Startup Claims First Multi-Port Amplifier

MUNICH -- Startup Southampton Photonics Inc. today unveiled a significant development in erbium doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs) here at the European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC).

Southampton Photonics' new product, the GainNet M8, packs eight EDFAs into a single component. And that's just for starters, according to Anatoly Grudinin, the startup's technical director. "Eight channels is just a demonstration of our capabilities," he says. "We can go up to 32 channels."

The bottom line for telecom operators? Significantly lower costs and improved reliability, together with a potential three-fold increase in power.

The lower costs come from being able to configure the EDFAs in parallel, so a single GainNet M8 can do the work of eight conventional EDFAs. Although pricing hasn't been finalized, the eight-pack won't cost significantly more than a single EDFA, according to Curtis Wright, sales director. It will also take up less space than eight EDFAs.

The improved reliability comes from being able to couple all eight EDFAs to a common pool of pump lasers. If one laser conks out, the remaining ones take the strain. Sharing lasers also cuts costs even further.

The potential three-fold increase in power comes from being able to connect the EDFAs in series as well as in parallel. Hooking up a string of EDFAs in the same package can boost light signals by as much as one Watt while minimizing noise. That's three times more than conventional EDFAs, according to Southampton Photonics.

It's also possible to incorporate other devices between EDFAs, such as gain-flattening and dispersion-compensating filters, and reap the same benefits of low noise levels, the firm claims.

Southampton Photonics expects to start commercial shipments of its multiport EDFAs in first quarter of 2001.

-- Peter Heywood, international editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
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