Bandwidth9 Goes Dark

Tunable laser startup Bandwidth9 Inc. may be on its last legs, as the company has essentially shut down while officials make a last-ditch effort to find acquisition partners.

The company announced this morning that it would "substantially reduce its operations and product offering." In recent weeks, Bandwidth9 had slimmed down to 49 employees and put itself on the block for acquisition, with CEO Hatch Graham telling Light Reading that a buyer wouldn't be hard to find (see Headcount: Time to Punt?).

Bandwidth9 officials weren't available for comment today.

Once fertile ground for startups, tunable lasers have become a perennial "next-year" technology. At first, companies had trouble getting sufficient output power from the devices, and they couldn't keep the cost low enough to entice customers.

Companies such as Agility Communications Inc. and Iolon Inc. claim they've made progress on those fronts -- but then there's the lingering drought in carrier spending. Tunable-laser firms had planned to sell their parts to carriers to replace the multiple lasers fitted into DWDM systems, but stalled spending and a lack of new DWDM buildouts have iced that market (see Tough Times for Tunable Lasers).

In a sense, Bandwidth9 had it even worse, because the company set itself an even tougher task: Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs) for the 1550nm band used in long-haul networks (see Bandwidth9 Claims Laser Breakthrough). No one had yet produced a VCSEL for that band; in fact, the only commercialized VCSELs at the time were 850nm parts.

Output power was Bandwidth9's weakness, as it kept the company's laser out of long-haul applications in general and out of Sonet networks specifically (see Bandwidth9 Behind Schedule?). Much of 2002 was spent trying to overcome the power problem. "The better part of the first half of this year, we had our design team really dissect our laser," Graham told Light Reading in November 2002.

Last year, the company finally hit a breakthrough in that area, giving up its internally modulated design in favor of a CyOptics Inc. external modulator, resulting in a reach of 600 km (see Bandwidth9 Picks CyOptics Modulator). Eager to show off its success, Bandwidth9 spent the fall of 2002 on a tour of OEMs, demonstrating its new capability to companies including Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Fujitsu Ltd. (KLS: FUJI.KL), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) -- apparently to no avail.

Despite the gloomy near-term outlook for tunables, other companies are ready to fill the void should Bandwidth9 drop out. Those developing 1550nm VCSELs include Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) and startup Beam Express Inc. (see Agilent Claims VCSEL Breakthrough and Startups Carry VCSEL Flame). The market has even attracted Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), which plans to market the tunable laser it acquired from New Focus (see Intel Preps Tunable Laser).

See our recent report, Tunable Lasers Revisited, for more information on the tunable-laser technologies and possible markets.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading
BobbyMax 12/5/2012 | 12:39:41 AM
re: Bandwidth9 Goes Dark After ADC Telecom closed down its tunable laser operation, it was amply clear that others would follow this trend. There is no market for tunable lasers. Integrated tunable optical transmitters designed specifically for Metro and Regional optical networks simply disappeared. Other companies such as Agilent would meet the same fate as Bandwidth9.
keres 12/5/2012 | 12:39:34 AM
re: Bandwidth9 Goes Dark Agilent can probably afford this development effort and the associated risk.
bigOptoguy 12/5/2012 | 12:39:34 AM
re: Bandwidth9 Goes Dark If perennial laughingstocks can win the super bowl easily then you cannot predict this company’s outcome.
gea 12/5/2012 | 12:39:32 AM
re: Bandwidth9 Goes Dark BobbyMax wrote....

"There is no market for tunable lasers."

Wrong and completely wrong. If the price and performance of tunables was the same as fixed SLMs, only tunables would be sold. If the cost of a "universal transponder" (which tunes automatically to the needed wavelength) can be brought low enough, we'd quickly see the end of fixed wavelength transponders. Transponder inventory is a serious issue blocking the much wider deployment of DWDM by the RBOCs.
crystalgrower 12/5/2012 | 12:39:31 AM
re: Bandwidth9 Goes Dark I have to hand it to Bandwidth 9 because they certainly were winning the PR war in the tunable market. They were mentioned in every single article about tunables even with their paltry performance. But if CoreTek couldn't last with a Bellcore qualified device that put out 20mW, how the heck was Bandwidth 9 going to make it? Timing is everything though. A friendlier market would have probably let a few tunable start ups survive.
realoptics 12/5/2012 | 12:37:38 AM
re: Bandwidth9 Goes Dark When the company name was changed from Bandwidth unlimited, their original name, they used the number 9 to make the name sounds more sexy(fit to the style of bubble time), the number 9 is pronounced the same as that of the word that means 'long lasting' or 'long-lived', I guess the reality proves otherwise.
USA 12/5/2012 | 12:37:36 AM
re: Bandwidth9 Goes Dark In German, the word prounounced '9' is very appropriate for this company's current situation.
bw 12/5/2012 | 12:21:32 AM
re: Bandwidth9 Goes Dark At OFC03 this week, Agility is showing the "Universal Transponder" live at their booth. Claimed will be cost competitive vs. the fixed version. Looks like they are heeling your advise, GEA...
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