Optical components

Bandwidth9 Thinks Shorter

More than a year after going underground, Bandwidth9 Inc. is still plugging away at Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs).

A May 25 auction held by Cowen Alexander LLC, consisting of 259 equipment items from Bandwidth9, seemed to indicate that the company was finally shutting down. But chairman Hatch Graham insists that's not the case. Rather, he says, Bandwidth9 sold off some equipment it won't be needing for its new product direction.

Bandwidth9 was founded to build a 1550nm tunable VCSEL, an ambitious goal considering VCSELs were struggling to reach 1310nm at the time. The company advanced the technology to the point of showing it to potential customers, but the collapse of the telecom bubble froze out demand.

Rather than shut its doors, Bandwidth9 refocused on a 1310nm VCSEL. The company was also scouting for potential acquisitions but hasn't yet struck a deal (see Bandwidth9 Goes Dark).

The key to the new devices will be in the materials structure, Graham says. Bandwidth9 isn't giving out details, but Graham hints that the trick is to use a compound that doesn't include nitrogen. "We have a process we believe allows us to grow 1310nm [VCSELs] as efficiently as the 850nm people can grow 850s," Graham says. [Ed. note: Try not to step on the 850nm people, please; they're hard to see.]

Another company claiming an unusual VCSEL design is E2O Communications Inc., recently acquired by JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU). (See JDSU Buys E2O.) In this case, E2O is using different materials to attain higher wavelengths. (For more on materials structures, see our report: Laser Blazers.)

Other companies developing 1310nm VCSELs include Infineon Technologies AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: IFX), Optical Communication Products Inc. (OCPI) (Nasdaq: OCPI), and Picolight Inc.

Bandwidth9 raised $80 million in late 2000 and built its own manufacturing facilities in Atlanta and Fremont, Calif. As the 1310nm devices won't be so demanding in terms of packaging, Bandwidth9 chose to auction off the unneeded equipment, Graham says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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