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23 September 2008


JDSU unveils first photonic integrated amplifier platform

JDSU of Milpitas, CA, USA says that it has used its erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA) capabilities, combined with planar lightwave circuit (PLC) technology, 980nm pump lasers and optical component technology, to develop the first photonic integrated amplifier (PIA) platform, which can replace up to 50 discrete components with a single chip and be up to 50% smaller than current solutions.

Optical amplifiers re-energize weakened network signals traveling long distances over optical communications systems. As the use of voice, video and data applications continues to grow and drive higher network traffic levels, network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) and service providers are under constant pressure to continue improving their networks to support bandwidth demands in a cost-effective and space-efficient way, says JDSU.

The firm claims that the new PIA platform will be the first reconfigurable amplifier solution that can be used for a variety of amplifier functions, enabling NEMs to use it either as a booster amplifier at transmit locations, as a pre-amplifier at receiver sites, or as an in-line amplifier in between locations that transmit and receive optical signals within a network.

The smaller size of the PIA platform will allow NEMs to put more functionality into a single network element, saving valuable real estate, reckons JDSU. Having an interchangeable product should also simplify product sparing, ordering, and tracking previously required by NEMs to support different network amplification needs. The PIA will also be used as a critical building block for the AON Super Transport Blade, JDSU’s all-in-one single-slot blade solution for optical transport.

The firm reckons that the improved functionality of the new PIA platform will extend the reach of current transponder technology 15-35% further than current amplifier solutions, reducing the amount of costly regenerators required to keep optical signals strong as they travel throughout a network.

“Integration has long been touted as a possible path to lower costs in optical communications, but most resulting products have fulfilled either technology or performance needs,” says Daryl Inniss, VP and Practice Leader at market research firm Ovum. “The JDSU PIA platform appears to be based on applying integration to lower the cost of amplifiers, along with providing higher performance and flexibility,” he adds.

“Until now, the basic technology for optical amplifiers hadn't changed significantly over the past decade,” says Jy Bhardwaj, VP and general manager of Agile Optical Networks in JDSU's Optical Communications business segment. “JDSU has leveraged its functional integration approach at the photonic level to create the new PIA platform," he adds. "It opens the door for JDSU and its customers to think of new ways to apply the solution and add even more functionality.”

JDSU has also created several new features that will contribute to the decreased size, improved cost savings, increased performance and reconfigurability of the PIA platform. “Network equipment manufacturers have been asking for more flexible, low cost and higher performing solutions to optimize their networks,” says Bhardwaj. “For us to do that, we’ve had to break down traditional ways of building amplifiers that have resulted in these six new technology breakthroughs that are critical to the creation of the JDSU PIA platform,” he adds.

JDSU says that new features within the PIA platform that will contribute to performance levels that are not available in existing optical amplifier solutions include the following:

  • A new optical isolator component, designed exclusively for the PIA platform, that can reduce the number of discrete isolator components from as many as six down to a single component. Isolators are important discrete components that prevent light signals from reflecting back within an optical amplifier, potentially causing damage or disturbing the quality of transmission signals in dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) networks. To achieve high performance with the isolator, JDSU will edge mount it onto the PLC chip within the PIA platform so that it can function seamlessly with the integrated optical amplifier elements on the chip. This should improve performance, as light signals will no longer need to travel on and off the chip through separate and discrete isolators, which weakens the transmission signal’s strength.
  • New waveguide technology that has been demonstrated will simplify the routing, splitting and recombining of light signals within the PIA platform. Together with the new isolator design, this should provide light management capability not previously available in optical amplifiers, JDSU reckons. The waveguide technology will allow both 980nm and 1550nm wavelengths to combine and travel through a single PLC chip within the PIA platform. This will remove a range of fibered bulk components that are typically required to manage light signals within an amplifier, and replace them with a single PLC chip.
  • JDSU’s photo-detector arrays will reduce the number of discrete devices typically needed from up to nine down to a single array. Photo-detector arrays monitor feedback loops to control each part of the amplifier and also provide alarm functionality.
  • A variable pump splitter provides improved noise performance over a wider dynamic range by allowing a single amplifier to be tuned to accommodate both low- and high-input applications, improving the noise figure at low-input conditions.
  • A tunable gain flattening filter, when used with an optical channel monitor, can actively compensate for common system link impairments, such as unequal channel power levels caused by transmission fiber and by other components. This allows the amplifier to provide output with consistent power levels for each channel that is amplified.
  • A tilt filter provides more predictability in amplifier performance with an active tilt adjustment when a channel load or total signal power changes. It is more linear than current solutions and more closely matches typical network characteristics.

The PIA platform is being displayed at this week's European Conference and Exhibition on Optical Communications (ECOC 2008) in Brussels, Belgium. It is currently being sampled with customers, and should be available in 2009.

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