Santur Girds for Battle

With a 100-Gbit/s transmitter and aims on pluggable modules, Santur tries to fend off the tunable-laser competition

Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

September 23, 2008

4 Min Read
Santur Girds for Battle

Santur Corp. might not get that IPO any time soon, but the company is still plugging away at new products as it strives to preserve its lead in tunable lasers.

Coming into this week's European Conference and Exhibition on Optical Communication (ECOC), the company has released a 100-Gbit/s photonic integrated circuit (PIC), using its tunable-laser technology to tap a different market. Santur is also saying it's ready to parry the tunable-laser gains being claimed by Bookham Inc. (Nasdaq: BKHM; London: BHM), which continues to push new tunable modules.

Two years ago, then-CEO Richard Craig was dropping some pretty strong hints about Santur going public, and last year, newer CEO Paul Meissner said an IPO was in the company's plans. (See OFC: Optics & IPOs and Santur Raises $26.5M, Talks IPO.)

This year, sources were expressing doubts that Santur could pull off an IPO -- and that was even before the collapse of Wall Street. Part of the problem was that Santur was starting face stiffer competition in tunables.

Bookham has been particularly aggressive. Starting in 2006, it kicked into gear with tunable lasers, offering, for instance, the TL7000 tunable transmitter assembly (TTA) that integrates a modulator with the laser. (See Bookham Storms OFC and Bookham Launches iTLA.)

In fact, you could say the tunable laser has been the foundation product for the company's re-emergence after the long telecom downturn. "We've had a big push in our tunables in the last two years," says Adrian Meldrum, Bookham's vice president of marketing.

JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) has come on strong too. In fact, both companies recently claimed they'd run into capacity problems due to tunable laser demand. (See Doink! JDSU Hits Capacity Ceiling.)

Santur hasn't run into that problem, because it's been able to double capacity in the past year, says Vibha Goel, vice president of marketing.

Capacity alone won't fend off rising competition, though. So, what else does Santur have up its sleeve?

First, it's tapping new directions, like the 100-Gbit/s PIC. Santur based the device on its tunable laser, which consists of 10 lasers side-by-side and a MEMS device that selects one of the 10. (See Santur Demos 100G PIC.)

For the 100-Gbit/s PIC, Santur replaces the MEMS part with a passive multiplexer. In a sense, you've got the same row of 10 uncooled 10-Gbit/s lasers, but with "everything happening at once," Goel says.

It's possible that telecom will embrace a 100-Gbit/s standard that uses four lanes of 25 Gbit/s apiece, but adjusting to that standard is "not a big deal for us," Goel says. "We have customers who are not telecom anyway, so we will start selling this model."

Santur is already shipping sample quantities of the device for revenue.

But in addition to new devices, Santur will have to keep up with competitors in tunable lasers. Bookham, for instance has gotten its devices into pluggable transceiver modules, a step Santur hadn't yet announced.

Bookham started with a Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) pluggable in a proprietary format. Now, at ECOC this week, the company is showing off a tunable module in the standard XFP-E format. (See Ciena Tunes In Bookham and Bookham Demos at ECOC.)

XFP-E is a little bit bigger than the XFP standard but allows for performance on par with 300-pin transponders, Meldrum says. What's important is that XFP-E is a standard format, so it can be sold to a variety of customers, unlike the Ciena module.

Bookham expects to ship sample quantities of the XFP-E modules in the fourth quarter; early versions are already in customers' hands.

Santur says it's not far off the pace.

"We actually have a device that's got good performance. We should be ready with our devices in an XFP-E by the October/November timeframe," Goel says. Unlike Bookham, Santur doesn't sell transceiver modules; Goel is referring to a customer whose modules will use Santur lasers.

"We definitely see a market for XFP-E, and we definitely have the parts. We think we are on the same timeframe as Bookham, or maybe a couple of weeks apart," Goel says.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Craig Matsumoto

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Yes, THAT Craig Matsumoto – who used to be at Light Reading from 2002 until 2013 and then went away and did other stuff and now HE'S BACK! As Editor-in-Chief. Go Craig!!

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