JDSU enters GPON market with optical detector chip

JANUARY 29, 2008 By Meghan Fuller Hanna -- The company says it has tailored its existing APD chip to fit the cost-sensitive FTTH market. "It isn't a radical redesign of the chip," admits Craig Ciesla, senior manager of Tx/Rx products at JDSU. "Hence, we can maintain the high performance and, more importantly, high reliability [of the legacy chip]."

JANUARY 29, 2008 By Meghan Fuller Hanna -- JDSU (search for JDSU) today announced that it is now shipping an avalanche photo detector (APD) chip designed for GPON (search for GPON) networks. The company says it has tailored its existing APD chip to fit the cost-sensitive FTTH market.

"It isn't a radical redesign of the chip," admits Craig Ciesla, senior manager of Tx/Rx products at JDSU. "Hence, we can maintain the high performance and, more importantly, high reliability [of the legacy chip]."

Network equipment manufacturers and their service provider customers are implementing GPON-based FTTH networks as a high-performance alternative to hybrid fiber coax (HFC) and DSL for combined high speed voice, video and data transmissions. In order to maintain reasonable costs for these services, the optical components that make up the GPON infrastructure must also be low cost and perform at very high levels to ensure quality of service to consumers.

JDSU believes it has found the right combination of performance and cost; the vendor has taken its legacy planar-based APD design and updated it to reduce manufacturing complexity and lower production cost. Ciesla says the company has retained the core intellectual property at the heart of its legacy design, but, he says, "that particular architecture of chip was optimized for telecom applications."

JDSU examined these architectural features and determined that they were necessary for the GPON market and, in fact, added to the overall chip cost. Those features were consequently designed out of the new chip.

To further optimize its existing APD chip for FTTH applications, JDSU says it is transitioning to a larger wafer. "Our fab here in San Jose is transitioning from two-inch to three-inch wafers," Ciesla reports, "and that in itself brings significant cost savings."

Finally, he says, JDSU examined "the overall complexity from when you start with a bare fiber to when you ship chips out the door, and we realized the last few steps, when you are handling the individual die, can be done in our Shenzhen, China facility. It's a world-class facility and an ideal location to do those last steps of chip manufacturing," he adds.

The APD chip already is fully Telcordia qualified, says the company, and is currently shipping to customers. Ciesla would not name names, but he did say the device is in the hands of "all the major companies that are making GPON transceivers today." He notes that most of the players in the GPON market are in North America and Asia, and JDSU is now sampling--and finding success--in both of those markets.

The company is currently developing packaged versions of the APD chip to be released later this year.

'The timing is right'

JDSU is certainly not the first vendor to market with a GPON chip, but company representatives say they are not concerned that they have arrived too late to capture significant market share. "We looked at our current offering and looked at the opportunity and decided it was right to make an R&D investment to update the design in order to address this market," Ciesla recalls. "The timing is right from our perspective because the market is gaining momentum as carriers are beginning to transition from their old architecture, BPON, to a new architecture, GPON."

For her part, Lynn Hutcheson, vice president of communication components at Ovum-RHK (search for Ovum-RHK) believes "it makes sense that JDSU would offer an APD chip for GPON, leveraging its expertise at photonic integration and its strength at developing receiver products to deliver a low-cost solution to the market."

The research firm expects the GPON market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 150% over the next few years, providing ample reason for any vendor to enter the space.

As Ciesla is quick to note, though, this isn't JDSU's first foray into the FTTH market. The company also provides pump lasers to power optical amplifiers the enable the delivery of voice, video, and data services between a service provider's central office and consumers' homes, he says. And JDSU's Test and Measurement division offers an array of products to address the entire FTTx lifecycle, from lab testing and installation to service assurance and remote monitoring.


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