Optical components

Santur Tunes In $10M

Startup Santur Corp. has secured $10 million in third-round funding, enough to see tunable lasers to manufacturing daylight, company officials say.

The round was led by VantagePoint Venture Partners and fleshed out by Santur's previous investors: Lighthouse Capital Partners, Menlo Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and Thomas Weisel Venture Partners (see Santur Raises $10M Round C).

Santur is one of several companies that have been waiting for the market to embrace tunable lasers. The devices were expected to be the future for DWDM, as they could make inventory simpler. (For a detailed list of the arguments, see Tunable Lasers Revisited).

But companies took longer than expected to get the technology working, and the devices initially were too expensive to compete with regular distributed-feedback (DFB) lasers. Then the downturn hit, and tunable laser projects started getting swept into the gutter like dead leaves (see ADC Tunes Out, Tough Times for Tunable Lasers, and Bandwidth9 Goes Dark).

Santur may have had an advantage in starting late. Some tunable laser startups raised more than $100 million and subsequently scaled back dramatically (see Agility Gets $83M Third Round and Headcount: Job Market Blues, for example).

By contrast, Santur has raised $53 million and employs just 40 people (see Tunable Lasers: Back in Fashion?).

"We started a bit later, so we never got really big," Craig says. Other tunable laser startups "built out infrastructure before they were ready."

Santur expects the funding to be its last, as the market for tunables is finally coming around. Substantial revenues might still be a year away, but service providers and transponder makers are buying in to the tunable argument, CEO Richard Craig says.

"We're taking slots away, not from specialty players like Iolon Inc. and Agility Communications Inc. We're taking on the thermally tunable DFBs," Craig says.

Thermally tunable lasers have been around for a long time, but they only cover a small portion of the C-band, the spectrum between 1525nm and 1625nm. Most tunable laser vendors hope to eclipse the thermally tunable market by producing lasers that can cover the entire C-band.

Santur's parts are based on micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). Santur lines up an array of 12 thermally tunable DFBs, each one covering a piece of the C band, and uses MEMS to select one of the lasers. That DFB is then tuned to the desired wavelength.

Fujitsu Quantum Devices Ltd. and Quantum Devices Inc. (QDI) (no relation) are pursuing similar DFB-array tunables. Meanwhile, other forms of tunability have been developed by companies including Agility, BeamExpress Inc., Iolon, JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), and Princeton Optronics Inc. And some companies such as Pirelli SpA are hoping to get into tunables as well (see Pirelli Returns ).

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

ooj 12/4/2012 | 11:12:20 PM
re: Santur Tunes In $10M What happened to Intel's not insubstantial effort in this area. Did I miss something?
darkone 12/4/2012 | 11:12:19 PM
re: Santur Tunes In $10M I just have to take this chance to diss Santur. Although the solution may cost less than Iolon's or Agility's, it is still a crazy solution. Taking an array of DFBs, and then tuning by switching between the lasers with a MEMs mirror seems like the shotgun approach. I hope Intel or someone can make a better solution work.

darkone 12/4/2012 | 11:12:19 PM
re: Santur Tunes In $10M Intel's effort, the results of Sparkcolor and New Focus continues with a group in that I believe is located in Fremont. There is also some work by Infinera, ST Micro and and couple of other groups I will not name. One big question is cost. Another is integration with the cmos silicon .
Did I miss anyone important.

Demander 12/4/2012 | 11:12:17 PM
re: Santur Tunes In $10M Can someone explain a few things?

a) What drives the cost of Agilities solutions? Since the entire laser is integrated into the InP material system it seems like it should be a cheap to manufacture as a DFB.

b) Why does a tunable need to be as cheap as DFB!? The whole point is that they save on sparing and part count. That should be worth something, even a lot.

c) What is typical cost difference between FP lasers and DFB, i.e., how much cost does adding the grating contribute.

d) does anyone know good foundries for custom FP lasers? SDL doesn't have any presence any longer. Are they completely dedicated to JDS needs now or do they still respond to customers? Any other good small foundries out there?

whyiswhy 12/4/2012 | 11:12:10 PM
re: Santur Tunes In $10M Reality:

Screw cost, cost is not the problem. Price is the problem. Nix that, price is not the problem.
Price times volume is the problem.

The total market for optical components sucks.

I mean the TOTAL freakin' market S U C K S !

Even JDSU who has, guess a 40% market share is sucking their shareholders equity to make optical components, in China (the lowest cost basis you're gonna get).

BTW: Kudos to Santur for getting their investors to believe there might be a better day someday. I am sure it cost the last lump of common equity there was left. Now it's a job guys, period. But it's 1000% better than holding a cardboard sign on the median strip at 8:00 at night in the cold.

voiceunderip 12/4/2012 | 11:12:09 PM
re: Santur Tunes In $10M Demander -

I think Santur might be able to help you out with those custom FPs... those guys have a pretty nice fab down there.

- vuip
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