The annual Optical Fibre Communications Conferencewinds up Thursday, and no one will be more pleased than co-chair MarkFeuer. Not because the conference has been a burden, but because he’slooking forward to the last session, presentations of technical papersso new they couldn’t be filed in time for the conference deadline. Theone he’s interested in shows how 32TB of data can be carried over asingle wavelength. “It’s clear the growth in capacity has not reachedan end yet,” he told me in a phone interview.

Feurer,a member of the optical systems research team at AT&T Labs whospecializes in photonic networking, said the mood at the conference hasbeen “pretty good” considering the shape of the U.S. economy. He’sexpecting attendance will be not too far off the 11,000 who registeredor went to the exhibit hall.

There’s signs thetelecommunications industry won’t be hit as hard as the financial andauto sectors have been, he said. There’s also hope that, as Philippe Morin of Nortel said Tuesday,the recession might spark greater bandwidth demand.

“Anotherthing contributing to a positive vibe at the conference is we’re in avery exciting time of new technology right now,” Feurer added. “We’rereally advancing from the older forms of optical technology, where youswitch a laser off for zero and on for one. We’re getting commerciallybeyond that now to sophisticated modulation schemes, multiple bits persymbol and so on. These more sophisticated things that have been usedin electrical signaling for years are really becoming commercialreality in the optics industry. For all of the technical people here,it’s exciting to see that work coming to fruition. And there’s going tobe a whole lot more work to be done as this goes further.”Still heexpects some “condensation” in the number of companies in the opticalindustry, especially among component makers. “But the fundamentalstream of revenue at the top looks strong, and that is going to feedthe industry. That may be optimistic, but that’s my view at the moment.”

Hecited, for example, plenary speaker Shri Kuldeep Goyal, chairman andmanaging director of Indian provider BSNL, which vows to install 7million lines of fibre to the home in the next few years.I wish Bell and Telus were that aggressive.