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Fiber Optic Advances Announced at OFC/NFOEC

LOS ANGELES, March 7, 2012 — From the ability to incorporate a hybrid tunable laser on silicon to breaking digital communications speed limits with graphene-based optical modulators, the latest news and research in optical communications is being presented this week at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference.

The Optical Fiber Communication Conference is held in conjunction with the National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference (OFC/NFOEC). With more than 11,000 attendees expected, along with 500 exhibiting companies and nearly 800 technical presentations, OFC/NFOEC 2012 is the premier conference for experts from industry and academia to share their cutting-edge research and industry insights on the future of telecom, datacom, computing and all aspects of optical networking.

The technical side of OFC/NFOEC is always a large draw, and this year's program is no exception, with presentations including a record-speed wireless data bridge that takes high-speed communications to the "last mile" and a communications-related application for the "wonder material" graphene.

A German team has created a new way to overcome many of the issues associated with bringing high-speed digital communications across challenging terrain and into remote areas, commonly referred to as the "last mile" problem. They developed a record-speed wireless data bridge that transmits digital information much faster than today's state-of-the-art systems — at unprecedented speeds of up to 20 billion bits of data per second — by using higher frequencies than those typically used in mobile communications.

Swen Koenig, a researcher at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology's Institute of Photonics and Quantum Electronics, presented the team's findings on March 5.

Multigigabit wireless transmission demands multigigahertz bandwidths, which are available only at much larger frequencies than mobile communications normally use. Millimeter-wave frequencies — radio frequencies in the range of 30 to 300 GHz — fulfill this need. By comparison, laser light, as used in optical communications, provides bandwidths of many terahertz.

Using electronic up- and down-converter modules developed at the Fraunhofer IAF, they transmitted wireless data at frequencies greater than 200 GHz, a "virtually unexplored" transmission band, they said. In initial indoor experiments, wireless transmission was limited to a distance of 50 cm, but it was subsequently increased to 20 m.

In a paper presentation on March 6, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, revealed they have discovered yet another astounding application of graphene — it makes an excellent active media for optical modulators. Graphene-based modulators are expected to significantly enhance ultrafast optical communication and computing.

“We demonstrated a graphene-based optical modulator with a broad optical bandwidth (1.35 to 1.6 µm), a small device footprint (25 µm2), and high operational speed (1.2 GHz at 3 dB) under ambient conditions — all of which are essential for optical interconnects for future integrated optoelectronic systems,” said Ming Liu, a postdoctoral researcher working at UC Berkeley’s NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center. “The modulation efficiency of a single layer of a hexagonal carbon atom is already comparable to, if not better than, traditional semiconductor materials, which are orders of magnitude larger in active volume.”

Looking into future applications, graphene-based modulators could be very compact and potentially perform at speeds up to 10 times faster than today’s technology allows. They may someday enable consumers to stream full-length, high-definition 3-D movies onto their smartphones within mere seconds, the researchers said.

Other hot topics covered during the conference included datacom, green networks, moving beyond 100 G, and photonic integration, among others.

More than 500 companies are represented in OFC/NFOEC's exhibition.

Among the exhibit highlights:

CEA-Leti (Booth 718)

CEA-Leti and III-V lab, a joint laboratory of Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs France, Thales Research and Technology, and CEA-Leti, demonstrated the ability to integrate a tunable laser, modulator and passive waveguides on a single silicon chip, a key milestone toward fully integrated transceivers, the partners said.

Silicon photonics has the promise of bringing the large-scale manufacturing of CMOS to photonic devices that are still expensive due to a lack of ubiquitous technology. One big obstacle to silicon photonics is the lack of optical sources on silicon, the base material for CMOS.

The transmitter incorporates a hybrid III-V/Si laser-fabricated by direct bonding, which exhibits 9-nm-wavelength tunability and a silicon Mach-Zehnder modulator with high extinction ratio (up to 10 dB), leading to an excellent bit-error-rate performance at 10 Gb/s. The work was done as part of the European-funded project HELIOs; Ghent University-IMEC designed the laser, and the University of Surrey designed the modulator.

CEA-Leti and III-V lab also demonstrated single-wavelength tunable lasers, with 21 mA threshold at 20 °C, 45-nm tuning range and side-mode suppression ratio larger than 40 dB over the tuning range.

"We can overcome this problem by bonding III-V material, necessary for active light sources, onto a silicon wafer and then co-processing the two, thus accomplishing two things at once," explained Martin Zirngibl, Bell Labs Physical Technologies Research leader. "Traditional CMOS processing is still used in the process, while at the same time we now can integrate active light sources directly onto silicon."

Oclaro (Booths 1957 & 2058)

The San Jose, Calif.-based optical communications and laser products provider announced the first pluggable, tunable 100 G DWDM CFP transceiver, saying it uses 4x28 G wavelengths to deliver a 2.5 times improvement in spectral efficiency over competing 10 G products.

Spectral efficiency, or the amount of optical spectrum required to transmit at a given data rate, has become increasingly important in metro, point-to-point and data center applications where high-capacity network links are needed for reaches up to 600 kilometers. Oclaro said its tunable CFP transceiver not only provides the performance boost in spectral efficiency, but also meets the low cost and power consumption requirements of these applications. Oclaro plans to sample key customers in mid-2012, with a production launch scheduled for the end of 2012.

Oclaro also said it is collaborating with Huawei on Petabit cross-connect (PPXC) technology using ultrafast switching lasers needed to meet Huawei's future optical networking needs. Huawei is showing a live demo of this PPXC system in a private suite at OFC/NFOEC.

Oclaro also announced it has further strengthened its 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/s coherent optical portfolio with the introduction of the micro-iTLA and 40 Gb/s PM-BPSK modulator, and announced the volume production of its 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/s PM-DPSK modulators and its coherent receiver platform.

JDSU (Booth 1403)

JDSU of Milpitas, Calif., is highlighting products from its optical communications and communications test and measurement portfolios, including its TrueFlex twin WSS that gives network equipment manufacturers flexibility in grid spacing and improved performance for network speeds beyond 100 G. The company is also showing its range of tunable and 400 to 100 G transmission products and its portable fiber optic test instruments.

JDSU also announced at the show that Infinera has selected its optical network tester (ONT) 100 G product to help ensure the high quality and reliability of its new multi-Terabit DTN-X platform. The ONT very accurately simulates the complexities of live network traffic, the company said.


The OFC/NFOEC 2011 exhibit floor. (Image: OSA).


IPG Photonics (Booth 2109)

The fiber laser maker is announcing significant enhancements to its optical amplification and transmission portfolio that it says enable cost-effective, non-repeatered, ultralong-haul communication links in DWDM, electrical power utility, transportation, pipeline and other applications.
Based in Oxford, Mass., IPG develops and manufactures key specialty components used in optical amplification, including semiconductor diodes, active fibers and other high-power components. One of the new products that IPG is now shipping is the multirate transponder with G.709 FEC and a unique digital filtering scheme that extend the optical budget for telemetry links by up to 10 dB, the company said.

Opnext (Booth 1425)

Opnext Inc. announced that its QSFP+ 40GBASE-LR4 transceiver has entered into volume production, offering up to 100 times the reach of current QSFP+ SR4 products while reducing power consumption by more than 50 percent and occupying almost 80 percent less faceplate surface area.

As companies start to outgrow the reach and efficiency of current-generation 40 GbE pluggables, the QSFP+ 40GBASE-LR4 transceiver offers the latest technology to its customers eager to scale up, Opnext said.

"QSFP+ is emerging as the standard for 40 GbE," said Rich Zoccolillo, president of Opnext's pluggables business unit. "With the QSFP+ 40 GBASE-LR4 transceiver, Opnext is introducing a low-cost integration and packaging technology for multiple long-reach DFB lasers — all inside a module no larger than a pack of gum."

Opnext also announced it has shipped its 100 Gb/s coherent DP-QPSK-based modules and subsystems products to six customers in Asia, Europe, and North and South America.

NeoPhotonics (Booth 2200)

The San Jose, Calif.-based photonic integrated circuit (PIC)-based modules and subsystems maker said samples are now available of its PIC-based multicast switch to enable more flexible and efficient ROADM (reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexer) applications in high-capacity 100 G networks.

The multicast switch, which integrates more than 200 optical elements, is intended to build on current ROADM technology to enable next-generation “colorless, directionless and contentionless,” or CDC, networks, NeoPhotonics said. For example, in a CDC network, the multicast switch can be coupled with a wavelength-selective switch (WSS), which together are designed to direct any wavelength to any port (colorless), accept input wavelength channels from multiple directions (directionless), and be able to drop two identical wavelengths from different directions through the same switch (contentionless). This switching flexibility is intended to improve the efficiency and flexibility of telecommunications networks while being less expensive to deploy.

Infinera (Booth 1158)

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based maker of PIC-based systems is giving the first public demonstration of its 2 Tb/s small-form-factor DTN-X platform, the XTC-4, a smaller alternative for operators with space constraints or a need for lower total chassis capacity. Also on display is the XTC-10, a DTN-X platform in a full-rack chassis with 5 Tb/s of integrated OTN switching. Both the XTC-4 and XTC-10 are planned for availability in the first half of 2012. Infinera says its DTN-X platform is the industry’s only superchannel DWDM solution based on 500 Gb/s photonic integrated circuits (PICs).

OneChip Photonics

Ontario's OneChip Photonics announced that it has reached a deal with Fabrinet to manufacture its PIC-based passive optical network (PON) transceivers.

Fabrinet will provide a range of manufacturing services for OneChip, including optical component attachment for its bidirectional optical subassemblies (BOSAs) and final integration and testing of its fully packaged optical transceivers, at its Pinehurst campus in Thailand, which experienced minimal disruption from the area's epic flooding (See: Thailand Flood’s Impact on Optics Will Continue Well into 2012).

OneChip selected Fabrinet as its contract manufacturer “because of Fabrinet’s strong global footprint and its ability to get our manufacturing line up and running quickly,” said Dan Meerovich, OneChip's new vice president of global manufacturing operations.

For more information, visit: www.ofcnfoec.org  


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