Finisar's new pluggable module -- the XFP-RF -- is about the size of a pack of chewing gum, and aims to replace larger RF modules about the size of a Blu-ray player.
The hope is that the compact size, commonplace in the optical industry but new to the RF world, will help cable operators improve their optical densities by three to four times. Cable hubs and headends are bursting at the seams as operators add capacity; pluggable modules could help save space in existing optical platforms and could help even more as operators adopt new equipment that sports optical interfaces.
At 3.5 watts, the XFP-RF is also designed to be up to 75 percent more power-efficient than what's in the field today, says Shawn Esser, Finisar's director of product marketing for cable TV products.
The module can tune to different wavelengths -- up to about 80 of them -- on the fly, an addition that should simplify provisioning in cable operators' dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) deployments. MSOs, which use DWDM to pack more capacity onto a fiber, have typically operated in a fixed environment whereby a given transmitter only supports one wavelength.
Esser says the initial targets for the XFP-RF are cable's standalone optical platforms, but those modules could also be used in next-gen CCAP equipment, as well as cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) and edge QAMs, as they begin to add optical interfaces.
Finisar's new module arrives as the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) develops a standard (SCTE IPS SP 912) for RF-modulated, small-form-factor, pluggable optical modules. Esser says the standard is at the ballot stage and poised for approval in November.
Finisar, which competes primarily with Emcore Corp. (Nasdaq: EMKR) in the cable market, is shipping beta units of the XFP-RF today, and expects to reach full production in early 2013. It will demonstrate the new module at next week's Cable-Tec Expo in Orlando.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable