Wanted: Multi-Wavelength Believers

ThreeFive Photonics's multi-wavelength receiver would have wowed equipment vendors a few years ago

May 22, 2003

2 Min Read
Wanted: Multi-Wavelength Believers

Nice technology, pity about the timing. That pretty much sums up the multi-wavelength receiver technology developed by Dutch startup ThreeFive Photonics B.V.

In different times, ThreeFive's achievements would have been big news. It's developed a single widget that can do the job of four separate receivers -- and it's done this in indium phosphide, a material that plenty of other startups have struggled to work with.

Now, however, ThreeFive is finding it tough to find believers in its receivers.

ThreeFive's widget, called Argo, comprises Arrayed Waveguide Gratings (AWGs) to split an incoming multi-wavelength signal into four output signals, each detected by a separate on-chip receiver. The AWG can be thermally tuned across the entire C-band.

The whole caboodle takes up 80 percent less space than four receiver chips and costs 30 to 50 percent less, according to Wouter Deelman, ThreeFive co-founder and CEO. And Deelman says that's just for starters. Equipment vendors could use Argo to develop "pay-as-you-grow" solutions for carriers, he says.

For instance, OEMs could develop a low-cost CWDM box that could be upgraded in increments by replacing each coarse wavelength with four finer ones, as and when required. At one end, a CWDM laser would be replaced by a multi-wavelength laser from the likes of KiloLambda Technologies Inc. (see Startup Invents Laser Alternative. At the other end, Argo would replace a single CWDM receiver.

It’s a cute idea, but initial feedback from a potential customer -- Siemens Information and Communications Networks Inc. -- isn’t encouraging.

Björn Haiko Heppner, VP of strategic procurement, says Siemens is developing boards with four ports for 622-Mbit/s and 2.5-Gbit/s services, and with eight ports for services of 155 Mbit/s or lower. They're the kind of boards Argo could be suited for, but Heppner says Siemens isn't interested in developing systems from scratch using discrete components any more.

Heppner says he'd like to see Argo incorporated in a module. Whether module makers will take up the challenge remains to be seen.

— Luke Collins, special to Light Reading

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