Staff Reporter

ALHAMBRA If you're a cable TV subscriber in the United States, there's about a one-in-four chance that your programming comes to you via fiber-optic technology developed and manufactured by Ortel Corp. in the San Gabriel Valley.

But the story doesn't end there.

Fast-growing Ortel recently entered the red-hot wireless phone market with a new product, and the firm plans to introduce technology later this year that could dramatically increase the fiber-optic capacity for wired telephone networks.

Ortel has fueled its growth with an enviable combination of factors: It combines proprietary laser technology developed by California Institute of Technology graduates with a strong management team and worldwide markets that can't get enough of its state-of-the-art products.

That mix has propelled Ortel onto the international stage over the last four years, with company revenues nearly quadrupling from $15.6 million in fiscal 1992 to $57.7 million in fiscal 1996. International sales comprise a growing piece of the pie, accounting for 34 percent of sales in 1996.

Earnings have trended upwards over the last eight quarters, with an unusually strong quarter in the latest reporting period for the three months ended Oct. 31.

Ortel reported net income for the quarter of $2.1 million, compared with $1.6 million for the like period a year ago.

Nearly three-quarters of the company's revenues still come from its original commercial product, introduced in the mid-1980s: A laser/fiber-optic assembly used in cable TV networks. That kind of staying power is unusual in the ever-changing telecommunications game.

The assemblies, developed by company founders and former Cal Tech researchers Israel Ury and Nadav Bar-Chiam, receive electronic cable TV signals and convert them to light signals that can be transmitted over fiber-optic lines.

Ury and Bar-Chiam started Ortel in 1981 and funded their early work with a smattering of government contracts and $5 million in private investment during the company's early years.

It wasn't until 1986, when Ortel entered the commercial telecommunications market, that the company's star really began to rise, said President and Chief Executive Wim Selders, who joined Ortel in 1985.

"Our breakthrough was (developing) the technology to bring more cable channels to homes at lower cost," said Selders. After demonstrating the technology to Time Warner, the company grew very quickly, he added.

Since the introduction of its cable product, Ortel's workforce has grown from 20 to about 600, Selders said.


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