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While the extraordinary progress of optical communications over the last few decades slowed considerably following the bursting of the telecom's telecommunications bubble, there are now strong signs that the market has returned to normal. Consumer bandwidth demand in Western countries is such that it is now being rationed by a number of ISPs through throttling and traffic management. Arguably, a bandwidth famine is needed to establish demand before research on maximising fibre bandwidth can resume. As an indicator for future progress, it is timely to review the astonishing strides in optical technology that have been made over the last 40 years. By far the most perfect transmission medium ever seen, the optical fibre together with its partner, the EDFA, currently satisfies world needs for both transmission loss and bandwidth. Furthermore, it has considerable capacity yet to be exploited and is making inroads into other markets. In the quiet years of telecoms, many have exploited the wealth of devices and techniques developed for telecommunications in other applications. Examples are in high-power laser processing, sensing in oil wells, and in the biosciences. The remarkable control of light achieved in photonics brings unprecedented opportunities for signal processing, molecular manipulation and even in industrial welding and cutting applications. Remarkably, in fibre amplifiers the milliwatts of telecommunications can be scaled to powers as high as Kilowatts. The talk will review optical fibre developments across a number of areas in the context of historic developments.
Date of Conference: 24-28 Sept. 2006