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Optical/IP

ECOC Is 30 (Did You Notice?)

STOCKHOLM -- ECOC 2004 – How do you celebrate the thirtieth birthday of the European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC)? Not with party poppers and drunken debauchery, but with a bevy of component announcements ranging from electronic dispersion control to ROADMs.

Since ECOC launched in 1974, things have certainly changed, with the introduction of revolutions such as the Internet and Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM). But things could change even more radically in the next 30 years, reckons Per Andersson, conference chairman and director of business development for Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY). "Maybe one day we will all have fiber to the home -- and report the results at ECOC 2034,” he quips.

Back in the present, vendors had plenty of developments to announce here at the show. Here’s our pick of the most interesting ones:

  • CoreOptics Inc. and Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI) launched a 10-Gbit/s adaptive dispersion-tolerant transponder platform (see CoreOptics, Marconi Team). The new module uses electronic dispersion compensation (EDC) so that old fiber can be upgraded from 2.5 to 10 Gbit/s. "EDC is not as effective as optical dispersion compensation, but it's much cheaper and simpler to use," explains Steve Ferguson, strategy director for Marconi. "It's just enough to make bad routes into good."

    CoreOptics, which also makes its own modules, supplied a custom EDC chip for Marconi to build into its transponders. Separately, CoreOptics announced that it is using tunable lasers from Santur Corp. in its own transponder modules.


  • Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is also showing a homegrown 10-Gbit/s module with EDC. The module is aimed squarely at the yet-to-be finalized 10Base-LRM standard for sending 10 Gbit/s over multimode fiber up to 300 kilometers in enterprise networks.


  • Multiplex Inc., which has traditionally been a 10-Gbit/s components vendor, has taken a step back to 2.5 Gbit/s with the introduction of a high-performance photodetector, MRP48P3. Arising out of a project for the U.S. government, the part has 1.5dB improvement in sensitivity compared to current devices, the company claims.

    “In that market, where people fight for a few tenths of a decibel, that’s a lot,” contends Dexter Johnson, its director of laser products and manufacturing. The extra senstitivity will allow equipment makers to relax requirements in other parts of the system. Samples are ready for shipping.


  • Infineon Technologies AG's (NYSE/Frankfurt: IFX) Optics Group (soon to be combined with Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR)), unveiled a single-chip laser driver (see Infineon Launches Laser Diode Driver). Designed to sit inside a SFF or SFP transceiver, the chip combines three parts in one: a laser diode driver, receiver post amplifier, and digital diagnostics. It can drive any speed from 155 Mbit/s to 4.25 Gbit/s and either a standard edge-emitting laser or VCSEL. Samples are available now, and the chips are expected to be in production by the end of 2004.


  • Dow Corning Corp. is trying to drum up interest in a method for printing polymer waveguides directly onto printed circuit boards -- a technology that could enable 10-Gbit/s optical connections between chips, rather than using copper traces. Metal traces are hard to route because they emit electromagnetic radiation at bends, and consequently lose the signal strength.

    At the moment, vendors sidestep the issue of routing 10-Gbit/s signals by breaking them down into four lower-speed channels, but this gets problematic as more and more channels are terminated on the board. The polymers used by Dow Corning are inorganic polymers, which are closely related to materials that are already proven in the electronics industry for processes such as encapsulation, says Babette Pettersen, Photonics program director, Europe.


  • Pirelli SpA (Milan: PECI.MI) Telecom Systems division revealed details of its tunable laser and tunable optical add-drop multiplexer. The tuning element, or mirror, in both devices is based on microstructured silicon embedded with tiny channels of liquid crystal. Applying a single voltage to the tuning element changes its reflectivity and allows different channels to be selected. Samples should be available early 2005, a little behind the original schedule (see Pirelli Returns and Pirelli Struts Its ECOC Stuff).


  • Startup Metconnex has jumped on the ROADM bandwagon, with the introduction of the WSS 5400 Wavelength Selective Switch (WSS), a 1x9 port module that switches any input wavelength to any of the outputs (see Metconnex Intros Tiny Switch ). Metconnex and Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) will also present a post-deadline paper at the ECOC technical conference tomorrow, giving the results of a experimental demonstration of 32 cascaded WSS 5400 modules in a system test bed.


  • — Pauline Rigby, Special to Light Reading

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