JDSU's Ready for Gridless ROADMs

JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) is sampling components for gridless reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers (ROADMs), officials said during Wednesday's earnings call.

It's a new line of Wavelength Selective Switch (WSS) called TrueFlex. The devices have just started sampling and should be ready for production shipments later this year, executives said.

JDSU already sells WSSs based on micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) Mirrors, but TrueFlex is built from liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS). The wavelength assignments on an LCoS WSS can be reassigned in software, making it a good option for flexible-grid ROADMs. Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR) already has LCoS-based WSSs and had been touting flexible-grid capabilities since at least 2010.

JDSU says TrueFlex WSSs will be available in sizes of 1x9 and smaller for metro networks and in larger sizes for core networks.

Why this matters
TrueFlex is a bit of marketing catch-up for JDSU, as Finisar has really run with the idea.

Flexible-grid ROADMs could come in handy if, as many believe, 400Gbit/s and 1Tbit/s signals won't initially fit in a 50GHz space. Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) has a 1Tbit/s protoype that uses 200GHz of optical spectrum, for instance, and Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) has talked about similar experiments.

There's one catch: "The performance of the ROADMs that have the flexible capabilities are typically not as good as the MEMS-based ROADMs," says Andrew Schmitt, an analyst with Infonetics Research Inc.

Considering that a ROADM is likely to sit in a carrier network 10 years or more, that creates a trade-off -- is grid flexibility more important than performance? Schmitt says he's talked to one major equipment manufacturer that's not planning to use gridless ROADMs for at least a few years.

Then again, the need for gridlessness does appear to exist, and it's an area JDSU couldn't ignore. "I will say there are benefits to both approaches, and Finisar's got an excellent product," Schmitt says. "Finisar's done an excellent job marketing -- talking to carriers and getting the market to see this as a requirement."

For more
Catch up on the new generation of ROADMs.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:43:40 PM
re: JDSU's Ready for Gridless ROADMs

I asked JDSU if the LCoS was truly new, and they say they've had it in the wings for a while now.  It's just that the MEMS performance is better.

Via email from Sinclair Vass, senior director of business operations for the Commercial and Consumer Optical Products (CCOP) business unit at JDSU:

"We have had JDSU IP and capability in LCOS for a long time, but have preferred the technical performance of MEMs for current generation ROADM solutions. Our TrueFlex product portfolio is designed to support the network evolution to bit rates beyond 100Gb/sec, and for this generation we have chosen to leverage our own LCOS capability as well as partnerships with key component vendors."

redface 12/5/2012 | 5:43:40 PM
re: JDSU's Ready for Gridless ROADMs

Coadna is the third largest player in ROADM and went public in Taiwan recently.  I wonder if it has a technical solution for going gridless.  Looks like LCoS is the only way to go for gridless but Coadna's approach is based on liquid crystal cells which can assume only discrete states so not as flexible, based on my very limited knowledge of this field.    

As for other would be players such as Oclaro and Capella,  this field is going to be even more challenging.  

rhr 12/5/2012 | 5:43:39 PM
re: JDSU's Ready for Gridless ROADMs Redface, there is also Nistica with its DLP technology, that can support gridless too.
rhr 12/5/2012 | 5:43:39 PM
re: JDSU's Ready for Gridless ROADMs Is gridless needed or not? In a recent survey, Infonetics found that the market push was far ahead of what operators needed, and here there is a suggestion that WSS vendors have done well convincing equipment makers of the need for gridless. Yet talk to Verizon, they are adamant that gridless technology is needed and needed now.-á
If operators are about to start deploy 100Gbps+ network overlays and ROADMs will remain in place for at least a decade, then gridless sounds a must rather than clever marketing. Is that the takeaway?
redface 12/5/2012 | 5:43:38 PM
re: JDSU's Ready for Gridless ROADMs


Thank you for pointing that out.  How is Nistica doing?  They have picked up two rounds of financing.  Any concrete progress in their business such as design wins?  

rhr 12/5/2012 | 5:42:40 PM
re: JDSU's Ready for Gridless ROADMs Redface, apologies for the slow response. I'm not up to speed on Nistica or their progress. I will let you know once I do.
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