JDSU, Emcore Shrink Tunables
At least, that's what JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) officials say, in part because they're claiming the lead. Today, the company announced it's squeezed the elements of a tunable transponder down into a pluggable XFP module. (See JDSU Intros Tunable XFP.)
XFPs are about the size of a pack of chewing gum. The previous alternative, a 300-pin transponder, is bigger than the palm of an adult hand. So an XFP module has all kinds of advantages, including density -- more modules can fit in a given space. The trick is getting everything to fit in that package and to meet the 3.5W power limitation that's part of the specification.
"We definitely felt power dissipation was going to be our biggest challenge," says Kevin Affolter, JDSU's marketing manager for tunable modules.
Emcore Corp. (Nasdaq: EMKR) beat JDSU to the punch as far as press releases go, announcing a tunable XFP yesterday. (See Emcore Tunes In XFP.) But JDSU thinks it's going to be the first to market, considering it started giving the modules to customers late last year and expects to get to volume production by the summer.
Emcore didn't say when it expects to ship its XFP. The company was showing the device to customers at OFC/NFOEC, not at the booth, but at a private demo suite.
JDSU's tunable XFP traces its heritage back to Agility, the tunable-laser company JDSU acquired in 2005. (See JDSU Tunes In Agility.) At the time, Agility was already working on monolithic integration, trying to combine a laser and modulator onto a single indium phosphide (InP) device.
JDSU showed off that device, called the Integrated Laser Mach-Zehnder (ILMZ), in 2007. (See JDSU Shows at OFC and JDSU Advances PICs.) The next step was to package that into a transmitter optical subassembly (TOSA), which JDSU showed off last year. (See JDSU Gets Tunable & Pluggable.)
Completing the XFP module took quite a bit more work, though, because a tunable transponder includes a chunk of electronics that's normally housed on a small printed circuit board. JDSU had to distill that down to an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) -- which is part of why it took so many years to get the part done.
"The performance we're seeing right now is incredibly close to what we're seeing from the 300-pin transponder," Affolter claims.
Still, he said there may be some applications where the transponder remains preferable -- submarine transport, for instance.
Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are sprouting up around the industry these days. Startup OneChip Photonics Inc. is using them for a fiber-to-the-home transcever, a market separate from the metro and long-haul uses that JDSU's XFP is likely to find. (See OneChip Tries Infinera's Trick.) And PICs are the core technology behind the Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) long-haul WDM box.
JDSU didn't overtly announce customers for the tunable XFP, but ADVA Optical Networking and NTT Electronics Corp. (NEL) provided nice quotes that got used during JDSU's press conference this morning.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading