Integrated optics moves toward monolithic processes

Communications Industry Researchers Inc. (CIR-Charlottesville, VA) has released "Integrated Optics and the Rebirth of the Broadband Dream," a white paper that examines the trends and issues surrounding the integration of optical components.

Manufacturers of optical components have begun to bring manufacturing processes and technologies together that have the functionality of several "discrete" components in one miniaturized module. CIR sees the future of optical integration moving toward a monolithic process whereby optical "chips" will take the place of larger components.

Since service providers are looking for ways to reduce infrastructure costs to improve profitability, manufacturers are being pressured to reduce equipment costs while meeting the same performance requirements. There is a great deal of work to be done for optical integration to become more than a science lab experiment. Pricing levels are not attractive enough just yet. CIR blames inadequate production capabilities for that as well as the model of passing on initial R&D costs in the first batches of components. Technological issues related to materials used in components construction are not resolved, and the best approaches to manufacturing are still unclear. The first generation of integrated optical products simply does not match up well with existing systems-level requirements of today from major equipment companies.

CIR believes that established firms such as Alcatel, Agere, and JDS Uniphase have the potential to lead the market forward, with interesting startups such as Lightwave Microsystems, Genoa, Zenastra, and Gemfire showing great promise. CIR does question Corning's apparent decision to lag the market, however.

Silica-on-silicon is seen as a powerful enabler of optical integration and is happening now, but indium phosphide is another strong bet for the future. Products such as low-cost transceivers, transmitters, monitors, and amplifiers aimed at the metro space are viewed as opportunities. However, passive WDM products, optical switches, and backplane products are seen as further behind.

For more information, contact CIR at (804) 984-0245 or visit the White Papers section of CIR's Website at www.cir-inc.com.

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