Networking At The Speed Of Light

Optical technology moves data--and attracts money--fast

Dot-coms come and dot-coms go, but the folks selling optical gear for the Internet seem unstoppable. Witness startup Chromatis Networks Inc., a maker of equipment that routes Net data over capacious fiber-optic cables. Even though it hasn't shipped its first product, the Herndon (Va.) company was gobbled up on May 31 by giant Lucent Technologies Inc. for $4.5 billion. That's par for the course these days in the esoteric business of turning data into laser beams and pumping the bits through glass fibers. In the last nine months, equipment makers led by Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks, and Lucent have shelled out nearly $30 billion to buy startups proffering gear that bridges electronics and optics.

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