Chip-level optical interconnect market worth $520M by 2019 says CIR

Oct. 8, 2013
According to a new report from market research firm Communications Industry Researchers (CIR) Inc., the addressable market for chip-level optical interconnects could eventually run into billions of units. Revenues in this market will total almost $520 million by 2019 going on to reach $1.02 billion by 2021, the company claims.

According to a new report from market research firm Communications Industry Researchers (CIR) Inc., the addressable market for chip-level optical interconnects could eventually run into billions of units. Revenues in this market will total almost $520 million by 2019 going on to reach $1.02 billion by 2021, the company claims.

The new report, titled “Revenue Opportunities for Optical Interconnects: Market and Technology Forecast – 2013 to 2020 Volume II: On-Chip and Chip-to-Chip”, continues the firm’s coverage of this market dating back to 2009 (see “CIR: Optical interconnects a $3.5 billion market in 2015”).

The growing popularity of parallel computing, and the arrival of multi-core processors and 3D chips are leading to data traffic jams both on-chip and chip-to-chip. However, CIR analysts believe these trends are also creating blockbuster opportunities for chip-level optical interconnects.

Avago, Finisar, IBM and Samtec have all proposed optical engines for chip-level interconnect. These miniaturized optical assemblies are currently the most mature technology available for this application and are expected to generate revenues of $235 million in 2019. However, with their attached connectors and heat sinks, optical engines may prove too large for complex optical interconnection environments, such as the coming generation of Exascale supercomputers.

Meanwhile, the arrival of multicore processors and 3D chips means that computer power now depends on how fast CPUs can talk to each other and to memory devices. So reliable, low-loss, high-speed interconnects between chips then becomes crucial. Interconnect data rate requirements could reach hundreds of times what they are currently.

Because of the limitations of optical engines, there are emerging opportunities for compact photonic integrated circuit (PIC) interconnect devices based on indium phosphide and gallium arsenide. CIR says these opportunities will generate $120 million in 2019 increasing to $275 million by 2021. However, bonding PIC interconnects onto a silicon processor or memory chip is both technically challenging and expensive. So far, only a few PIC and VCSEL technology companies have pursued the interconnect opportunity.

Although silicon photonics has compelling advantages, firms have struggled for years to make active optical devices using silicon. A breakthrough in silicon laser technology would be the single most important development in optical interconnects allowing the full integration of both electronic information processing and optical integration.

Faster VCSELs will also be important for the development of chip-level optical interconnect. Several firms and research institutes have announced high-speed VCSELs, operating all the way up to 55 Gbps, although such lasers await extensive commercialization. Quantum dot-enhanced VCSELs have also been proposed and these, too, may have applications in chip-level interconnection.

The report covers the four kinds of chip-level interconnect: optical engines, PIC-based interconnects, silicon photonics and free-space optics. It includes nine-year (volume and value) forecasts with breakouts by active components along with fiber and waveguide transmission media. Compound semiconductor, silicon and polymer waveguides are covered, as are VCSELs, silicon lasers and quantum dot lasers. In addition, the report contains assessments of the latest business and technology strategies in the chip-level optical interconnect space.

For more information on optical components and suppliers, visit the Lightwave Buyers Guide.

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