Emerging companies show progress at OFC/NFOEC

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Each company has its own reasons for renting exhibit space at a major tradeshow such as OFC/NFOEC. For emerging component developers, the exhibition provides an opportunity to demonstrate how far they’ve progressed from year to year. Several such companies used the most recent OFC/NFOEC, held March 5-10 in Anaheim, CA, for just this purpose, highlighting how close their new laser technologies have come to fulfilling the promises made at last year’s event.

For example, the burgeoning optical access application has attracted innovation from a variety of new companies. ColorChip (Caesarea, Israel) has focused its System on Glass planar-lightwave-circuit (PLC) technology on this space to create splitters and transceivers. CEO Moshe Price reports that his company should have samples of the two-wavelength Meteor II GPON ONT transceiver that it introduced last year at OFC/NFOEC in customer hands by the time this issue was scheduled to go to press in late March. The device will support 2.5 Gbits/sec downstream and 1.25 Gbits/sec upstream. The three-wavelength Meteor III should see sampling in July or August. Price envisions a companion OLT device by the end of the year.Th 208461

RIO’s PLC-based external cavity laser is but one of several technologies that have shown progress toward commercialization in the past year.

The company is not limiting itself to GPON applications. An EPON version of the Meteor II, which Price expects will see traction in Japan most quickly, should be sampling at the same time as the GPON version, while sample quantities of a BPON transceiver should be available in the United States by this August. Despite all the attention given to GPON, Price expects continued demand for BPON devices through the end of 2007 and perhaps into early 2008 before GPON dominates the ITU-based PON market.

To meet the expected product demand, Price says ColorChip is looking for a contract manufacturer who can take the PLCs developed by his in-house fab and assemble them into modules in volume. The company received a vote of confidence from the investment community in the form of a $9.5 million funding round this past January, which included what Price termed “a strategic investment” from Motorola Ventures.

Eblana Photonics Ltd. (Dublin) also sees the PON market as an opportunity for its devices, which are manufactured using standard InP silicon processes and fabricated via outsourcing. To underscore the low-cost nature of this approach, Eblana announced a base price for its EP1310 DM laser series of $9.95. The price applies to “sustained high-volume orders” of TO56 versions of the device, which support GEPON PX20 and GPON applications. The lasers exceed IEEE 802.3ah noise specifications without recourse to an isolator, according to the company.

James O’Gorman, Eblana’s chief executive, says his company’s vision is to provide DFB-quality lasers at near Fabry-Perot prices. As reported previously, Eblana uses what it calls “photon bandgap technology” to create light sources using Vitesse’s HBT process and production line. The laser design calls for photonic bandgaps to be etched into the laser structure; the resulting laser, which can be based on a Fabry-Perot design, produces a stable device that emits at the target frequency without the need for isolators. A feature of the design Eblana calls “nullified feedback influence” ensures low noise as well. The use of semiconductor-style processes skips the requirement for multiple wafer growths common to standard laser production.

The same basic laser platform can be used across a variety of markets, from PON to enterprise applications such as 10GBase-LX4, O’Gorman says. In fact, the company unveiled at the show a TO-38-based TOSA for 4-Gbit/sec Fibre Channel applications based on the same technology.

The staff at Redfern Integrated Optics Inc. (RIO-Santa Clara, CA) also was eager to show how far they’ve progressed in the past year. The company uses PLC technology to create an external cavity laser with controlled negative chirp that crams high power into a small package. (See “PLC Development Gets Active,” Lightwave, May 2005, page 1.) According to Lew Stolpner, RIO’s director of product management, the company is “finalizing productization” on its initial devices. Samples of its directly modulated 10-Gbit/sec 1550-nm TOSAs are in customers’ hands while it undergoes Telcordia qualification. Stolpner says RIO will have its first products fully qualified by the middle of this year.

Meanwhile, the company used OFC/NFOEC to demonstrate the ability of its lasers to work with current laser drivers in future form factors. With the emerging SFP+ form factor a hot topic of discussion on the show floor (see related article, page 1), RIO demonstrated that it might be one of the few companies in a position to support extended-reach versions of such a module. RIO paired one of its lasers with a PIN/TIA receiver with automatic gain control from Archcom.

However, the company’s immediate focus is on providing 10-Gbit/sec devices for use in modules based on existing form factors, particularly XFP, X2/XPAK, and XENPAK. Since the negative chirp is created and controlled within the laser cavity, RIO’s lasers don’t require additional external control, which makes it compliant with the multisource agreements behind these form factors, Stolpner asserts. He also touted the ability of RIO’s PLANEX technology to support DWDM applications at 100- and 50-GHz line spacings without the need for wavelength lockers.

ColorChip, Eblana, and RIO represent only three out of many emerging companies who demonstrated innovation progress across several technology fronts, from long-wavelength VCSELs (Denmark’s Alight reported it has successfully paired the 1300-nm VCSEL technology it acquired from Infineon with its in-house PBG technology, while Picolight showed its device housed in a potential SFP+ form factor) to industrial-temperature devices (including 1310- and 1550-nm TOSAs from Apogee Photonics) and various forms of tunability (see “Smaller Companies Get in Tune” on page 20). Larger companies continue to gain the most attention, but smaller firms demonstrated at OFC/NFOEC that they’re worth a look as well.

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