This article originally appeared on the fibresystems.org blog.
If there’s one company I look forward to talking to, it’s the UK’s Centre for Integrated Photonics (CIP), because they always seem to have something interesting going on. At ECOC last September, CIP wowed attendees with its demonstration of a 32-channel multi-wavelength laser. The component contained two 16-channel laser arrays, with each channel being directly modulated.
This device is aimed at WDM-PON applications, where a single transmitter could replace 32 separate devices and a modulator, allowing all the optics at the PON headend to be collapsed down onto a single linecard. One of the benefits of GPON and EPON technologies is that they simplify fibre management and economize on equipment space in the central office; the multi-wavelength laser could bring both of those benefits to WDM-PON equipment.
Now CIP has taken that idea further by adding a modulator array to its multi-wavelength laser to obtain better transmission performance. The device that CIP showed at OFC today was a 10-channel laser array, containing two arrays of five lasers mounted on the same substrate. An array size of five was picked to optimize yield.
The company expects that multi-channel devices could replace CWDM transceivers in metro networks. “Most people think that for low cost you need to do CWDM,” explained chief technology officer David Smith. “The approach we’ve taken is intrinsically narrow linewidth, and locks onto the [DWDM] ITU grid. This could compete with CWDM, but you end up with potentially much higher capacity.”
Other advantages include lower cost, smaller size, and better power efficiency. In other words, this technology boosts the three key performance metrics that are important to vendors.
Reducing power consumption has also become increasingly important over the last year, according to Smith. It’s not just environmental awareness; carriers like Verizon are demanding more energy efficient equipment from their suppliers. The problem is that for every Watt of power that’s produced by the device, it needs five to six times as much power to remove it, Smith explains.
“One of the critical things we’re going to try to do with our technology is get it coolerless,” he said. The company is developing uncooled lasers as part of a project funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board, and hopes to partner with another vendor to gain access to athermal (uncooled) arrayed waveguide gratings (AWGs), which combine and separate wavelengths.
CIP is hoping that it can apply its multi-wavelength laser technology to multiple markets — metro and access — to spread the development cost, and access higher volumes to bring manufacturing costs down. The company’s challenge now is to make that transition from a small outfit with really cool R&D, to a components vendor with (hopefully) much higher revenues.
UPDATE: 30/06/09 David Smith, CIP’s chief technology officer, pointed out to me that most of his company’s revenues are generated through commercial R&D. I have corrected the final sentence.