Rapid global expansion predicted for soas

June 1, 1998

Rapid global expansion predicted for soas

The global consumption of semiconductor optical amplifiers (soas) will expand rapidly, from a modest $17 million in 1996 to $642 million by 2006, according to ElectroniCast Corp.`s (San Mateo, CA) just-completed study, Semiconductor Optical Amplifier [soa] Global Market Forecast.

The primary near-term use of these devices will be as optical elements in photonic switches for optical crossconnects and in wavelength-division multiplexing links and other digital fiber-optic transmission applications. soas sold for such purposes will achieve a 47% share of the total soa market, worth $44.9 million, by 2001. The leading long-term use of soas in the 2001 to 2006 period will be as optical line amplifiers. Wavelength converters using soas will become significant beyond 2001.

In 1996, North America led global consumption of soas, and that lead will be maintained through 2006. By then, North American consumption will drop to 49%, or $316 million. The European consumption share will also decline. The Japan/Pacific Rim consumption will rise from a negligible 1996 position to 20%, or $129 million by 2006.

"A major share of North American consumption, however, will consist of soas imported from Europe," says Jeff D. Montgomery, chairman of ElectroniCast and director of the study project. For example, Nortel`s U.K. operations and Alcatel`s French facilities will be major suppliers to their North American cousins, according to Montgomery. Ericsson, Philips, Siemens, and Hewlett-Packard (UK) will also become significant exporters.

Photonic switch elements represented the leading soa product in 1996, with a 77% share of total soa sales. A minor share of the optical amplifier applications of soas is also consumed in photonic switches. In most switch systems, however, the soa switch elements provide enough gain to compensate for insertion loss. Over the forecast period, the photonic switch element share will decline to 47% in 2001 and 40%, or $258 million, by 2006. The use of soas as wavelength converters was only at the laboratory evaluation level in 1996, but will expand to a 21% share, $134 million, by 2006.

The dominant long-term application for soas is in fiber-optic communication lines, which generally operate in the 1310- and 1550-nm bands. The soas need to be transparent to the transmitted wavelength in these popular operating bands, yet the soa is inherently a relatively narrowband device.

The near-term global consumption of semiconductor optical amplifiers (until 2001) will be led by telecommunications photonic switches and other applications. There will be relatively few of these devices, but they will carry very high prices.

The soa forecast costs $9800. For more information, call (650) 343-1398 or fax (650) 343-1698.u

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