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Optical components

OFC/NFOEC: News Nuggets

Optical seems to be back.

Much to the chagrin of some writers, the OFC/NFOEC began in earnest this week, even though the conference doesn't start until Sunday, Feb. 24.

For a show that spent years in the doldrums, OFC/NFOEC looks ready to come back storming. We'll find out for sure next week.

For now, here's a smattering of the news and talk that's already gone down.

Module mania
In a move that highlights the growing reach of tunable modules, Bookham Inc. (Nasdaq: BKHM; London: BHM) announced the general availability of a tunable 300-pin small form factor (SFF) transponder. (See Level 3 Co-Founder Starts Zayo Bandwidth.)

Ovum RHK Inc. analyst Daryl Inniss notes that the Bookham product is "considerably smaller than anything else that's out there" on the market, and the transponder is tunable. However, it's not yet a pluggable product.

That's significant, because Bookham's product introduction follows an announcement by JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), which produced a tunable and pluggable transponder with the smaller XFP form factor.

While the finished product is not quite available yet, JDSU director of product marketing Craig Iwata says his company's road map should give it an advantage. "We've seen more demand for the XFP format," Iwata says. "The big demand is that the cost is low and the size is much smaller."

Innis says the Bookham and JDSU announcements show that "customers are interested in smaller sizes. Bookham went all the way to qualify this, so someone's obviously buying them."

Integration nation
NeoPhotonics Corp. (NYSE: NPTN) has a wide scope of technology to show off at OFC/NFOEC, but one factor that might not be readily apparent is the company's work in photonic integration.

NeoPhotonics already announced a photonic integrated circuit (PIC) featuring arrayed waveguide gratings with 50 GHz spacing. (See NeoPho Intros Modules.) But the company's got other interesting integration work going on in the fiber-to-the-home side, mixing active and passive components onto one device.

It could become a common direction for components makers: NeoPhotonics VP of marketing Ferris Lipscomb notes that Enablence Technologies Inc. (Toronto: ENA) is working along similar lines.

It's possible to produce the device within GPON specifications, Lipscomb claims. The problem is in the manufacturing cost.

"That type of hybrid PLC [planar lightwave circuit] integration becomes lowest cost at a certain volume," Lipscomb says, "but of course, we're also lowering the cost of the original product. At what point it makes sense to make the transition, I don't know."

Gennum's ROSA
Gennum Corp. (Toronto: GND) doesn't exactly qualify for our Startup Spotlight. Not only is the company already public, but it's 35 years old. Gennum's history is in hearing aids -- a business it's since ditched in favor of a new course set by CEO Franz Fink.

Eighty percent of the company's business is in high-speed interface chips for video. But Gennum wants to apply that knowledge to the telecom realm, too.

This week, Gennum announced a 10 Gbit/s receiver optical subassembly (ROSA) based around a semiconductor called Rchip, for "receiver-on-a-chip." A ROSA with an accompanying TOSA (for the transmission side) would go together in an optical transceiver module.

Some module vendors assemble the necessary components on their own, but Gennum is claiming it can improve yields by providing them the prepackaged ROSA.

Part of the trick involves minimizing the amount of analog electronics surrounding a device called a transimpedance amplifier (TIA). That helps because analog design is notoriously hard to perfect. "I've been in three Tier 1 customers, a week long at a time, trying to stabilize TIAs with them," says Imran Sherazi, director of marketing for Gennum's optical division.

Here's some trivia (consider it a reward for reading this far): Gennum's real claim to fame in high-speed chips came more than four years ago, when it won the 5 Gbit/s serializer/deserializer job for the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) CRS-1. The specs were so demanding, no other vendor's part was chosen as a second source -- a situation that holds to this day, Sherazi claims.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, and Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading

DZED 12/5/2012 | 3:47:10 PM
re: OFC/NFOEC: News Nuggets Funny that, it was the Ignis team, poached by JDSU from Bookham, which developed that :)
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