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Optical components

Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches

Optical switch subsystem startup Polatis Ltd. yesterday announced that it had moved to a new facility -- not smaller, to cut costs, but larger, to keep pace with demand (see Polatis Moves to New Facility).

The four-year-old U.K. company claims business is getting brisker for its low-loss optical switches. This is partly because it diversified into markets other than telecom during the recession and partly because “telecom is beginning to kick in again” says Jas Sandhu, Polatis’s business development manager.

“The next step beyond ROADMs is beginning to happen,” he contends.

Sandhu acknowledges that carriers are looking at ROADMs (reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers) to solve immediate problems (see Who Makes What: ROADMs). But he maintains they're also looking further ahead, at what might follow on behind ROADMs. Polatis is promoting the idea of distributing small optical switches throughout a meshed optical backbone, so that the path taken by light across the whole network can be reconfigured.

Polatis’s switches make this feasible because of their low insertion loss of around one decibel, compared to around five decibels for typical subsystems based on tiny tilting mirrors, according to Sandhu. This makes it possible to route light around a network, taking an extra few hops, because the power budget isn’t eroded so quickly.

The low insertion loss comes from Polatis’s way of routing light. Instead of tilting mirrors, it tilts collimators (lenses) so that light can pass directly between input and output fibers (see Polatis Reveals Switch Secrets).

Polatis says this results in a very compact switch -- a 16x16-port subsystem is 1 rack unit high -- while its performance “matches or exceeds” that of much bigger mechanical switches used for test-and-measurement applications. This is one of the markets that Polatis now targets, along with government, defense, and aerospace. Sandhu says Polatis has found it easier to sell optical switches in these, rather than telecom, markets.

Although Polatis sees the future brightening in the telecom market, others aren't so sure. "Thinking about all-optical networks today, even based on small (hopefully very inexpensive) switches, is a bit premature," writes Igor Stouklov, principal of SiTele LLC, a company providing marketing and sales services to component and module manufacturers, in an email to Light Reading. "That type of small-switch, mesh network does not only require significant capex cost reduction promise to be considered but an enormous software development effort by system people.

"The immediate ROADM needs will feed the market for at least the next three years," Stouklov contends.

"The beauty of Polatis’s approach is reconfigurability. The same box can be a 16x16 switch, dual 8x8 switches, or an array of eight 2x2 switches, just by changing software settings. Suddenly, exactly the same box can be a heart of a wavelength-selective switch or a drop-leg of a ROADM or the ROADM switching fabric or a protection switch array. The questions to Polatis are: how much the box will cost compared to existing solutions, what is the form factor, will it directly replace the proven existing solutions for today?"

Polatis is promising to answer some of these questions in the run-up to the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC), to be held in Stockholm on September 5-9.

— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading

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o-man 12/5/2012 | 1:24:07 AM
re: Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches What is after a ROADM? Is Polatis planning a ROADM on a chip like others are thinking about?
Balet 12/5/2012 | 1:24:02 AM
re: Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches I believe it is hard to talk what will happen 3-4 years from now in optical space.
There are plenty of applications for Polatis' switches today. They just have to work hard establishing relationship with right customers early in the game to make sure they will be well positioned when the market picks up.
o-man 12/5/2012 | 1:24:02 AM
re: Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches 3 years ago every one thought we would be at OC-768 line rates also???
o-man 12/5/2012 | 1:24:01 AM
re: Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches Have you heard of the all optical transponder or wavelength converter...Alphion.

Is that transponder cheap enough? Or is it destin to stay in the LABs
shaggy 12/5/2012 | 1:24:01 AM
re: Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches I'm really curious to know what will be these "plenty of applications" that will come about in telecom. O/E prices continue to drop like a stone, ROADMs have been reduced to simple board components mounted in chassis, (as opposed to Polatis 1RU high 1 mile deep chassis)

Outside of the lab, where is the play? in 3-4 years, transponders will still be the cheaper solution.

Balet 12/5/2012 | 1:23:57 AM
re: Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches shaggy said:

"I'm really curious to know what will be these "plenty of applications" that will come about in telecom. O/E prices continue to drop like a stone, ROADMs have been reduced to simple board components mounted in chassis, (as opposed to Polatis 1RU high 1 mile deep chassis)

Outside of the lab, where is the play? in 3-4 years, transponders will still be the cheaper solution."


So do you believe there is not future for optical telecom? Just point-to-point fibers from LA to NYC and everything else electrical? Does not have much sense just based on electrical reach length of a few meters at 10 Gb/s.

Polatis needs to reduce the size to something resonable and talk about prices.
Balet 12/5/2012 | 1:23:56 AM
re: Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches O-man, you sound like a very technical sales man with great English skills!
o-man 12/5/2012 | 1:23:51 AM
re: Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches Balet...

You know that their is no such thing as a technicial sales guy...

One thing for sure is that I would love to sell products like this from innovative companies, unlike the ones where I can only imagine that you worked for...

a. JDSU
b. Polaris
c. Sorrento
d. LU
e. Oplink

the only thing in common for these companies is that you must have worked for them and they are doomed for failure!
Vent 12/5/2012 | 1:23:44 AM
re: Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches o-man wrote
'Is Polatis planning a ROADM on a chip like others are thinking about'
The polatis MASS technology has small piezzo elements moving ferrules with the fibers inside aligning them to each other. The good thing is it's low loss, it will however NEVER be cheap or possible to intergrate it.
Balet 12/5/2012 | 1:23:43 AM
re: Polatis Plugs On With Optical Switches shaggy wrote: So do you believe there is not future for optical telecom? Just point-to-point fibers from LA to NYC and everything else electrical? Does not have much sense just based on electrical reach length of a few meters at 10 Gb/s.

Shaggy, if I believed in no future for optical telecom I would've not spent last 10 years of my life in this area.
There is plenty of the future for optical telecom, there is not future soon for all optical networks, based on economical factors that you pointed out.

Hopefully it answers your questions.

Could you please in the future (c) someone you are responding to? Thanks.
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