Optical components

Tunable Lasers: Poised for Takeoff?

"Tunable" lasers, which can dynamically adjust among several different wavelengths of light (see Tunable Lasers), will emerge in force over the next couple of years, according to "Stay Tuned for Tunable Lasers," a report from The Yankee Group.

Tunable Lasers: 2001 - 2005 Tunables will comprise roughly 26 percent of the $8.8 billion laser market by 2005, showing an estimated compound annual growth rate of 161 percent from now until then. The current laser market is growing at roughly 12 percent annually and will continue to do so for the next several years, according to Jay Patel, Yankee Group senior analyst and the report's author.

The chief driver for the tunable laser market, Patel says, is telecommunications carriers' need for bandwidth control. Using tunable lasers, telecom equipment manufacturers can build systems that dynamically shift bandwidth increments and wavelengths used on an optical network. This enables carriers to support a range of subscriber bandwidth requirements, allowing them to make the most of the networks they already have in place, instead of having to add bandwidth and complexity to meet different customer needs.

Tunable lasers also eliminate costly manual adjustments to the network by allowing traffic to be rerouted to different wavelengths via software commands.

This market is just emerging and will account for roughly $50 million in worldwide product revenues this year, Patel says. Examples of current deployments can be seen in recently announced products from Atoga Systems and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) (see Nortel Demos Tunable Laser, Bandwidth9 Scores a Coup, and Atoga Using Agility Laser).

Patel believes that tunable lasers will slowly replace those that emit fixed wavelengths. As this occurs, in the year 2002, optical switches, optical add/drop muxes, and other types of gear will start to sport dynamic provisioning.

The tunable gear is also expected to increase in speed. By 2003, they'll be capable of switching light in nanoseconds, instead of milliseconds as they do now. The faster tunable lasers will thus be usable in packet switching applications.

Clearly, this timetable is still an estimate, and everything depends on products being available in volume. That day has been postponed many times in the last few years. This time, say tunable laser vendors, it's for real.

- Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
lightmaster 12/4/2012 | 8:07:41 PM
re: Tunable Lasers: Poised for Takeoff? Tunable lasers were the darling of both OFC and NFOEC 3 years ago based on the same promises. They've been "poised for takeoff" ever since.

I'm a big fan of the CONCEPT of tunable lasers and I do believe that they will take over the world some day. It's just the reality of the next three years that get in the way. When I see the BIG equipment providers (ones who are shipping large volumes of products, not startups with vaporware) announcing products with tunable lasers, then I'll believe that the transition has begun.

Also, talking about the market in 2005 is about as useful as talking about the market in 3005 because we have just as much visibility.
Jey 12/4/2012 | 8:07:34 PM
re: Tunable Lasers: Poised for Takeoff? I agree. A few years ago, Altitun (now ADC), Agility and Bandwith9 had promised their tunable laser PRODUCTS were "available next year". They still keep their promises. Don't know how many "next year" they need more? Atoga announced to use Agility laser, how many tunable lasers Atoga has got -- 20 pcs or 40pcs? What price?
lightmaster 12/4/2012 | 8:07:33 PM
re: Tunable Lasers: Poised for Takeoff? Jey,

Atoga is just one of a long line of startups whose product differentiation was to be the use of tunable lasers.

Meanwhile, I keep asking myself how all of these startups using "off the shelf" tunable lasers can be so much smarter than Ciena, and ONI?

The fact is that "availability" in the optical components world seems to have an entirely different meaning than in electronics.

So, next week at NFOEC I will make my twice a year rounds though the tunable laser vendors and hear the pitch on how each is "available now". Then, I'll ask when I can get my hands on 1000 of them and how much they cost and watch them squirm.

"Well, we can get you 5 of them some time next quarter. And the price has come down. Instead of an arm and a leg, we only want an arm now. We expect it to be down to one hand in the next 2 years."

Jey 12/4/2012 | 8:07:32 PM
re: Tunable Lasers: Poised for Takeoff? Please tell us the results of your investigation at NFOEC. Thanks.
coherence 12/4/2012 | 8:07:12 PM
re: Tunable Lasers: Poised for Takeoff? Please comment after the show again.I agree with you on the slow ramp up of tunable laser business. But it appears much closer to real now.
My understanding of tunable laser impact is that it will need new thinking and management algorithm to really unitize the benefits of tunability. So if it comes, the big guys may not be able to response quick enough to catch the wave. We'll see it "next year".
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