Line-side 100-Gbps optical modules: An OFC/NFOEC 2012 Reporter's Notebook

Line side, client side, it didn’t matter – it seemed every optical module vendor at OFC/NFOEC 2012 in Los Angeles had some sort of story to tell about their work at 100 Gbps. This Reporter’s Notebook focuses on the line side

Line side, client side, it didn’t matter – it seemed every optical module vendor at OFC/NFOEC 2012 in Los Angeles had some sort of story to tell about their work at 100 Gbps. This Reporter’s Notebook focuses on the line side.

Going into the show, three module vendors had promised to have 100-Gbps modules based on dual-polarization quadrature phase-shift keying (DP-QPSK) and coherent detection ready for sampling in the first half of this year. All three appear to be on target.

Opnext (NASDAQ: OPXT), in fact, began shipping samples at the beginning of this year, as Chairman, President, and CEO Harry Bosco revealed at the company’s last quarterly earnings call. Six customers from around the world have received either the OTM-100 module or the OTS-100FLX subsystem suite, the company announced, with South American systems house Padtec S/A raising its hand as one of the subsystem recipients. The suite includes the OTS-100MXP 10x10-Gbps muxponder, the OTS-100TXP transponder, and the OTS-100RGN universal regenerator. Eight of the line cards fit into Opnext’s OTS-4000 chassis, and two will go in the company’s recently released 4RU high OTS-mini shelf.

Bosco said at the show that the company has shipped about 20 samples to the six customers, with 30 more samples on their way out the door – some going to new customers beyond the existing six. He said he expects the modules will prove most popular with Tier 1 and 2 systems suppliers, with the subsystems holding the most appeal with smaller customers. Both the modules and the subsystems benefit from soft-decision FEC.

Oclaro (NASDAQ: OCLR) chose to talk more about how its MI 8000XM 100-Gbps coherent module is being made rather than its delivery – although Terry Unter, president and general manager of the Oclaro Optical Networks Solutions Business Unit, confirmed to me that the module is on schedule to begin sampling in the first half of this year. Having focused on supplying 100-Gbps optical components first, Oclaro says it now has the ability to meet its optical component requirements for the MI 8000XM in-house. The high-speed electronics, of course, still come from an outside source (NTT/NEL); the company has second sources lined up for the optical bits as well.

I didn’t have a chance to visit with the third vendor, Fujitsu Optical Components. However, the company demonstrated its module in the booth and appears to remain on track to begin sample deliveries in April, as previously announced.

I did visit with Finisar (NASDAQ: FNSR), however, which unveiled a prototype of its own 100G coherent module. It also integrates soft-decision FEC to enable reaches of up to 2000 km. Executive Chairman Jerry Rawls told me that the module is now undergoing a power-reduction effort and awaiting the next generation of NTT/NEL’s DSP technology. He said he expects to begin shipping modules during the first quarter of 2013. However, Rafik Ward, vice president of marketing, was more optimistic, saying later in the show that he expects production to start by the end of the year.

Not surprisingly, JDSU (NASDAQ: JDSU and TSX: JDU) also plans to follow up its newly announced 40-Gbps coherent module with a 100-Gbps version. Sinclair Vass, senior director of marketing within the Communications and Commercial Optical Products Business Segment, said he expects the module will begin sampling either late this year or early in 2013 as well.

[UPDATE] Something of a wild card in this deck of 100G module suppliers is Acacia Communications. The startup is easing its way out of stealth mode. While I didn't have a chance to talk to anyone at the company directly, Raj Shanmugaraj, president and CEO, told attendees at the OSA Executive Forum that his company has been shipping devices for 9 months to several customers, for a combination of trials and deployments.

Meanwhile, the folks at EMCORE (NASDAQ: EMKR), who have had success selling their narrow-linewidth lasers for 100G coherent applications, admitted that they’ve at least considered the idea of building their own module, but didn’t indicate that they had decided to make the leap. NeoPhotonics, who also has supplied ITLA technology for 100G coherent, currently has no plans to jump into the long-haul coherent module market. It sounded like a metro-focused module might be more tempting, however.

Speaking of the metro, while DP-QPSK with coherent detection is the preferred approach for long-haul applications, faith in its cost-effectiveness for metro applications isn’t as strong (see “Metro 100G: An OFC/NFOEC Reporter's Notebook”). Therefore, direct-detect transmission is getting a serious look, particularly in the form of 4x28-Gbps technology.

Oclaro was first out of the gate with a product announcement in this area. The new CFP transceiver uses a direct-detect optical duobinary (ODB) modulation format. It should begin sampling by the middle of this year, with a production launch scheduled for year’s end. The four wavelengths may be tuned individually or as a group. Oclaro plans to add MLSE capability to extend reach, although company sources declined to say when.

Finisar also showed off its tunable CFP 4x28G offering based on ODB. Like the Oclaro device, Finisar’s module sports eight fibers (four for transmit, four for receive). Unlike its competitor, however, Finisar also plans to offer a companion pizza box called SpectraWave that will provide multiplexing/demultiplexing and amplification for the four wavelengths. According to Rafik Ward, the CFP should support reaches as long as 400 to 600 km. He expects both the CFP and the companion SpectraWave box to be in production by the fourth quarter of this year.

Oclaro and Finisar won’t have the market to themselves, however. Vendors who confirmed that they also have 4x28G modules in development include the Israeli startup Effdon, EMCORE, JDSU, and Opnext.

For more on optical transceivers/transponders and suppliers, visit the Lightwave Buyers Guide.

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