Internet users are consuming more bandwidth than ever -- much of it spurred on by the ever-increasing demand for online video files and the popularity of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. This rapidly rising appetite for network bandwidth is also fueling advances in optical technologies. By providing cheap bandwidth and greater robustness, the optical network industry continues to deliver on its promise since the original innovation of dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) in the mid 90s that multiplied bandwidth by a factor of 16 and slashed costs.
Optical networks, based on the emergence of the optical layer in transport networks, offer fast, readily available bandwidth at reduced costs. They're ideal for a broad range of Internet applications, including high-quality video delivery for entertainment purposes. Simply put, everything rides on top of the optical network.
More innovation and competition is badly needed in the optical market in order for the sector to have an even greater impact on bandwidth. For example, if the Internet were to experience a 10x increase in bandwidth at 1/10 the cost, this would enable significantly faster content distribution in a lot of areas beyond entertainment, including storage area networking, defense, and virtually every aspect of communication.
One specific technology that’s already benefiting from optical networking advances is "telepresence," via which high-definition video images and audio are transmitted to give users the illusion of sitting on the opposite side of the remote party’s conference table.
As corporations become increasingly global, they’re using telepresence to save business travelers time, costs, and human wear and tear. The technology offers a promising alternative to face-to-face corporate meetings. For example, when executives conduct telephone conference calls, much of their body language and other subtle aspects of communication is lost. Executives feel compelled to make a physical trip to have a more productive meeting, especially when large business transactions are at hand. Telepresence works to mend that problem.
I think telepresence is an exciting application. I know that Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Nortel Networks Ltd. are doing their best to market the advantages of telepresence. But, I mention the technology only as an example of the kinds of widespread communication that can take advantage of fast and readily available bandwidth. More -- and cheaper -- bandwidth would be good for the entire Web ecosystem, not just telepresence.
— H. Michael Zadikian, pioneer in high-speed networking systems