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Big photonics names withdraw from OFC 2020 due to Covid-19

04 Mar 2020

But "the show will go on", says organizer OSA, offering alternative presentation and safety measures.

Concerns over the ongoing global spread of the coronavirus Covid19, alternatively known as SARS-CoV-2, have led to a series of significant withdrawals from next week’s OFC 2020 (Optical Networking and Communication Conference & Exhibition) – which is still scheduled to run between March 8-11th, in San Diego, Ca.

Following last week’s news that Ciena, Lumentum and Infinera would not be exhibiting, there has been a series of similar announcements from many of the optical communications industry’s biggest names.

Corning announced Monday that it will not be attending, as a precautionary measure for employees and customers. “The safety and health of our customers, our employees and their families is of utmost importance to us,” said Dr. Bernhard Deutsch, VP and general manager, Corning Optical Fiber and Cable.

He added, “We appreciate the steps being taken by OFC organizers for the safety of conference attendees. However, given the continuing spread of the virus in multiple locations around the world, we believe withdrawing from this year’s conference is the best course of action. We look forward to participating in OFC conferences for a long time to come.”

Awards still on

On the plus side, Corning’s sponsorship of awards and grants connected with the conference will remain in place. These include the John Tyndall Award, the Corning Women in Optical Communications Travel Grant, and the Corning Outstanding Student Paper Competition.

Fellow optical fiber and components manufacturer OFS Optics is also cancelling its plans to exhibit and present. "We value OFC as a venue for sharing our latest research and innovation each year,” said Pierre Marty, Senior VP, Fiber & Cable North America, at OFS.

“However, with the continued spread and growing concern of COVID-19 and the prioritization of health and safety not only in our manufacturing environment, but in the travel and exposure potentially impacting our employees, customers and stakeholders, we have decided to cancel our participation,” he added.

Acacia Communications, a provider of high-speed coherent optical interconnect products will not be attending, either. Raj Shanmugaraj, President and CEO, stated, "We have made the difficult decision to cancel our participation. We are disappointed we cannot participate as we were looking forward to showcasing our 400ZR, OpenZR+ and 400G Open ROADM product portfolio. However, our highest priority is the health and safety of our employees and business partners. Based on the information available, we believe this is the best decision at this time."

Mobile communications and networking giant Nokia has taken the decision to withdraw its exhibition participation from OFC 2020, commenting: “Our primary focus has been to safeguard the health and well-being of our employees and others while also recognizing responsibility to the industry and customers.” Nokia’s statement added, “We want to express our thanks to OFC Management, which has worked tirelessly to address the challenges resulting from the novel coronavirus, and they have our full support as they move forward.”

Optical test and measurement systems developer Viavi Solutions has also decided to stay away. Its blog page explains, "Due to ongoing health and safety concerns for our employees, customers, and partners, we have withdrawn from participation at this year’s OFC.” Viavi is also offering an alternative communications route to interested parties: “We will be contacting customers and other stakeholders that we intended to meet at the show to arrange alternative means to showcase our expanding portfolio.”

Applied Optoelectronics yesterday announced its withdrawal for this year, explaining: “Out of abundance of caution for coronavirus decided not to participate as previously planned.” The company’s brief statement (via Reuters) added that “Applied Optoelectronics will still host the previously-scheduled OFC investor session via webcast on March 10.”

Other confirmed withdrawals (Wednesday, March 4th) included Huawei, Intel, Inphi, Exfo, and Neophotonics.

OFC 'will continue' says organizer OSA

Despite these withdrawals, OFC organizer the OSA firmly stated earlier this week that the show will go on. Its statement of March 3rd says: “More than 8,000 registrants and nearly 500 exhibitors and sponsors are ready to experience OFC 2020, which is scheduled to take place, as planned, 8 – 12 March, in San Diego.

“We respect the decision of those exhibitors who decided to cancel their participation due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). OFC Management understands that many attendees from China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea, and speakers who are prohibited from traveling due to their institutional/ corporate policies, will be unable to participate in-person.

“We will continue to support the thousands of registrants and hundreds of companies still committed to attending the conference and exhibition in-person, and we thank them for their continued engagement", said Ryan Strowger, head of OFC Management.

“OFC is offering all presenters the option to pre-record their presentations or submit their poster PDF for presentation in advance of the conference. Selected sessions will also have live speaker participation via video-conferencing. With these news steps in place, hundreds of speakers can still deliver their groundbreaking content, whether in-person or via recording. For the benefit of all technical registrants, the OFC Program Chairs will have all of the speaker-authorized content from the technical sessions recorded.”

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