The 'AWG Killer' Returns

Remember the "AWG Killer," a term coined by a now-defunct startup called Lightchip for a device that was supposed to be better than Arrayed Waveguide Gratings (AWGs) at weaving together wavelengths in high channel-count DWDM systems? (See Lightchip Launches 'AWG Killer'.)

Well, the bulk diffraction technology used by Lightchip has resurfaced, and so has the AWG Killer term, this time in a French startup called Yenista Optics SA.

"In R&D we have... [wait for it] ...an AWG killer," says Yenista's key founder and CEO, Michiel van der Keur. "This product will put Yenista on the map." The mux device will have less loss than an AWG and be smaller than today’s AWG; and, like AWGs, it will be available in channel counts of 8, 16, 24, 32, 40, and 48.

Put Yenista on the map? There was a time when Lightchip looked as though it was going places (see Why Cisco Loves Lightchip). But its bulk diffraction gratings weren't the killers they were cracked up to be -- AWGs are still the technology of choice for high channel-count DWDM systems.

In October 2002, Lightchip was split in two, and the parts sold to different buyers (see A Tale of Two Lightchips). The mux/demux business was bought by Confluent Photonics Corp: It's now using the bulk diffraction gratings in integrated DWDM systems for cable networks. "We have close to 1,000 systems (not just muxes) deployed all across the USA," writes Ian Turner, Confluent's president and COO, in an email to Light Reading. "We are in full production of muxes with less then 3dB loss, flat-top filters, athermality to -40C and 85C, abaric, shock resistant, and which can pass analog-modulated TV signals with minimal signal impairment."

As noted, Yenista's device is also based on bulk diffraction gratings, using technology it purchased from Highwave Optical Technologies (Paris: HGWO) last summer for an undisclosed amount. Highwave originally bought the technology from Jobin Yvon SA, but offloaded it to ease its financial woes (see Highwave Hits Low Tide). One of Yenista's founders and a production engineer, Christophe Devemy, has followed the technology from Jobin Yvon to Highwave to Yenista.

Where Yenista differs from Lightchip is that its device is really small, says van der Keur. "We knew that we had to make it smaller than an AWG so that we could compete."

It will be small enough to fit inside an MSA package, he adds, referring to the multisource agreement for AWG modules originally set up between Alcatel Optronics, Hitachi Cable Ltd., and NTT Electronics Corp. (NEL) (see Alcatel Optronics, Hitachi, NEL Form MSA). Other bulk grating-based devices have been too large to meet this requirement, he contends.

Yenista reckons its main competitor -- apart from the AWG players that it hopes to eliminate -- is BaySpec Inc. Bayspec's mux modules come in a mechanical package measuring 100 x 70 x 16 mm. The MSA specifications are 117 x 50 x 12.8 mm. (See Page 3 of Light Reading's "Who Makes What: Optical Components" for a full listing of mux/demux device manufacturers.)

Van der Keur, who is also a former founder of Algety Telecom, a startup that was bought by Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV) and later closed, is the majority shareholder (see Corvis Sub to Lay Off and Algety Telecom SA). He and the other three founders provided the capital for the first year, but they will now be looking for venture capital funding. A finance director, Michel Adam, who was also with Corvis France and Algety, has been brought on board to speed along this task, bringing the total number in the company to five.

Yenista has just moved into premises previously occupied by Alcatel Optronics in Lannion, France. It plans to ship first samples this summer.

— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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gcap 12/5/2012 | 1:59:06 AM
re: The 'AWG Killer' Returns The Lightchip DWDM product line was purchased by Confluent Photonics and is in full production and has been shipping to major cable operators for millions in revenue -thank you very much.

The entire Lightchip DWDM design and key manufacturing team were brought over with the acquisition.

Our website:
lists our current product line.

Our shipping 100 GHz DWDM module is a small enough form factor to fit on blade type rack equipment and exhibits 3 dB insertion loss for a flat-filtered device, the best in the industry for a high channel count device. Our devices OPERATE from -40 to 85C without temperature control. Our phone number is 603-893-4906 then dial "4" for sales if you want to actually buy a shipping product.

Thank you,
-Greg Cappiello
CTO, Confluent Photonics
lavoix 12/5/2012 | 1:59:05 AM
re: The 'AWG Killer' Returns ...
dwdm2 12/5/2012 | 1:59:03 AM
re: The 'AWG Killer' Returns The title of the original article and of this one as well serve more as a gimmick than a quality reporting. Any lay man can say that this technology is anything but a killer of anything. So they have a better grating... so? They claim they cal kill a competing technology called AWG... ya right...

Do you know the spec of this killer? No, but it is gonna be better than yours...

Can you buy this staff to find out what is it all about? No, wait until our boys turn it into something...

Ya right, wait until I become the CEO of LR... I'm gonna hire DT to say 'you're fired'.

Guys, in the mux/demux space, nothing kills nothing... Have TFF killed FBG? Have AWG killed TFF? Try a resonable route. If a report has to depend more on a catchy title, and less on the substance, it hardly qualifies as a quality report... But then again LR needs volume and you guys are under pressure ;-)
Peter Heywood 12/5/2012 | 1:59:02 AM
re: The 'AWG Killer' Returns I've added something about Confluent to the story
Peter Heywood 12/5/2012 | 1:59:02 AM
re: The 'AWG Killer' Returns You're being too literal, dwdm2.

I think this headline works fine. We have to keep em short, and this one tells you that the story is about an alternative technology to AWGs. It's also a bit provocative.

We're not a learned journal.
Curious George 12/5/2012 | 1:58:57 AM
re: The 'AWG Killer' Returns Peter,

I'm with dwdm2 on this one - catchy but little substance. Besides they will be encumbered by all the basic physics that bulk gratings are subject to...nothing is really "killer" in this space, just a question of tradeoffs and best fit to the app.

OptixCal 12/5/2012 | 1:58:56 AM
re: The 'AWG Killer' Returns yeah, in "whine" cheese and perfume...
lavoix 12/5/2012 | 1:58:31 AM
re: The 'AWG Killer' Returns and more :)

Airbus : #1 plane manufacturer
Alstom : #1 high speed train [aka bullet train]
Alstom : #1 largest ship manufacturer
Ariane Espace : #1 Satellite launcher and the biggest one too
Alcatel: Leading-edge products and services in virtually every sector of the Telecommunications Industry.

Classed by alphabetical order and rank, do you want B,C,D ...and rank #2 companies?

FRANCE RULES TOO, travel outside your island pal sometimes!
technonerd 12/5/2012 | 1:58:25 AM
re: The 'AWG Killer' Returns FRANCE RULES TOO, travel outside your island pal sometimes!

Touche, lavoix! Be aware that France has a whole lot more sympathy among Americans than you might be aware of ...
monkeybrains 12/5/2012 | 1:57:53 AM
re: The 'AWG Killer' Returns France certainly is #1 when it comes to bailing out troubled banks. Just take a look at Credit Lyonnais... Unfortunately, France trails Italy when it comes to crippling strikes by the masses... In terms of crappy car companies, which is worse, Renault or Peugeot? I can't remember the last time I saw one outside of France. I wonder why that is...

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