Optical Connections Magazine Spring 2022


With fibre network rollouts continuing to accelerate, data centres proliferating and the demand for bandwidth increasing exponentially, suppliers of optical transceivers could experience component shortages. Optical Connections editor Peter Dykes discussed some of the most pressing supply chain issues and how they might be alleviated, with industry veteran, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Westbury Photonics Robert Hughes . SECURING THE SUPPLY CHAIN SATISFYING DEMAND FOR OPTICAL COMPONENTS

THE MARKET Things have changed a lot in the

cost effective, that they trust, and where they can get local technical support on the other end of the phone. There’s another group that is seeing a demand for greater bandwidth. The IT managers and consultancies, who are having to put in multi-gigabit switches and supply pluggable transceivers, but they have got to do that in a very cost-effective manner. I saw these two groups emerging and felt that there was a great opportunity for me to step in there.” THE SUPPLY CHAIN On a much larger scale, a relatively new development is that the likes of Microsoft, Facebook and Alibaba, who have the resources and finances, are building their own international fibre network infrastructures, work which in the past would have been the done by the likes of Alcatel. In addition, 5G rollouts are continuing apace and 6G is on the horizon, so the potential for transceiver shortages is very real. According to Hughes, part of the solution is component aggregation. He says, “We’ve seen that in the UK, Europe and North America there is an accelerated demand for components

and that are available from stock.” Hughes says these particular issues were highlighted when it took him four days to get a quote for a single 10G SFP+ module and was required to supply highly detailed company information before making a purchase. As a consequence, Hughes set up Westbury Photonics to distribute optical components irrespective of the number required and the level of local support required. He says, “We’re seeing a much stronger move towards the commoditisation of optics, as the demand for bandwidth increases and fibre to the home becomes more pervasive. We’re going to see IT managers requiring anything from 500 to 1000 [transceivers], or much smaller orders from IT companies and consultancies, who are providing IT services to smaller businesses. There are also the IT managers who are managing networks within SMEs and middle enterprises, which typically employ around 500 to 1000 people, as well as people who literally will be supporting their own networks. All of them are looking for components that are compatible, that are

transceiver market over the last 15 years or so. Components that would traditionally have been seen as niche products and only available as branded products from the likes of Cisco, Juniper Networks and Nokia can now be sourced from a number of manufacturers and distributors. However, factors such as a lack of local technical support and procurement difficulties could impact on the speed with which networks can be rolled out. Indeed, Bristol, UK-based Westbury Photonics, one of the more recent entrants to this market sector, was set up to address just such issues. Robert Hughes, the company’s founder and CEO says, “What I’ve seen is the emergence of compatible optical components and modules in particular, being readily available. The challenge for the distributors today, typically the ones in UK, Europe and also North America, is to meet the need to have available components that companies can buy from distributors in the UK, Europe and North America, which are supported by native English speakers, that have been tested within the UK, Europe and North America,



| ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022

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