Autumn 2019 - Optical Connections Magazine



From a student fascinated by fibre optics to the founder, CEO, and now

Executive Chairman of the world-leading

fibre optics testing and measurement company EXFO, Germain Lamonde has come a long way. The visionary businessman, one of Canada’s leading entrepreneurs, was recently selected by Ernst & Young to represent Canada at the prestigious EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 event in Monaco. Optical Connections editor Peter Dykes spoke with him about his vision for the future of the company and the fibre optics industry.

In light of my studies of physics, optical communications and the theories behind them, it was pretty obvious to me, both as a scientist and entrepreneur, what fibre optics could do. Their technical capabilities were virtually unlimited, as I already knew from a theoretical point of view, since they could carry multiple wavelengths simultaneously. Of course, no one was thinking about amplifiers at that time—not until Sir David Payne from Southampton University brought that disruptive concept to the world. There were a lot of unknowns, but it was clear to me that fibre optics were poised to become the communications medium of the future and would overcome the limitations of copper, with its inevitable compromises between speed and distance. Add to this that Canada, a vast country where coast-to-coast communications had always been a challenge, was one of the earlier adopters of fibre optics, it was clear in my mind that fibre optic communication was ready for primetime. With this in mind, I went to the CEO of the laser company I was working for and told him that fibre optic measurement held a lot of promise as a marketable technology. He looked at me and

PD: When did you first realise that fibre optics would be the future of telecommunications networks and how did you reach that conclusion? GL: It was pretty early in my life, at a time when the experts were saying that single-mode fibres would never be commercially deployed because they were too difficult to manufacture and next to impossible to interconnect. I was the fifth of seven children raised on a small dairy farm in a little village, so money was far from abundant. I raised and sold rabbits to pay for my first bicycle, then started two discos to be able to buy my dream sound system. So, in a sense, I was born to be an entrepreneur! I always loved science so I decided to study to become a physics engineer at Polytechnique Montréal. I finished in three and a half years instead of the usual four in order to save money. After that, I went on to a full-time master’s degree in optics at Université Laval in Quebec City while also working full-time for a small Quebec City–based company in the area of high-power pulsed CO2 lasers and laser measurement.


| ISSUE 18 | Q3 2019

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