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We review and contrast key technologies developed to address the optical components market for communication applications. We first review the component requirements from a network perspective. We then look at different material systems, compare their properties, and describe the functions achieved to date in each of them. The material systems reviewed include silica fiber, silica on silicon, silicon on insulator, silicon oxynitride, sol-gels, polymers, thin-film dielectrics, lithium niobate, indium phosphide, gallium arsenide, magneto-optic materials, and birefringent crystals. We then describe the most commonly used classes of optical device technology and present their pros and cons as well as the functions achieved to date in each of them. The technologies reviewed include passive, actuation, and active technologies. The passive technologies described include fused fibers, dispersion-compensating fiber, beam steering, Bragg gratings, diffraction gratings, holographic elements, thin-film filters, photonic crystals, microrings, and birefringent elements. The actuation technologies include thermo-optics, electro-optics, acousto-optics, magneto-optics, electroabsorption, liquid crystals, total internal reflection technologies, and mechanical actuation. The active technologies include heterostructures, quantum wells, rare-earth doping, dye doping, Raman amplification, and semiconductor amplification. We also investigate the use of different material systems and device technologies to achieve building-block functions, including lasers, amplifiers, detectors, modulators, polarization controllers, couplers, filters, switches, attenuators, isolators, circulators, wavelength converters, chromatic dispersion compensators, and polarization mode dispersion compensators. Some of the technologies presented are well established in the industry and in some cases have reached the commodity stage, others have recently become ready for commercial introduction, while some others are- still under development in research laboratories and require significant progress in fabrication and assembly processes before they become commercially viable. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.