Small companies get in tune

With all the attention placed on tunability and reconfigurability, it’s not surprising that startups and other young and emerging companies have latched onto tunable technology as a key to success. Several firms showed their wares at OFC/NFOEC last month.

For example, Syntune AB (Kista, Sweden) set up shop in a room at the nearby Hilton Hotel to offer demonstrations of its S4500 10-Gbit/sec tunable transmitter. The InP-based device features a DBR-type laser structure but does not require a reflector in the front, which increases the amount of light the device can pump into a fiber for a given power dissipation. In addition to the laser, which tunes across the C-band, the transmitter features a monolithically integrated semiconductor optical amplifier and a Mach-Zehnder modulator. The device offers low power consumption and cost, as well as fast switching speed and small size. As an example, Syntune sources say their device leads to an integrable tunable laser assembly (ITLA) that operates at about 4 W, compared to the 6.5 W of typical ITLAs. It also offers an output power greater than 4 dBm. The transmitter is currently sampling, with production slated for the second half of this year.

Paxera Corp. (Santa Clara, CA) visited Anaheim to unveil what it calls its “ultra” widely tunable laser. The laser can tune over 80 nm and support 50-GHz channel spacing. Paxera says its continuous-wave (CW) external-cavity laser design offers “exceptional” spectral purity with low RIN, low SMSR, and narrow linewidth. The output power is adjustable, with standard outputs of 10, 20, and 30 mW. The company is targeting DWDM applications from access and metro to long-haul and ultralong-haul at data rates from 2.5 to 40 Gbits/sec. Paxera is shipping samples and claims to be “actively engaged in the design-in process at several major customers.”

Ben Sitler, Paxera’s president and CEO, reports in an e-mail that his laser’s ability to tune across both the C- and L-bands in a single device drew considerable interest at the show, particularly from transponder vendors who offer separate C- and L-band modules. The lasers are undergoing Telcordia qualification after successfully completing prequalification testing. The company is currently ramping up for production, Sitler says; he hopes to reach general availability this summer.

While its heritage isn’t that of a startup, Pir­elli Broadband Solutions (Milan, Italy, and Atlanta, GA) itself hasn’t been around very long. It also released an ITLA at OFC/NFOEC. The package includes the company’s Dynamically Tunable Laser and patented electro-optical technology; a 26-pin butterfly package offers high reliability in a small package. The laser tunes across the C-band and supports 50-GHz channel spacing; it’s available as a standalone product for system and subsystem integrators. The ITLA, meanwhile, will be available commercially in the third quarter of this year.

However, lasers were not the only tunable devices on display. Aegis Semiconductor (Woburn, MA) showed off its optical channel monitors based on tunable filters (see “Channel Monitors Offer Key DWDM Building Block,” Lightwave, January 2006, page 15), while Civcom (Petah-Tikva, Israel) demonstrated a tunable transponder augmented with a tunable optical dispersion compensator (TODC). The Civcom booth featured a demonstration of the pairing, which also takes advantage of optical duobinary techniques to create a tunable transponder capable of 10-Gbit/sec transmission over 350 km.

The etalon-based TODC is offered as a separate component and is already in production, as is a standard 10-Gbit/sec tunable transponder with a lithium niobate modulator for 80-km applications; Civcom has a customer for this latter product and is looking for a contract manufacturing partner, reports Yair Itzhar, Civcom’s vice president of international sales and marketing. While the TODC certainly extends the reach of NRZ modules, Itzhar says it also pairs well with optical duobinary transmission because it erases the 2-dB penalty commonly associated with this transmission format. Itzhar says the company has at least one customer for the TODC as a standalone product.

-Stephen Hardy

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