Kamelian Gets Green Light

Today Kamelian Ltd., a would-be manufacturer of hybrid optical components, announced that it has won enough funding to get its first product to market in late 2001 (see Kamelian Gets $18M for Expansion).

The Scottish startup secured $18 million in two big chunks: $9.5 million from the U.K.'s 3i Group PLC and $8.5 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners (formerly known as Weiss Peck and Greer and an investor in Light Reading).

Kamelian plans to make semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOAs) out of indium phosphide and then bond them to passive devices such as arrayed waveguide gratings (AWGs) made by other vendors (see Kamelian Ltd.). This will form the basis of a range of products that perform dynamic functions such as switching, wavelength conversion, and signal regeneration.

Paul May, Kamelian's CEO, claims the first product -- a module that forms the optical innards of a reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer (OADM) -- will be a boon to systems integrators such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT).

Right now only one vendor -- Marconi Communications PLC (Nasdaq/London: MONI) -- offers a complete reconfigurable OADM. It’s a distinction Marconi has held for some time -- since the first version of the product was introduced in late 1998.

Currently, Marconi has to buy in components from several different suppliers to perform the different optical functions needed in an OADM. The first incarnation, the PMA8, used thermo-optic switches from Akzo Nobel Photonics of the Netherlands, according to Phil Griffin, photonics development director at the time. The latest version, the PMA32, is reported to use liquid crystal-based switches from Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW). For the multiplexing and demultiplexing functions, it appears to uses AWGs from Kymata Ltd. (see Marconi Opts for Kymata Components). (Marconi could not be reached for comment.)

Kamelian's gadget could perform all the optical functions in one unit and have better performance to boot, May reckons. The module would already contain electronics to energize the components. Systems integrators would simply add hardware and software to perform network functions like management and reconfiguring.

"A big advantage of SOAs is that you get gain, so it's possible to cascade several of these devices together without the cost of extra amplification," says May. Another advantage is crosstalk immunity of about 50 decibels (that's good), he claims. In the longer term, the nanosecond switching speeds of SOAs could be of interest.

With its cash Kamelian is building a manufacturing plant near Oxford, U.K., on a site next to JDS Uniphase Inc. (Nasdaq: JDSU). It will take about six months to get all the equipment installed and commissioned, says May. However, he says it is likely that the very first product samples will be produced at Compound Semiconductors Ltd., a foundry near Glasgow, where Kamelian has its headquarters (see Scotland Spawns Component Startups).

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

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