In little over a decade, fibre-optic technology has revolutionised communications. Now the transmission of vast amounts of information by pulses of light travelling down glass threads about the size of a human hair is commonplace. Fibre-optic systems already form the backbone of a worldwide communications network and the use of fibres in local area networks is expandin g. However, despite the massive advances in the use of fibre-optics, the techno logy and its application within the industry are far from mature. Reliable measurement techniques and test methods supported by accurate measurement standards are essential for the practical and economic exploitation of optical fibres. This is the central theme of the network. The specification, measurement and test infrastructure for optical fibres used in telecommunication systems is already well developed. However as telecommunication systems become more advanced then specification standards become more stringent, and measurement and test procedures become more exacting. The w ork of the European Telecommunication Standards Institute in this field can be supported through collaborative research into new standards and through measurement intercomparisons.
In applications beyond telecommunications, standards and the underpinning measurement and test infrastructure is poorly developed or, in many instances none existent. This lack of accepted standards and supporting measurement proce dures is impeding the efficient uptake of fibre optics in other industrial sectors.
The proposed Thematic Network would bring together a broad spectrum of European Industry and other European organisations with an interest in the application of fibre optics; this would include fibre optic users and potential users, fibr e manufacturers, instrument manufacturers, national measurement laboratories an d university groups.
The aim would be to facilitate the practical and economic exploitation of fibre optic technology. The main routes will be through:
1) collaborative activities on measurement standards and test procedures 2) transfer of technology form established areas, particularly fibre and fibre system measurement and characterisation, to new and developing areas and, 3) sharing common problems and seeking common solutions.