JDSU Parades Picky Part

The component maker has unveiled a dynamically-reconfigurable Wavelength Blocker. It's tiny now, but just wait....

March 5, 2002

3 Min Read
JDSU Parades Picky Part

It may seem small, but JDS Uniphase Inc. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) says its new two-port reconfigurable Wavelength Blocker (WB) is the first concrete evidence of a breakthrough technology it unveiled last week (see JDSU: MEMS Aren't Just Memories).

The WB, announced this afternoon, will be shown at the upcoming Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exhibit (OFC). It's already shipping to customers, JDSU says, although names can't be given.

The breakthrough JDSU touts is that the WB can be used by OEMs to pick and choose wavelengths on command, a feature that's been largely missing from optical components used in DWDM gear.

It works as follows: The device takes in any wavelength in the C-band of DWDM frequencies (1520 to 1570 nanometers) or in the extended L-band (1570 to 1620 nm). Wavelengths can be accepted with spacing of either 50 GHz or 100 GHz. While not a switch, the WB blocks or attenuates any of the incoming channels, sending only one signal among many through its output port.

"The WB will save costs, replacing a lot of [optical-electrical-optical] conversions," says Dave Danagher, VP of switching and routing at JDSU. The part will help OEMs create equipment that allows optical network adjustments to be made automatically, via software, eliminating the infamous "truck rolls" that signal manual intervention. And that, Danagher says, will lead to dramatic cost savings for carriers.

The WB appears to be the latest in a groundswell of reconfigurable parts set to debut at OFC. Earlier this week, for instance, SpectraSwitch Inc. announced it will be showing a multiport, reconfigurable optical component at the conference (see Optical Switching Gets Flexible).

Like the WB, SpectraSwitch's product is aimed for use in reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers. It's also implemented in liquid crystal technology, like the WB. But SpectraSwitch's product has eight ports, and the WB has just two.

Not to worry, JDSU says. It's got multiport follow-ons planned. And those will be based on the MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical system) technique the vendor touted in its announcement last week. "Liquid crystal is a better fit for wavelength blocking," Danagher says. But MEMS will be needed to give the additional flexibility required to support the more complex functions in higher-end switching equipment, he maintains.

JDSU spokespeople say there's no contradiction here. The same new technology is being used to select wavelengths, whether the component is implemented with liquid crystal or MEMS, they say. But there are tradeoffs of cost and efficiency in using one or the other.

Just how these reconfigurable parts perform, and how the different implementations stack up against one another and against the offerings from other vendors, remains to be seen. Pricing isn't being given out by any of the vendors involved, nor is information on who will trial and test the goods. Perhaps the OFC will provide a starting point for real-world tirekicking and comparisons.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.comFor more information on OFC 2002, please visit: www.nottheofc.com

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