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Silicon Photonics: Widespread Usage on Active Components Doubtful

September, 2014

While the amount of industry chatter about silicon photonics rose substantially in 2014, partially because of certain market research firms looking to sell more reports, the technological hurdles, especially with insertion loss, make extensive use of active, combined components, such as for modulators and photodetectors, unlikely in the foreseeable future. Although there have definitely been numerous demonstrations of integrating with these CMOS fabrication processes, like with receivers, both the performance and cost are superior with standard methods. Certainly for passive devices, silicon lends itself quite well to integration, including for AWGs. Instead of using micro optics, combining waveguides with attenuators is being accomplished with Si. With 100G receivers, the delay lines are being integrated with the phase combiners...

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Finisar Getting a Raw Deal with Silicon Photonics

September, 2014

When it comes to technology development, some of the leading analysts in the financial community have a tendency to blindly follow a template of conventional wisdom. One of the most egregious examples was during the bubble when there was the widespread notion that the need for bandwidth could not be satiated, and service providers were literally being punished for installing insufficient dark fiber. A similar injustice has occurred with Finisar with the imagined threat to the company by the introduction of silicon photonics. These investment firms talk about the “checks” they conduct in drawing their conclusions. Well, how about spending approximately five minutes checking with an objective optical scientist? As we suggested in a

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Intel Behind $200M Photonics Competition?

October, 2014

The US government did not call it a “silicon photonics contest.” Perhaps the federal funding for this new Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IMI) would permit Intel and others to gradually shift to more of a generic term for its future development of chips that includes optics, but would not necessarily involve silicon. Actually, in a recent announcement, IBM implied that its new $3 billion, five-year plan for chip development, might not comprise Si photonics. IMI is quite reminiscent of SEMATECH (SEmiconductor MAnufacturing TECHnology), incorporated in 1987, which became a not-for-profit consortium that included the US Department of Defense (DOD) as well as semiconductor suppliers and educational institutions. Its main purpose was to grab back leadership on market share with chips, which was taken away by Japanese companies. There seemed little doubt that early on,...

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OpSIS’ Demise: Politically Incorrect Si Photonic Wafers

October, 2014

This past July, OpSIS announced that the program funding its core operations for silicon photonic Multi-Project Wafers (MPWs) had ended and that it would cease operations. Evidently, the US government around that time was uninterested in supporting the continued existence of the foundry, which had been receiving all of its capital from the private sector. Only about a few months later, the Administration along with the Department of Defense (DOD) apparently changed its mind on the importance of such MPWs, as the White House came out with its $200 million initiative – in effect, making OpSIS a loser before the Integrated Photonics Manufacturing Institute (IPMI) was even established. A fundamental problem with public-private partnerships is that it not only puts the government in the position of picking the winners of technological solutions, but the actual players involved in...

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Uncle Sam: Major VC for Optical Gear Development Indefinitely?

October, 2014

Where will the money come from to fund R&D for next generations of fiber optic equipment in the telecommunications and data communications markets? Clearly, the vendors will have enough trouble just keeping up with the changes on existing equipment in what are many cases relatively low-margin businesses – and will be quite hesitant to move ahead significantly on next-gen devices before they get an adequate return on their original investments, including 100G. Despite the heavy amount of cash going into silicon photonics, the increasingly pessimistic outlook for its future could easily result in the last straw for venture capital firms for an extremely long time, which almost assuredly to this day have not fully received their money back on devices at much lower speeds, including those systems operating at 10 megabits and at 10 gigabits. Certainly, the situation of getting an...

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