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17 January 2008


GigOptix acquires Helix to add SiGe ICs to its III-V range

GigOptix LLC of Palo Alto, CA, USA, which designs optical modulator driver and receiver ICs based on III-V materials, has acquired fellow privately held, fabless firm Helix Semiconductors AG of Zurich, Switzerland.

As part of its strategy to expand both the technology base and product mix, last October GigOptix changed its name from iTerra Communications and, under new chairman and CEO Dr Avi Katz, exited the defence and medical markets to focus exclusively on optical communications. It is also expanding beyond 10Gb/s ultra-long-haul and submarine applications to shorter reaches (including regional, metro, and applications of less than 2km) as well as 40 and 100Gb/s transmission rates. Helix designs optoelectronic ICs such as transimpedance amplifiers (TIAs), limiting amplifiers and VCSEL drivers based on silicon-germanium (SiGe) for standards-based 4- and 12-channel optical transceiver modules running at 3-10Gb/s per channel for telecom and datacom applications.

GigOptix says that the acquisition makes it the only company to offer a complete family of high-speed optical physical media dependent (PMD) ICs. The portfolio will include modulator drivers, laser drivers and TIAs for telecom, datacom, Infiniband and consumer optical systems, operating at transmission rates of 3.125-100Gb/s and covering all laser technologies.

GigOptix also says that, by merging the two teams and portfolios, it will have the ability to combine its serial telecom capabilities with Helix's parallel products (which are used mostly in short-reach data center and other datacom applications) to address the current generation of 10Gb/s as well as next-generation 40Gb/s and 100Gb/s datacom and telecom applications. The firm will focus on creating a range of high-speed, high-performance parallel and serial devices, and expects to launch new products this year leveraging the combined experience of both teams.

According GigOptix, insatiable corporate and consumer demand for Internet-based services and storage is driving exponential growth in network capacity. However, bottlenecks are appearing in datacenters that are degrading end-user experience. As demonstrated by work within industry standards bodies, the commercialization of higher-speed links represents an integral part of the solution. The acquisition of Helix enables GigOptix to offer complete PMD solutions based on both silicon and compound semiconductors for proposed PMD such as 10x10Gb/s and 4x25Gb/s.

Combining Helix strength in compact and resilient designs with GigOptix strength in high-performance, high-bandwidth receiver and drivers puts the merged firm in a unique position in the market, it claims. The firm should be able to deliver products for the fastest-growing segments such as datacom for enterprise datacenters, active cable assemblies, low-latency interconnection for higher-performance clusters (HPC) and reconfigurable optical networks. In these applications the integration of transmitters and receiver arrays are needed to reduce the solutions size and cost.

The two firms’ customer bases are complementary. “Most of our customers are in Asia, whereas GigOptix has a stronger presence in Europe and in the US,” says Dr Joerg Wieland, Helix’s chairman, CEO and founder. “We are experts in very-short-reach and parallel markets, while GigOptix is successful in the long-haul serial market. Also we have many years of experience with silicon while their expertise is primarily in compound semiconductors,” he adds. “This allows us to provide more value to our customers through a richer and more cost-effective portfolio of products.” Wieland will continue his role in the combined company as corporate VP and GM of Zurich-based GigOptix-Helix AG, reporting to CEO Avi Katz.

“By combining these companies, the whole will be much bigger than the sum of the parts,” says Dr Avi Katz, GigOptix’s chairman and CEO. “This is a huge step in our goal of capturing the majority of the electronic devices for the optically connected consumer, datacom and telecom systems.”

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