When will 100-Gbps DP-QPSK coherent modules be available?

The implementation agreements for 100-Gbps DP-QPSK/coherent detection modules are in place, most notably the “Multisource Agreement for 100G Long-Haul DWDM Transmission Module – Electromechanical.” With the target in view, the question may well be asked: When do module vendors plan to hit it?

The Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) has received significant attention and praise for its efforts to develop an ecosystem of component and subsystem technology to support long-haul 100-Gbps DWDM applications using dual-polarization quadrature phase-shift keying (DP-QPSK) modulation paired with coherent detection on the receive end. The most significant benefits of the OIF endeavor were expected to accrue in the form of multisource agreement (MSA) standard optical modules that would speed 100-Gbps technology down the cost-reduction curve.

The implementation agreements for such modules are in place, most notably the “Multisource Agreement for 100G Long-Haul DWDM Transmission Module – Electromechanical.” With the target in view, the question may well be asked: When do module vendors plan to hit it?

Progress toward MSA-100GLH modules

Of course, just because the goal is in sight doesn’t mean it’s easy to reach. Module vendors interested in tackling the challenge face the task of condensing what system houses have distributed across a multi-slot line card into a 5x7-inch package. However, several appear to be making progress.

Opnext (NASDAQ:OPXT) has been the most publicly aggressive vendor. The company showed a working prototype – although in a package significantly greater than 5x7 inches – at OFC/NFOEC in 2010. The 2011 event showed Opnext much closer to the mark.

“I think we’re on a track to be very close to be among the first ones out there, if not the first,” Harry Bosco, Opnext’s chairman and acting president and CEO told Lightwave at the beginning of 2011. “It’s hard to say, because it depends on how much functionality a person has in their module. We want a fully functional module [this] year.”

At OFC/NFOEC 2011, Bosco refined his statements, saying that he expected the 100G module to sample by the end of 2011 and reach general availability in 2012.

“And the 100G, of course, the key to me there is to get the cost down,” Bosco said in the pre-OFC interview. “We’ll create the first module, but then if you really want to get deployed, you’re going to have to bring the cost down to drive it closer to the 40G – at least 2X the 40G cost. And the 40G is coming down pretty substantially also as far as price goes.”

While Opnext started its 100-Gbps efforts at the module level, other potential suppliers have begun with 100-Gbps components. For example, Fujitsu’s (TSE:6702) main component subsidiaries, Fujitsu Optical Components and Fujitsu Semiconductor Europe, have pursued 100-Gbps technology offerings within their respective niches. Fujitsu Optical Components offers DP-QPSK modulators and coherent receivers, while Fujitsu Semiconductor Europe touts its 63 Gsamples/s analog-to-digital converter (ADC).

The two have come together to support the company’s systems-level activities, as Fujitsu Network Communications (FNC) made clear when the company announced its 100-Gbps plans. FNC’s WDM & 100G Product Planner Randy Eisenach told Lightwave that the company will base its upcoming 100-Gbps offering on a DP-QPSK and coherent transponder that comprise components developed by FNC’s siblings. Fujitsu Optical Components appears to be the party responsible for delivering the module, which suggests it is in line to offer something similar on the open market if it chooses. FNC plans to have its 100-Gbps capabilities generally available by the end of 2011.

Meanwhile, Oclaro (NASDAQ:OCLR) has approached the requirement for coherent-enabled modules at the 40-Gbps level first, with 100 Gbps as the next step. To some degree this is a result of its acquisition of Mintera, which had taken this path prior to its purchase by Oclaro.

“We see considerable interest from customers for a next-generation 100-Gbps module to help them meet the expected increase in demand in 2012,” wrote former Mintera head Terry Unter, now president and general manager of Oclaro’s Optical Networks Solutions unit, in an email to Lightwave. “Merchant solutions are of particular interest to leverage growing volumes as quickly as possible, lower the cost, and to ensure a stable supply in the industry. Oclaro is a leading supplier of high-performance 40-Gbps solutions today and will also supply our customers with next generation 100-Gbps coherent solutions to help them capitalize on the demand growth. We plan to ship 100-Gbps module prototypes before the end of this calendar year.”

Like Fujitsu Optical Components, Oclaro decided to engage the market at 100 Gbps initially as a component supplier. JDSU (NASDAQ: JDSU) (TSX: JDU) took a similar tack, and announced at OFC/NFOEC new QPMZ modulators and coherent receivers for 100-Gbps applications. While company spokespeople were unavailable for comment when Lightwave attempted to contact them for this story, it should be noted that JDSU faces the same challenge as most of its fellow module vendors when it comes to developing 100-Gbps coherent-enabled products: Optical components only meet half the requirement.

Coherent detection requires very high-speed electronics, not only ADCs such as those Fujitsu Semiconductor Europe offers but high-end digital signal processors (DSPs) and other silicon, as well as appropriate algorithms and software. Few module vendors have all of this expertise in-house, so they must find partners. Opnext found them through its affiliation with Hitachi (the company spun out of Hitachi in 2000). Fujitsu’s offering, whenever it reaches the market, will have leveraged the synergies between the company’s components and systems businesses. One could foresee NEC and Sumitomo, just to name two other possible module suppliers, taking a similar path.

Other module vendors aren’t so lucky; they must seek partners from outside of their immediate family. For example, Oclaro has partnered with chip vendor ClariPhy Communications Inc. JDSU, Finisar (which declined to comment on its plans for this story), and similar module suppliers must make the same kind of alliances before they can compete with Opnext, Fujitsu, and others that can leverage a wider range of in-house expertise.

It appears likely that systems designers will have at least some modules that support 100-Gbps transmission via DP-QPSK and coherent detection by the end of this year. But because of a lack of in-house expertise in some cases, a variety of module options likely won’t appear on the market until 2012.

More in Optical Tech