Optical/IP Networks

Codeon Bets on Clever Crystals

One of David Huber's secretive startups came out of hiding today. Codeon Corp. announced that production is getting underway at its new 55,000 square-foot manufacturing plant in Washington, D.C. (see Codeon Opens New Plant). It's having a little ribbon-cutting ceremony to make it all official.

It's the first time that the optical network industry in general has gotten a hint of what Codeon is up to. To date, Codeon has said simply that it's making "high-speed optical components." It now turns out that those components are going to be based around a core technology -- lithium niobate.

Lithium niobate is a crystal with some pretty weird properties that make it possible to manipulate light. One, it's electro-optic, which means that it's possible to change the refractive index by applying an electric charge. And two, it's "birefringent." In other words, it has two refractive indices, so a light beam will split into two and take two separate paths through the crystal (unless the beam is lined up with one of the crystal axes).

In today's release, Codeon describes its initial product line, which includes external modulators for 10- and 40-Gbit/s data rates. Modulators are devices that block and unblock a light beam, to encode it with data. Right now, the Washington factory is tooled up to make 200 units a month. In six months time, Codeon hopes to be churning out 1000 units a month.

Lithium niobate is already a popular choice of material for making modulators. That's because it can operate at high speeds and still provide a clean signal. "If you're a believer that speed is important, then lithium niobate is going to be key," says Codeon's CEO Bob Harvey.

He notes that Codeon's competitors, though few in number, are extremely capable -- namely Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW), JDS Uniphase Inc. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU).

"Our claim to fame is high performance," Harvey adds. "We can make devices with very low drive voltages. That means the systems integrators don't have to tax their systems so hard."

Of course, one product doesn't make a company. But this is just the start, says Harvey. Codeon plans to develop and build a variety of integrated modules based around lithium niobate, such as optical transmitters and polarization controllers.

It took $17 million to get Codeon ready for production. That money came from New Enterprise Associates and Optical Capital Group, the incubator backed by David Huber (see CODEON Gets $17.1 Million Infusion).

-- Pauline Rigby, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

CarboCat 12/4/2012 | 8:58:13 PM
re: Codeon Bets on Clever Crystals Isn't 40 Gbit/s pretty much as fast as Lithium Niobate can go? Is the switching voltage sub 1 V?
Besides that doesn't Gemfire already have a strong foothold it the marketplace?
blindmaster 12/4/2012 | 8:57:31 PM
re: Codeon Bets on Clever Crystals I don't see this one taking off anytime soon. It's going to be hard to convince engineers to come to Codeon with Corvis, Ciena, and countless other start ups in fiber within 15 miles of the facility. Doesn't appear overly sexy.
Pauline Rigby 12/4/2012 | 8:57:23 PM
re: Codeon Bets on Clever Crystals I spoke to Rick Tompane from Gemfire yesterday. The company has yet to announce first products -- it expects to be able to do so in the next month, I believe. So can you explain what you mean by "Gemfire already having a stronghold in the marketplace"?

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