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Optical/IP

Tunable Laser Vendors in a Tiff

A bit of a squabble has broken out over the true significance of last week's announcement of a multisource agreement (MSA) for tunable lasers (see Quartet Establishes Tunable MSA).

Not surprisingly, the four vendors involved -- Iolon Inc., Intel Corp., Bookham Technology plc and Santur Corp. -- say it's very significant. They point out that the MSA is based on an Implementation Agreement from the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) (see OIF Sets Component Specs). As more than 20 vendors created the OIF agreement, the implication is that the MSA will enjoy widespread industry support.

Agility Communications Inc. -- which announced an earlier tunable laser MSA with Bookham and Alcatel Optronics (Nasdaq: ALAO; Paris: CGO.PA) a few months ago (see Agility Launches MSA-Compliant Laser -- begs to differ. It contends that tunable laser MSAs aren't that important any more, and that the OIF's backing doesn't mean that much either.

How's that, you may well ask.

In the view of Arlon Martin, Agility's VP of sales and marketing, a lot of system vendors would much prefer to buy in ready-made transponders rather than build their own from scratch, using tunable lasers. Therefore, it's more important to support the existing 300-pin transponder MSA, which is already an established industry standard. It's no coincidence that Agility announced such a transponder today (see Agility Intros Tunable Transponder).

Martin notes that the OIF's own attempt at developing a 200-pin transponder MSA turned into "an intellectual exercise." Alcatel and a bunch of other leading telecom equipment vendors decided it wasn't robust enough and added extra pins and features to create the 300-pin transponder standard.

It was Alcatel that drove the development timetable of the tunable laser MSA announced by Agility, Alcatel, and Bookham, last November, Martin adds, labeling Alcatel "the Cisco of our marketplace." The flipside of having more than 20 vendors participate in the creation of the OIF tunable laser MSA was that it took them two years to do it - "way too long," according to Martin, who says Alcatel got exasperated and asked Agility and Bookham to jump the gun.

It's also worth pointing out that the four vendors that announced the OIF-compliant tunable laser MSA last week have yet to develop products that comply with it:

  • Santur will demonstrate a tunable laser that implements some aspects of the MSA at the upcoming OFC Conference, according to Gurinder Parhar, its VP of Business Development.
  • Intel will also demonstrate a tunable laser at OFC, according to Hendrik van der Meer, its product marketing manager. An OIF compliant module is "under development", he adds.
  • Iolon has a tunable laser that's "80 percent compliant" with the MSA, according to Saeid Aramideh, VP of product management. It expects to ship a fully compliant laser by the third quarter of this year.
  • Bookham says it also has laser that's 80 percent compliant with the OIF-based MSA and will be "gauging interest in the market place" to decide when to offer a fully compliant product, according to Dave Woodcock, product manager. Bookham, of course, also plans to offer a tunable laser that complies with the MSA it reached with Agility and Alcatel. "Having two MSAs gives the market some choice," says Woodcock.

    — Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading

    For up-to-date information about the coming OFC Conference, please visit Light Reading’s Unauthorized OFC Preview Site

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