UK Photonics SWOT – Communications

We are preparing SWOT analysis on 7 key UK photonics sectors.   The latest draft of the SWOT for communications is below.  Comments for improvement are welcome. SWOTS for the other areas are found in parallel postings


UK unique aspect – highly competitive privatised end market


  • Depth of Engineering skills
  • Design capability
  • Strong research capability in multiple University groups spanning components to system architecture
  • Significant content providers (SKY, BBC)
  • Established research and development operations for select global suppliers
  • Strong photonics integration knowledge base
  • Multiple corporate mobile phone/comms research centres

  • Lack UK Network system providers and small number of globally significant network equipment providers
  • Lack of volume production capacity above the wafer level
  • Strong focus on costs
  • Reliance on off-shore packaging
  • Lack of optical PCB capacity / capability


  • Diverse Private telecom market
  • Gov. support broadband access
  • Aggressive FTTx role out
  • Strong Demand from financial markets (which may require specialised solutions-eg low latency / increased security)
  • Openness to collaboration with Asian suppliers and customers
  • High potential impact from photonic integrated circuits
  • Increase use of optical comms in storage area networks and short reach applications e.g. optical interconnects
  • Approaching limit of WDM fibre capacity requiring next generation solution
  • Next gen wireless broadband requiring more fibre for front and backhaul
  • Next generation optical Li-Fi as alternative to radio based WiFi for in building comms
  • Niche high reliability comms e.g. aerospace, space, defence, ultra secure etc
  • High volume low cost opto-electronic conversion for high port count cost-gated markets
  • In-system ICT optical interconnect market


  • Rise of high volume fully vertically integrated Asian suppliers
  • Perception(?) of lower respect of IPR from Asian suppliers
  • Continue demand to delivery more bandwidth for the same or lower costs (consumers resist paying a premium for more bandwidth)
  • Perception in some areas that further optical comms technology development not required
  • Lack of interest from traditional EU/UK Venture Capital funds in early hardware investment
  • Availability of regional focused funds for hardware investment in EU & devolved administrations but not in England
  • Decline in home grown communications business threatening strong existing skills base leading to further decline and brain drain out of UK.

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