Optical components

AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux

ATLANTA -- Supercomm 2001 -- All Optical Networks Inc. (AON) is demonstrating an innovative development at Supercomm 2001 -- a box that uses all-optical wavelength conversion to boost bandwidths and slash costs of metro and access nets (see All Optical Networks Intros Metro Mux).

The box, called MetroScout, is a wavelength multiplexer, but it bears little resemblance to the conventional ones used in today’s telecom networks, which are typically based on thin-film filters or arrayed waveguide gratings (AWGs). It puts a mere four wavelengths over a single fiber, only operates over short distances, and uses 1310 nanometer lasers rather than the 1550nm ones used in most DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) gear.

The bottom line? Massive cost reductions. 1310nm lasers cost about $40 apiece compared to $2,000 for a 1550nm DWDM laser, according to Ralph Bennett, AON's president and COO.

AON says its platform will significantly enhance the capabilities of existing 1310nm equipment. It's pitched at the edge of the network, where carriers still use a single channel at 1310nm to move data over short distances.

And that’s just for starters. The MetroScout’s biggest strength, according to Bennett, comes from the way it squashes four wavelengths down a fiber at 1310nm. It uses all-optical wavelength conversion to shift the wavelengths slightly, so they don’t overlay and interfere with each other. That means that the box is bit-rate and protocol transparent up to OC192 (10 Gbit/s), a boon when it comes to upgrade time. (Above OC192, fiber transmission issues start to degrade the performance.)

The drawback of using 1310nm lasers is that they limit the reach of the link: The signals cannot be amplified by erbium-doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs). As a result, MetroScout has a maximum reach of 25 kilometers, says Bennett.

While the ability to do all-optical wavelength conversion is exciting, it's not clear yet if carriers are ready for all-optical products, says Christopher Janz, an expert on wavelength conversion with Akara Inc., a startup developing optical access network equipment.

The current method of doing wavelength conversion is to use optoelectronic transponders, which are becoming cheaper all the time. "Optoelectronic transponders [are] a tough alternative to beat, up to 10-Gbit/s operating rates," says Janz.

Another consideration is the fact that it is often necessary to turn signals back into electricity in order to extract information such as error checking and management overhead. Right now, this cannot be done optically. "With this in mind," Janz says, "I would be inclined to view the use of all-optical devices as more 'science fair' hype than serious endeavour, at least in applications with line rates up to 10 Gbit/s."

Bennett won't give any clues about how the company does its all-optical wavelength conversion, except to say that it was a spinoff of development work in progress on its photonic transistor -- an all-optical equivalent of an electronic transistor.

A photonic transistor also sounds like "science fair" stuff. AON says it’s demonstrated the ability to switch light with light, with a switching speed of a few femtoseconds, using something based on holograms. Whether this will prove to be a true equivalent to the electronic transistor remains to be seen.

— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com

For more information on Supercomm 2001, please visit the Light Reading Supercomm 2001 Site.

ownstock 12/4/2012 | 8:18:40 PM
re: AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux Classic!
fenris 12/4/2012 | 8:18:29 PM
re: AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux Who is Christopher Janz? Who is Akara? Why not quote someone like LuxN or Opthos?

So, is Janz an ex-NewBridge guy? Was his last product the Mainstreet 3600?


Come on LightReading! Try and quote someone who has a clue.

Pauline Rigby 12/4/2012 | 8:18:03 PM
re: AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux Janz is ex-Alcatel, from the corporate research centre in Marcoussis, France. Before joinging Akara, he worked on all-optical wavelength conversion, giving invited papers at conferences on the subject. He still does give presentations about this sort of thing, e.g.


As for Akara, it's a stealth mode startup. You can see the website for yourself, and then you'll know as much as I do. It's at www.akara.com

I sought Janz's opinion on all-optical wavelength conversion, which I see as a pretty unusual feature of this product. LuxN and others would have been able to comment on the application more I guess. Maybe next time.

[email protected]
fenris 12/4/2012 | 8:17:32 PM
re: AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux Dr. Rigby,

I concede the point.

I think it is unfortunate that Akara will not be using any of Janz's technology for their OC-48 circuit-emulation/TDM platform in the near term.

bronsen 12/4/2012 | 8:17:22 PM
re: AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux I read your article about All Optical Networks while I was at SuperComm. The article was compelling and the technology sounded so intriguing that I took a walk over to their booth in the Georgia Dome.

I walked over, got a demo and spoke to their President. When I found out it was Ralph Bennet, who is considered an icon in the industry, my teeth almost fell out of my mouth!

The technology is incredible and the metroscout IS awesome! No need for science fair ribbons, Janz--this is the real thing! I look forward to reading more about them in upcoming articles and tracking the progress of their technology. Thanks
AONdude 12/4/2012 | 8:16:08 PM
re: AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux Let me start by saying I am biased in my opinion. I own stock in AON. The article by Rigby seemed to have a negative slant from the begining, I mean how the new box was called "strange", paragraph 2 was all negative but gave no reasons for using the 1310nm laser instead of the 1550. The "expert" who gave his opinion seems to work for a competitor. Putting a 1550 laser on the output is the easy part, its wavelength optical conversion that is the hard part. If AON has a all optical transistor, couldn't they use it to do error checking and management overhead? In spite of a seemingly negative article, some sort of a relationship between Rigby and Janz, if one can read through the slant, I would say the article was quite positive!
caddy 12/4/2012 | 8:16:06 PM
re: AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux Well said! As a fellow investor I might add that after waiting all these months for Suppercomm and some response from the industry and the press, to say the article was lightweight (hey... great new name for this site) does not describe my feelings - frustrating is more accurate. The report does not begin to touch whats really is going on with AON and how big a footprint they will have on this industry. The only saving grace is that reports from the 'inside' indicate that the industry response has been fanastic. I just hope they don't go back into their stealth mode until... well you know when. 5:1 BABY
AONdude 12/4/2012 | 8:15:56 PM
re: AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux Thanks for the response caddy, I have heard that the response from the heavy hitters has been outstanding. I hope they do not go into stealth mode either, but understand if they do. Were you at supercomm? Did you see the new prduct? Have you heard how it went over? Let me know....5/1 Dude leter
DKP 12/4/2012 | 8:13:25 PM
re: AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux
Why is it so interesting to have a 4 channel 1310 mux/demux? You could do the same using OEO cards fairly easily, for less money. Also, the AON box only takes in Singlemode Fiber input... several enterprise boxes have 1310 multimode fiber interfaces. The technology is cool, but this is a niche market at best (enterprise access in fiber exhaust conditions).
GotLight? 12/4/2012 | 8:12:54 PM
re: AON Unveils Strange Wavelength Mux I spoke with this company during the conference. The inputs to the MetroScout can be ANY 1310nm source (singlemode or multimode), at any bit-rate, and any protocol.

Standard solutions with typical OEO line cards, are a specified bit-rate,when one wants to go to a higher bit-rate they must change out that line card with a new one (which adds cost to the solution)that handles the higher rate.

The MetroScout (as I understand it), is a versatile, plug and play device, meaning that one can simply plug in a new connection at any bit-rate (and protocol) they desire at any time. This in my opinion is something worth paying for.
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