Mintera's in the Money

Vendor of 40-Gbit/s systems scores its second funding round in five years

April 12, 2005

4 Min Read
Mintera's in the Money

Mintera Corp. says it has landed some new funding and has stocked its board with more industry heavyweights. The company today announced an $18.5 million Series B funding round led by new investors Polaris Venture Partners and RRE Ventures.

In addition to the new dollars, Bob Metcalfe, general partner at Polaris Ventures, and RRE general partner Rich McGinn have joined Mintera’s board of directors.

The company's founder, Menachem Abraham, founded two other companies that previously crossed paths with former Lucent chief McGinn and 3Com founder Metcalfe. Menachem founded Prominet Corp., acquired by Lucent in 1998, during McGinn's tenure. And Menachem founded Chipcom Corp., which was bought by 3Com in 1995.

The new funding is Mintera's first since it raised $26.5 million in 2000. But how did it go so long in between rounds?

Mintera CEO Terry Unter says the company benefited from a research and development contract it had with a systems vendor early on. Unter wouldn't name the vendor, but -- thanks to Light Reading's earlier coverage of the optical networking market -- he didn't have to: it was Sycamore Networks Inc. (see Sycamore’s Stealth 40-Gig Strategy ). Interestingly, too, Sycamore backed Mintera for its first funding round, but didn't ante up for Series B.

No matter, Mintera's future -- and the appeal of 40-Gbit/s networks -- hasn't looked this strong in a while. "We're aware of a lot of RFP activity; anyone working in the backbone needs a network that's 40-Gbit/s capable," Unter says.

The fascination with 40 Gbit/s, now more than ever, is a matter of economics, proponents say. Mintera rival StrataLight Communications, at OFC/NFOEC 2005, put forth a paper studying the cost advantages of installing 40-Gbit/s wavelengths on existing 10-Gbit/s DWDM networks rather than doing a 10-Gbit/s long-haul overbuild.

In a route 1,500 kilometers long with 10 unused wavelengths on the installed DWDM system, Stratalight said it would cost $2.12 million for the 10-Gbit/s ULH overbuild, but would only cost $750,000 for the 40-Gbit/s retrofit.

That kind of capacity (and payback) can help carriers add new capacity to keep up with demand while putting off building brand new network links.

Mintera's system can function as a standalone 40-Gbit/s transmission system. But its broader appeal is in aiding existing DWDM vendors' gear to build 40-Gbit/s overlay networks on existing 10-Gbit/s links using the same transmission fiber, the same optical multiplexers and demultiplexers, the same optical amplifiers, and the same in-line dispersion compensators. The company's kit can even mix 10-Gbit/s and 40-Gbit/s Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) channels in the same system.

And the stuff works, too.

In a paper published earlier this year at OFC/NFOEC, executives at Mintera, Ciena, and MCI Inc. (Nasdaq: MCIP) detailed an equipment trial that allowed for 40-Gbit/s transmission for a distance of 1,200 km without requiring an optical-electrical-optical regeneration (see MCI Eyes 40-Gig ULH ).

That test route -- which occurred on an MCI link between Sacramento, Calif. and Salt Lake City, Utah -- demonstrated that Ciena's Corestream system and Mintera's MI-40000 kit worked well together, even on a network that contained several different types of fiber. Also, in Reno, Nevada, the test link passed through one optical add/drop multiplexer, which added and dropped several channels at 50GHz spacing.

But that was in the long-haul network. In February, Mintera took another step forward by integrating its 40-Gbit/s transponder technology into Mahi Networks Inc.'s Vx7 ROADM platform, producing a metro core system that could support a capacity of 1.28 Tbit/s (see Mahi, Mintera Team on ROADM ).

So the question now becomes: Who will have the very first 40-Gbit/s link running commercial traffic in a major carrier network?

Mintera competitor Stratalight says it scored in that department last year, but Unter says Mintera had participated in a 1,500km trial "several months earlier that wasn't made public (see Sprint Throttles Up Cisco's CRS-1). Other service providers have toyed with 40-Gbit/s and even 160-Gbit/s networks, but all have been couched as trials, not permanent commercial deployments (see T-Com Selects Marconi , Lucent Lands Lambdas at Verizon, Carriers Stress Test Their Fiber, and Siemens Claims 160-Gbit/s Milestone).

Unter says the first commercial 40-Gbit/s network will undoubtedly come soon. "By the end of this year, it's possible," he says. "Within 12 months, it's probable."

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

For further education, visit the archives of related Light Reading Webinars:

  • Long Haul DWDM: Where Is Its Future?

  • The Role of ROADMs in Optical Networks

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