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Intel Preps Tunable Laser

Light Reading
OFC/NFOEC News Analysis
Light Reading
1/16/2003
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Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is gearing up to launch a widely-tunable laser based on the technology it acquired from New Focus Inc. (Nasdaq: NUFO). The new product will be demonstrated at the OFC Conference in March.

Such a device is expected to be used initially for sparing. Sparing is an application in which a tunable laser can be used in backup line cards to replace any wavelength in a DWDM system.

The tunable laser is based on an external cavity design that offers 20 mW of power across a tuning range of 40 nm -- wide enough to tune to any channel in the entire C-band (1525nm to 1565nm wavelength) with a single device.

New Focus never disclosed how its device tuned, or any other technical details. Nevertheless, it appears that Intel has made some changes to the original design. The laser it plans to launch in March does not contain moving parts, in contrast to the device described by New Focus (see New Focus, New Laser). Instead, the laser contains what Intel describes in the following diagram as a "thermal tuner." Intel would not comment further on its technology.

Over the past couple of years, Intel has gathered together a veritable warehouse of laser technology. Not only did it buy the tunable laser business from New Focus, it snapped up the assets of Sparkolor, which was also developing tunable lasers (see Intel Buys Sparkolor's Assets). In addition, it has released a narrowband tunable laser, with a limited tuning range.

Intel says it buys the laser chips, then assembles the modules in-house using technology from LightLogic, yet another company that it acquired in 2001 (see Intel's 10-Gig Shopping Spree). Indeed, the company's PowerPoint literature boasts that the tunable laser represents "The best of New Focus and LightLogic technology combined."

Gary Wiseman, director of marketing at Intel's optical platform division and VP of marketing for LightLogic, claims that the packaging and assembly technologies will allow Intel to offer a product at a much lower price than competitors -- although we'll have to wait to find out if that's actually true. Product launch is slated for the end of 2003 or early 2004. "Our first implementation will be in a tunable, 10-Gbit/s transponder with target availability at the end of 2003/early 2004," he says.

Intel may have got the timing right. The market for tunable lasers has been dormant up to now, but vendors in the field are confident that things are about to pick up. "In two years' time, every laser will be tunable," contends James Regan, managing director, Europe, for competitor Agility Communications Inc.. He says this confidence comes from talking with systems vendors and their service provider customers, who are serious about having tunable lasers on their roadmaps.

More detailed information on the market and prospects for tunable lasers is available in Light Reading's new report: Tunable Lasers Revisited.

— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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zettabit
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zettabit,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:51:40 AM
re: Intel Preps Tunable Laser
On the chip side of the house, Intel has become the pre-eminent global leader by leveraging massive silicon integration and volume manufacturing synergies to become a price / performance leader in high volume markets.

Although this strategy is often quoted as the driver behind their involvement in optics, I fail to see how their actions are living up to their vision.

The laser package picture in this story tells it all. Although I am not in any way discounting anything about the technology acquired from New Focus, one look at the device shows that it is a typical, complex, multi-discete element optical module. It does not exhibit any of the characteristics that would enable MASSIVE optical integration. In that vein, neither do any of Intel's other optical products.

So although Intel has been able to acquire a "JDS-like" optical portfolio of diverse, and discrete, optical components, how is this in any way related to duplicating the strategy so successful on the silicon side of the house? And as long as they support, instead of challenge, the construction of optical systems from a huge bunch of discrete optical parts, they will never drive the industry in the direction they seek.

Their next step elludes me, unless they start taking serious interest in the activities of companies like of LNL (www.lnltech.com/), Infinera (www.infinera.com), III-V Photonics (www.35ph.com) or even Bookham (www.bookham.com), or launch an in-house activity towards massive optical integration.
allidia
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allidia,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:51:40 AM
re: Intel Preps Tunable Laser
"Every laser will be tunable in 2 years". Just who is Mr. Regan talking to. Major players (survivors) have dramatically cut R+D and new development. Integrating new technology costs money and the savings are not anywhere near the scale to justify tunables anytime soon. So what was his last job before Agility? Let me guess...
Stock Analyst? Those disruptive technology statements are better off left in the past. The people left to read his statements are those who didn't drink the Koolaid and will wonder whether he is.
fiber_to_toilet
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fiber_to_toilet,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:51:39 AM
re: Intel Preps Tunable Laser
Broadband over power lines seen more feasible

A top technical executive at the Federal Communications Commission said the idea of delivering broadband Internet access over utility lines is beginning to look possible. Two power providers are testing the technology, which has support from a trade group including EarthLink and 11 utility companies. Edmond Thomas, chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, said, "It's starting to look like a very viable technology. We're very excited." The FCC wants to make sure that mixing high-speed access with electricity doesn't produce signals that interfere with other devices, the Associated Press reported.

rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:51:37 AM
re: Intel Preps Tunable Laser
A top technical executive at the Federal Communications Commission said the idea of delivering broadband Internet access over utility lines is beginning to look possible.
__________

Unfortunately, the FCC has proven themselves incompetent in their primary responsibility of public policy so it's not too far of a stretch to realize their technical cababilities are equally inept. It would be wise if we all stopped looking to them to solve our problems. (And forget about the SEC while your at it. They sat back, toothless, watching the biggest theft of public resources in the last 100 years.)

The better approach is to run the fiber over the utility easements. Everything else is a waste of time an energy, in my opinion.
LightBeating
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LightBeating,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:51:36 AM
re: Intel Preps Tunable Laser
Zettabit,

Funny, a compact disc reading head is made of a "complex, multi-discrete element optical module". It focuses a beam to less than one micron and actively tracks its position, and you can go jogging with it. The whole module costs only a few bucks. I admit that those are made in huge volumes compared with telecom components, but it certainly shows that it is possible to integrate multiple elements at a low cost.

In any case, this might end up a better solution than a completely integrated, all-solid-state tunable laser chip, if the level of complexity results in a very low yield of chips per wafer.

LB
whyiswhy
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whyiswhy,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:51:36 AM
re: Intel Preps Tunable Laser
Zetta:

Have to admit I too am at a major loss. I could see Intel investing in technologies and components that would have some chance of meeting the cost barriers of consumer PCs...a few bucks at best.

Moore said his Law was coming to an end, they got scared, not much thought was put into it, except diversify. Optical components were hot at the time, and they hired a few idiots to invest in whatever came along. Thus NuFo and LL.

The correct direction for Intel is embedded broadband wireless (as they have recognized), and should also be embedded parallel optics, not this discrete, fiber coupled stuff.

JMHO

-Why
rjmcmahon
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rjmcmahon,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:51:36 AM
re: Intel Preps Tunable Laser
INTC has no viable strategy. They are run by short sighted, greedy, people from what I can tell. Their policies and judgments have been ignorant and self defeating.

They have the cash cow of uprocessors and nothing else. Eventually, they'll go after Dell's business when they realize their selfishness and lack of vision has led them to decay.
whyiswhy
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whyiswhy,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:51:24 AM
re: Intel Preps Tunable Laser
LB:

Tunables never were going to drive the network ahead. By the time you add the wavelength locker, you got a system of chips to replace a single DFB chip. So its not just the little module you see. Sparing? Maybe.

Prediction: Conventionals outsell tunables 1000:1 today. Tunables will never reach price targets to make them anything but a sparing tool, and they will be eliminated from that role as DFBs continue to follow 20% price deflation/year.

Brute force, dirt cheapest usually wins.

-Why

Petabit
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Petabit,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:51:18 AM
re: Intel Preps Tunable Laser
allida wrote: ""Every laser will be tunable in 2 years". Just who is Mr. Regan talking to. Major players (survivors) have dramatically cut R+D and new development. Integrating new technology costs money and the savings are not anywhere near the scale to justify tunables anytime soon. So what was his last job before Agility? Let me guess...
Stock Analyst? Those disruptive technology statements are better off left in the past. The people left to read his statements are those who didn't drink the Koolaid and will wonder whether he is."


I think you'll find that Mr Regan used to be a PLM for Nortel Components (tunable lasers and EDFAs), and before that an EDFA designer. Yes, he was an engineer. OK, so he is now paid to sell Agility products, but he isn't an analyst.

P.
an ex-colleague of Mr Regan
Dr_Moose
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Dr_Moose,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:51:17 AM
re: Intel Preps Tunable Laser
I think this is a great point and key challenge for the industry. If anyone can pull this off, Intel is one of them (i.e. figure out how to make a tunable laser in volume for cheap). However key to pulling it off is finding the consumer application (i.e. CD players for joggers) - so when will we need tunable lasers in everyone's PC? or on everyone's home broadband access box?
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