvale, California, U.S.A, will present a special keynote on Tuesday, 10 March, 18:15 – 19:00 PDT looking back at 50 years of discovery in optical fiber technology and its impact on society. His talk will also include a brief glimpse into the near-term future to see how fiber optics will continue to extend and enhance light-speed connections. This keynote will be followed by a specially themed reception.

Registration Information

OFC general registration opens December 2019. Register before 10 February 2020 and save on a full technical conference pass. Credentialed media and analysts who wish to cover OFC 2020 can find registration and other essential information in the OFC media room.

About OFC

The Optical Fiber Conference and Exhibition (OFC ) is the largest global conference and exhibition for optical communications and networking professionals. For more than 40 years, OFC has drawn attendees from all corners of the globe to meet and greet, teach and learn, make connections and move business forward.

OFC includes dynamic business programming, an exhibition of more than 700 companies, and high impact peer-reviewed research that, combined, showcase the trends and pulse of the entire optical networking and communications industry. OFC is managed by The Optical Society (OSA) and co-sponsored by OSA, the IEEE Communications Society (IEEE/ComSoc), and the IEEE Photonics Society. Follow @OFCConference, learn more at OFC Community LinkedIn, and watch highlights on OFC YouTube.

About The Optical Society

The Optical Society (OSA) is dedicated to promoting the generation, application, archiving, and dissemination of knowledge in optics and photonics worldwide. Founded in 1916, it is the leading organization for scientists, engineers, business professionals, students, and others interested in the science of light. OSA’s renowned publications, meetings, online resources, and in-person activities fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate scientific, technical, and educational achievement.

About Optica

Optica (formerly OSA), the society advancing optics and photonics worldwide, is dedicated to promoting the generation, application, archiving and dissemination of knowledge in the field. Founded in 1916, it is the leading organization for scientists, engineers, business professionals, students and others interested in the science of light. Optica’s renowned publications, meetings, online resources and in-person activities fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate scientific, technical and educational achievement.

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