Read About What the ATT&T News Means to Our Industry, Quantum Foundries , Special Events, New Reports, and Other Noteworthy News, Opinions & Opportunities
In this Issue:
What the AT&T News Means to Our Industry
It may seem that the business strategies of telecom carriers are beyond the scope of this newsletter. As long as telecom traffic is growing or changing, carriers need to buy new optical hardware, which is our industry's business. What does it matter, as long as they keep buying?
However, AT&T' s announcement on 17 May that it will split off its content business with Discovery, Inc. to a new company is more than just moving pawns around a chess board. It suggests that AT&T, as a major US and global telecom carrier, is giving up at trying to be both a provider of content and of network infrastructure. Being vertically integrated like a cable TV company seemed like a good idea to AT&T when it acquired Warner Media in June 2018, but the two businesses are too different. Content creation follows consumer trends while infrastructure operates like a utility. AT&T can hand off the cool entertainment business to Discovery and focus on wireless, particularly 5G.
It was not the right strategy for AT&T, "Ma Bell”"and formerly American Telephone and Telegraph (with ticker symbol "T"), to become a vertically-integrated media and infrastructure company. AT&T had a legendary legacy with Bell Labs, but that's now Nokia Bell Labs. AT&T essentially spawned Verizon, but Verizon is now one of AT&T's main competitors (see family tree here). And its acquisition of DirectTV in 2015 essentially put AT&T's new satellite TV business in direct competition with its established residential fiber business.
More importantly, finances make or break companies, and AT&T carries over USD 170 billion in debt, largely from its acquisitions of DirectTV and Time Warner. The spinout of the content business reduces that debt by USD 43 billion. (See more here.) The figure below shows AT&T's revenues by segment, showing the flat to declining sales and the seasonal behavior of the wireless equipment segment.
Source: OIDA (from company statements).
For its part, Verizon acquired AOL (2015) and Yahoo (2017) and then sold its media group, including AOL and Yahoo, to private equity firm Apollo Global Management last month (see here). Wireline provider Comcast continues to own the content provider NBCUniversal.
Our community thrives as long as traffic is growing and carriers compete to offer new services. In fact, AT&T said that after the spinoff it is planning to boost spending on new capital equipment to about USD 24 billion, an increase of about 50% over spending in 2020. This is spending that will go to network equipment (both optical and non-optical), fiber, and facilities. It's good news for optics manufacturers.
The bottom line? Anything that helps a carrier be more competitive with its core business of network infrastructure is probably good for the optical equipment and components industry.
Why We Need Quantum Foundries
We're getting a déjà vu feeling as companies look to commercialize quantum technology but find that the ecosystem isn't sufficient. It's a chicken-and-egg problem: the ecosystem isn't there yet because there isn't a sufficient market today for quantum-based products. But there isn't a market because the commercial ecosystem isn't there to support one. The need to create a quantum ecosystem was a key finding of the OIDA Quantum Roadmap (here).
So what can be done? There are several solutions, but all of them cost money. First and most expensive, a champion could drive the creation of an ecosystem by simply buying products on a large scale. The U.S. government did this with the space program, spending big to put humans on the Moon and military satellites in orbit around Earth. This strategy works best when the government is genuinely committed to specific goals, as it was with reaching the Moon. Spending on a few quantum computers won't do it, it must be willing to spend far more than today's quantum programs like the U.S. National Quantum Initiative, the E.U. Quantum Flagship Programme, or the U.K. National Quantum Technologies Programme. However, it places a lot of decisions in the hands of funding agencies. If they choose poorly, it can condemn a company and its technology for years.
Another solution would be to support test beds, where researchers could install their widgets into an experimental project to do things that they couldn't do on their own. This is good for moving toward the goal of working systems, such as a quantum communication network. This was the subject of the NSF Workshop on Midscale Infrastructure hosted by OSA on 13-14 August 2020.
The solution that is suggested most is to create foundries. It's easy to visualize a foundry, or a network of them, without all the cost and complexity of a much larger government program that may be unlikely to get approved. University fabs are very flexible; all it takes is a turn of a knob for a PhD to tweak the process, improve the result, and publish a paper. However, they're not reliable from run to run. They aren’t suitable for developing commercial products.
This was exactly the discussion that OIDA led in 2014 about the need for a commercial-grade transitional foundry for silicon photonics. At that time there were university fabs with a lot of flexibility but little process stability. Commercial fabs are far more expensive and stable, but the processes are inflexible.
PsiQuantum recently announced that it is using Global Foundries as its fab to make quantum computing photonics circuits. This is significant because Global doesn’t work with just anybody. First, you have to fit into its process. Second, it needs to see that your company has a future; it doesn’t want to do one-off experiments. PsiQuanum had to work hard to get in the door, but now it provides a path to a commercial product (and more funding).
What is needed is something in between, either as a higher quality alternative to the university fab, or to provide a transition to the commercial fab. For example, the only foundries for fabricating qubits in diamond are scrappy university fabs, such as at Harvard and MIT. Subsidizing a transitional foundry would make it easier for researchers to advance ideas and, eventually, products. OIDA presented the figure below in 2014 to the U.S. government to make the case for a transitional silicon photonics fab in the U.S. much like IMEC in Belgium. The government agreed, and that led to the competition that was won by the AIM Photonics Institute.
The primary challenge with foundries is to decide what technologies to support. And once that's determined, who gets to be the foundry when each offers something slightly different? OIDA has found that companies support the foundry idea, so long as their company is the chosen foundry. This would bring the company much needed business, but excludes competitors.
Quantum photonics is still early in its development, earlier than silicon photonics was in 2014. The case for investment is just as compelling or more so. OIDA has a long history of supporting the foundry concept. We support quantum foundries, and test beds too. Why not do them all?
Welcome New OIDA Members
Now Available On-Demand: 3rd OIDA Technology Showcase Presentations
Watch our virtual presenters and see the latest technology innovations from leading OIDA member companies. Experts from 27 companies share their innovative products. Thank you to our participating companies including:
- Calmar Laser
- Cosemi Technologies
- Delta Optical Thin Film
- Diamond USA
- Hitachi High-Tech
- Hyperlight Corporation
- LaCroix Precision Optics
- LioniX International
- Menlo Systems GmbH
- Optical Systems Design
- OptoTest Corporation
- PFG Precision Optics
- PHIX Photonics Assembly
- Santec USA Corporation
- Schott North America
- Source Photonics
Learn more and view the presentations now.
New Podcast: "All Things Photonics"
In this "All Things Photonics" podcast episode, OSA Fellow Claudio Mazzali, Sr. Vice President and CTO of Corning Optical Communications Sector, describes how the global optics and photonics community adapted to challenges associated with COVID-19 and utilized optical technology to fight the pandemic.
OSA Fellow Claudio Mazzali, Sr. Vice President and CTO
of Corning Optical Communications Sector
Watch the podcast episode
OSA Applied Industrial Optics Topical Meeting Confirms Virtual Format
The OSA Applied Industrial Optics Topical Meeting will be now be presented in an all-virtual, web conference format on 26-30 July 2021. You can participate without the expense or commitment of travel, and from the safety and convenience of your home or office. The virtual format impacts only how presentations are delivered, not what is presented. The program, including invited speakers, contributed oral talks and keynote session, remains intact.
Join industry leaders at AIO, where professionals from diverse backgrounds discuss photonics research, technology development and commercialization.
OSA/OIDA Virtual 5G Summit
The 5G Summit is a two-day program providing an overview of the entire ecosystem.
Topics will include Deployments & Use Cases, Radio Technology, Access Network Evolution and Open RAN, Edge Computing, Virtualization & Network Slicing, Transport Network Evolution in the Dawn of 5G, Scalability of Deployment, Optical Access and Aggregation Networks, and Optical Transceivers & Photonic Devices.
Showcase Your Company's Useful Techniques: Submit to Applied Optics' Engineering and Laboratory Notes
Applied Optics (AO) publishes Engineering and Laboratory Notes (E&L Notes)—brief, concise articles that share useful laboratory techniques and practical engineering approaches in the applied optics field. Topics range from design and analysis, to fabrication and integration, alignment, testing, and calibration of optical systems. E&L Notes offers a unique way to publish useful techniques from your engineering notebook in Applied Optics. Read more about E&L Notes and suitable topics for submission and learn about how to submit your contribution.
Recognize Contributions to Fiber Optic Technology
We are currently seeking nominations for the 2022 Tyndall Award, which recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions in any area of optical-fiber technology, including optical fibers themselves, the optical components used in fiber systems, as well as transmission systems and networks using fibers. This award is co-presented by OSA and IEEE Photonics Society and supported by Corning Incorporated.
Submission Deadline: 10 August.
Recognize Contributions to Quantum Optics and Atomic Physics
We are currently seeking nominations for the 2022 Walther Award, which recognizes distinguished contributions in quantum optics and atomic physics as well as leadership in the international scientific community. This award is co-presented by OSA and Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG). Support for the award is provided by Toptica Photonics AG, Messe München International - LASER World of PHOTONICS and Berthold Leibinger Stiftung GmbH.
Submission Deadline: 10 August.
Digital Programming Now Available Live and On-Demand
OIDA management and OIDA members have produced a series of webinars and virtual Technology Showcases that are available at no charge. We encourage you to browse our growing list of upcoming events and view on-demand recordings as they become available. And there is much more! Check out the OSA We Are On webpage for more high quality webinars on career development from the OSA Foundation and the OSA Career Lab.
Invitation to Join the OIDA Optics and Photonics Industry LinkedIn Group
Join 4,000+ of your colleagues in our OIDA Optics & Photonics Industry Network LinkedIn Group. This one-of-a-kind Forum for Industry lets you participate in discussions about cutting-edge issues. Extend your professional network. Exchange information about problems, ideas and solutions. Collaborate with experts in your field. Now is the perfect time to build a relationship with fellow optics and photonics professionals!
Questions or Suggestions about OIDA Member Benefits?
We are committed to ensuring the value of your OSA Industry Development Associates Membership, so please email OIDA if you have any suggestions for new programs or comments on your membership.
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OIDA (OSA Industry Development Associates) Council
Thank you to the volunteers who oversee the programs and services available to the Industry Community.
Inrad Optics, Chair-Elect
Plymouth Grating Laboratory, Inc.
Cedric F. Lam,
Double Helix Optics
Optimax Systems, Inc.