Inplane Scores $10M More
ATLANTA -- OFC 2003 -- Inplane Photonics Inc. has closed on more funding, adding $10 million to the $20 million previously raised, company officials are announcing today (see Inplane Intros Amps, Pockets $30M).
The money is the final stage of a first round that began in 2001, and it should be enough to sustain the planar-photonics startup through 2005, says John Kostibas, vice president of marketing.
Investors Jerusalem Venture Partners and Morgenthaler are contributing another $7 million, and Comerica Inc. is adding a $3 million credit line.
Jerusalem and Morgenthaler were the company's initial venture investors, and this final tranch of funding represents their vote of confidence in Inplane's progress, Kostibas says.
Inplane is a maker of planar lightwave circuits (see Photonic Integrated Circuits) specializing in erbium-doped waveguide amplifiers (EDWAs), a more compact alternative to Erbium Doped-Fiber Amplifiers (EDFAs).
Industry consolidation has claimed most EDWA vendors, the exceptions being Inplane, NKT Integration A/S, and Teem Photonics (see Shakeout in the Amp Camp). EDWAs face competition from Semiconductor Optical Amplifiers, crafted by vendors such as Kamelian Ltd.
Inplane sells amplifier modules that include the EDWA chip along with components such as a pump laser and isolator. But the raw EDWA -- that is, the gain block available in chip form -- will also be valuable as planar photonics become more commonplace, because it could be placed alongside any other optical function just as memory blocks can be sprinkled onto portions of a semiconductor. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is among the companies interested in this approach.
"What they said they wanted was the ability to surgically implant gain anywhere they wanted on a chip," Kostibas says. Intel's been looking at Inplane's EDWA technology to create lossless amplifiers -- that is, amplifiers followed by EDWA gain blocks that bring the signal strength to its previous level or higher.
Here at the OFC Conference Inplane has announced the GEM-A2000, a chip integrating four EDWAs that can be supplied by one or two pump lasers. It may be the first demonstration of pump-sharing on waveguides, Kostibas says. The chip also includes a splitter, to divide the laser output among the EDWAs; four variable optical attenuators (VOAs), one per EDWA; and a PIN tap to monitor the output.
The GEM-A2000 is the follow-up to the GEM-A1000, which contains eight amplifiers but integrates fewer functions.
Inplane is willing to make simpler variations of the GEM-A2000, Kostibas says. In particular, the VOAs are added via additional semiconductor-building steps that could be skipped. "Once you say you don't need VOAs, you eliminate the majority of the electronics" on the chip, he says. "People are so cost-conscious. They're just looking for the simplest circuit that will do the job."
Inplane expects to sample the GEM-A2000 within 60 days.
Oh, in case you're wondering -- Teem and NKT are at OFC as well. Teem is announcing new splitter arrays, while NKT is debuting modules for 8- and 16-channel coarse wavelength-division multiplexing (CWDM).
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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