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Trillium Tacks On $29 Million

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
1/14/2002
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Ottawa-based Trillium Photonics Inc. will announce Tuesday that it's received US$29 million in a second funding round (see Trillium Gets $29M).

The funding comes from Spectrum Equity Investors, JK&B Capital, a U.S.-based arm of Mitsubishi Corp., and Mohr Davidow Ventures.

Mohr Davidow was the sole investor in the company's first-round funding, which took place in August 2000, a month after the startup's founding, and totaled $6.8 million. Trillium now has $35.8 million in funding.

The startup plans to use the money wisely. "We are very focused, our business model is very carefully planned," says CEO Brian Jervis, who formerly worked at Newbridge Networks and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT).

Trillium's main product will be an amplifier it claims dramatically improves on the performance of today's equipment. While refusing to be specific about the materials used and the design, Jervis says Trillium's gear will have key features to help lower the operational and capital costs of carriers' optical networks.

For one thing, the amplifier will be all-optical, he says, and not based on electronics. As a result, Jervis claims, Trillium will be able to boost the intensity of light in fiber optic networks over greater distances. Today, he notes, electronically-based amplifiers boost light signals but introduce noise in the process, reducing the distances that may be traversed before light needs to be regenerated -- and amplifiers must be added at increased cost in equipment and technician's time.

Jervis says he's already got customers lined up to test Trillium's prototype amplifiers, which are scheduled for general availability in the second half of this year. The inital product will be followed up with a portfolio of component modules.

It all sounds terrific, but Trillium is stepping into waters tainted with the blood of slaughtered component startups (see Zenastra Photonics: RIP and Nanovation Files for Chapter 11). Further, there are other well backed competitors circling -- some, such as Genoa Corp., with their own amplifier plans (see Genoa).

Jervis is undeterred. He says that by focusing on a specific high-growth segment and targeting more than one Tier 1 and 2 carrier customer, he's confident of success. "Your business model has to make sense," he asserts. "You can't count on a single home run to build your business."

Trillium's also focused on staying lean and mean. Its next steps will be to ramp up its sales, marketing, and in-house manufacturing of selected optics -- all without hiring much beyond its 48-person staff. "We figure we're already right sized," Jervis says cryptically. "We intend to manage our funds carefully."

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com

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poster
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poster,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:04:29 PM
re: Trillium Tacks On $29 Million
thanks for taking the initiative to point out something that seemed so ridiculously obvious I thought I was the only one not getting it.
gea
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gea,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:04:29 PM
re: Trillium Tacks On $29 Million
"For one thing, the amplifier will be all-optical, he says, and not based on electronics."

Supeficially, this almost looks like Trillium is getting funding for making optical amplifiers! Maybe Harvey Muck is right and they simply found some VCs so out of touch that they were able to snooker them into funding a technology that has existed for years. Anyone wanna fund my startup? We've developed a thing called a "transistor" that is sure to revolutionize the vacuum tube industry!

Seriously, any more technical detail available?
spont
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spont,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:04:28 PM
re: Trillium Tacks On $29 Million
quote: "For one thing, the amplifier will be all-optical, he says, and not based on electronics. As a result, Jervis claims, Trillium will be able to boost the intensity of light in fiber optic networks over greater distances. Today, he notes, electronically-based amplifiers boost light signals but introduce noise in the process"

I'll buy a pint for the person who shows me the "all-optical amplifier" based on any technology that doesn't introduce noise... It's surely another dimension in physics, one I've been missing until now. If this is true I want to work there and own loads of options... Problem is I don't believe this (or I totally misunderstood, hey that's one thing that's possible!
LightBeating
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LightBeating,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:04:27 PM
re: Trillium Tacks On $29 Million
Spont,

Just to point out that, under some conditions, a Raman-based amplifier can apparently have a negative noise figure, meaning that the signal to noise ratio actually is actually improved by the amplifier. I am not a specialist, so I could not give you a detailed explanation, but I got that info from someone who knows a lot more than me in that matter.

LB
spont
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spont,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:04:25 PM
re: Trillium Tacks On $29 Million
the technology in question is (apparently ) EDFA-based - otherwise they'd told us. And EDFA's always introduce noise (as do Raman - the "apparent" negative noise figure is what it says it is; apparent - i.e. it depends on the way you define the noise figure in your system. The actual OSNR will not be higher. Trust me, I do know )

BTW: I checked their web site. They don't claim a zero dB noise figure, just a low one (as would anyone else ). They're simply trying to be clever in the pumping scheme. Well so be it, but the black box will still be noisy, be it less...
telcobonano
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telcobonano,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:04:23 PM
re: Trillium Tacks On $29 Million
May be somebody should ask the auth. if Trillium will be using all optical lasers in their EDFA design. May be they are doping their fiber with real photons rather than Er ions, who knows this is a new era in optics anyway!!

Trillium web site clearly suggest that they will be looking for more than amplifications, and they probably are developing a sub-system that can handle more than amplifier modules.

optodunce
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optodunce,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:04:23 PM
re: Trillium Tacks On $29 Million
It sounds like a different pumping scheme, the science seems to be based on the CTO a physicist from poland. Milinski, and typically, in order to attract a VC there must be a connection and the lead VC's and board member is named Chaplinsky! His background may be somewhat telling, he received a BS from the UNiversity of Waterloo...

In anycase, Milinski has a couple of issued patents that seem to focus on Erbium pumping schemes...I don't see anything revolutionary!

Great hype though, Bill Clinton should should hire their marketing person to revitalize his legacy!
Photonboat
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Photonboat,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:04:22 PM
re: Trillium Tacks On $29 Million
>>"For one thing, the amplifier will be all-optical, he says, and not based on electronics."<<

The explanation is a little more nuanced. In an "all-optical" network, such as the MONET project or other, where channels are being added and dropped optically, several problems emerge. One is a fast transient power spike at the time of adding or dropping a channel. Trillium claims to have a competitive amplifier here. Another problem in all-optical networks is that about 1 in 4 amplifiers will require dynamic gain flattening (think of it as a sexy wavelength-dependent VOA that can attenuate different amounts at different wavelengths to address the ever changing gain shape of an EDFA under different amplification conditions.

Fast transient power control, dynamic gain flattening, variable gain control--all three are problems that "next generation" amplifiers must solve. Competitors to Trillium would include Nortel, Agere, JDS Uniphase as well as startups like Onetta. These things are hard to do, and separate the Trilliums and Onettas of the world from the 50+ EDFA startups, newcomers, and offshore players. A gain block, or a gain block with an RS-232 interface doesn't cut it in an all-optical network. And the ASPs are significantly more as well, perhaps double or triple.

As to some of the other questions raised, there may be some hype here, but I do not know enough about what Trillium is doing regarding low noise product to comment.
Physical_Layer
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Physical_Layer,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:04:17 PM
re: Trillium Tacks On $29 Million
I recommend those interested go read Trillium's patent for a non-saturable filter. I won't claim to understand all of the physics but I believe they are able to get excellent transient responce with this method. This is likely tied to better noise figures and much lower cost too.
realoptics
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realoptics,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 11:04:16 PM
re: Trillium Tacks On $29 Million
Sounds like snake oil! The VCs who have invested will likely be screwed when all the $$ wasted down the road!

Realoptics
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