ThreeFive Photonics claims 'world's smallest' optical channel monitor

6 March 2003 -- ThreeFive Photonics, Houten, The Netherlands, has introduced the world's smallest optical channel monitor (OCM) on a single chip.

6 March 2003 -- ThreeFive Photonics, Houten, The Netherlands, has introduced the world's smallest optical channel monitor (OCM) on a single chip.

The product, named Vela V40D, is for application in optical networks. Vela simultaneously monitors the power of 40 optical channels and makes the results available to network management systems.

The compact chip, in a standard-size butterfly package with electronics, is delivered in a module smaller than a credit card. It provides space saving of more than 90% when compared to the conventional solutions that it replaces, and a price reduction of 50% or more, the developer claims.

The company says that Vela answers the need of network operators to monitor the quality of their optical connections. They want to add or drop wavelengths at many locations in metropolitan networks, increasing flexibility.

"Due to the resulting complexity of optical networks, operators want to be able to closely monitor their quality of service", says ThreeFive Photonics Director Sales and Marketing Erik Pennings.

"Conventional monitoring solutions are so expensive that they were only used for end-to-end monitoring in long-haul applications. Vela breaks this price barrier. With Vela network operators can afford to monitor the power of wavelengths at individual add and drop points, so that they can configure their networks in a much more flexible way."

The Vela OCM can also be used to provide control information for power equalizing purposes. Power differences in signals of adjacent wavelengths can cause crosstalk; equalizers are used to adjust the powers of individual wavelengths to the desired levels.

The real-time input about the power levels that module manufacturers require can be provided by the Vela optical channel monitor. Due to the small size and low price of Vela, it is attractive for vendors to integrate a Vela module into their dynamic gain equalizers or self-equalising EDFAs.

ThreeFives says that with Vela it is realising another step towards its vision: manufacturing a complete telecommunication subsystem on a single chip.

The company's products, based on optoelectronic integration in indium phosphide, follow a roadmap of increasing complexity. The first product, the Argo single-chip DWDM multi-wavelength receiver that was introduced in February 2002, consisted of five monolithically integrated functions.

One year later Vela comprises 41 functional components, monolithically integrated on a chip that still fits a butterfly package of the same standard size.

Fabless manufacturing
Specific requests for a small and low-cost optical channel monitor were triggered when customers tested and evaluated Argo during the summer of 2002.

"They expressed an interest in a 40-channel optical channel monitoring solution", says Chrétien Herben, ThreeFive's CTO. "An optical channel monitor combines the functionality of an AWG with that of a number of photodetectors. Both of these components were also part of Argo.

"Last November we started the development of the optical channel monitor and we are now about to deliver the first evaluation samples to customers. Our fabless manufacturing model enables us to realise short product design and development cycles, thus closely following the demands of the market."

The product announced today, Vela V40D, allows simultaneous monitoring of 40 optical channels at a channel spacing of 100GHz. The Vela V40D is very versatile and can be used for all applications of up to 40 channels, channel spacings of both 100Ghz as well as 200GHz, and in C-band as well as in L-band applications.

The Vela V40D will be demonstrated live at the OFC trade show in Atlanta (USA) from 25-27 March.

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