Conclusion: The committee believes that a strong partnership among industry, universities, and government agencies will be crucial to overcoming technical challenges and to ensuring that the United States leverages that knowledge to gain market leadership.

Finding: Many of the optical communications successes over the last 10 years are built on earlier research that came from research laboratories of vertically integrated companies, as well as strongly supporting government agencies. The industry is no longer integrated, but instead is segmented by material fabrication, components, modules, systems, network providers, and content and service providers. In this fragmented environment there has been a reduction in industrial research laboratories, because the reduced scale makes it difficult for companies to capture the value that is prudently needed to justify investing in research.

Finding: Today’s broadband access by individual users in the United States is neither high-capacity nor available at reasonable cost to a large fraction of the population. Bandwidths of 1 Gb/s represent the current state of the art in broadband access to the home in leading installations today.


Key Recommendation: The U.S. government and private industry, in combination with academia, need to invent technologies for the next factor-of-100 cost-effective capacity increase in long-haul, metropolitan, and local-area optical networks.

The optics and photonics community needs to inform funding agencies, and information and entertainment providers, about the looming roadblock that will interfere with meeting the growing needs for network capacity and flexibility. There is a need to champion collaborative efforts, including consortia of companies, to find new technology—transmission, amplification, and switching—to carry and route at least another factor-of-100 capacity in information over the next 10 years.

This key recommendation leads directly to the first grand challenge question:

1. How can the U.S. optics and photonics community invent technologies for the next factor-of-100 cost-effective capacity increases in optical networks?

The first recommendation of the chapter states a goal for increased capacity; the next recommendation offers a path to help achieve that goal, especially with respect to very short range communication, such as that required inside a data center.

Key Recommendation: The U.S. government, and specifically the Department of Defense, should strive toward harmonizing optics with silicon-based electronics

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