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ECOC 2023 expo showcases latest developments in optical communications

04 Oct 2023

Exhibition in Glasgow also sees many new innovations from big name suppliers.

The annual ECOC Conference and collocated ECOC Exhibition have this week been taking place in Glasgow, UK. The conference showcases the latest developments in optical communications, alongside a social program allowing delegates to network. The exhibition features more than 300 companies presenting the latest technologies.

There has also been a range of Market Focus discussions covering developments in components, PICs and fiber, as well as networking and systems. Presentations were made by the likes of Corning, Coherent, Infinera, BT, Nokia, and Ciena.

Day two at ECOC was opened with a talk by Carol Monaghan MP – a graduate of Laser Physics and Optoelectronics at Strathclyde University, and the Scottish National Party Government’s spokesperson for Science, Innovation, Technology and Education – who noted the importance of our host city for innovation. “Glasgow is only second to San Francisco as the city with most satellites manufactured,” she said.

In a Market Focus session, Coherent CTO Julie Eng talked about advances in components for datacoms and telecom transceivers. Other speakers focusing on components, PICs, fiber developments, included Thorsten Mayer, CEO of Vanguard Automation, and Ron Heron, of Nokia, who spoke about the expected passive optical networking evolution over the coming decade.

Product and system launches

Trumpf Photonic Components and KDPOF, a developer of high-speed optical networking solutions based in Spain, presented what they called the first 980nm multi-gigabit interconnect system for automotive systems.

“After a long-term cooperation, it’s great to have entered the stage where we can prove to end-users the true strength of 980nm optical interconnects,” said Ralph Gudde, VP Marketing & Sales at Trumpf. Both companies are working toward implementing optical data communication standards and solutions for the automotive industry.

Effect Photonics, a developer of integrated optical solutions, announced the verification of its fully integrated tunable laser InP-based photonic integrated circuit (PIC), described as “the core enabler powering Effect’s digital Pico Integrated Tunable Laser Assembly (pITLA).”

Tunable lasers are a core component of coherent optical systems enabling Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing, which allows network operators to expand their network capacity without expanding the existing fiber infrastructure. Effect stated, “With this milestone, the tunable laser indium phosphide-based PIC has successfully passed a series of tests showing required performance items outlined by IEEE Std. 802.3-2022, 100GBASE-ZR.”

Roberto Marcoccia, CEO, said, “In the past decade, the industry has made impressive strides in reducing the size of crucial coherent optical functions, making way for digital coherent modules. Our pITLA sets a new precedent in photonic integration by eliminating the need for external micro-optics for control of tunable lasers.”

Avicena, Sunnyvale, CA, presented its LightBundle multi-terabit/s chip-to-chip interconnect technology. The company said that the microLED-based LightBundle architecture “breaks new ground by unlocking the performance of processors, memory and sensors, removing key bandwidth and proximity constraints.”

The company noted, “AI is driving an unprecedented surge in demand for compute and memory performance, driven by applications like ChatGPT based on large language models. These models have an insatiable appetite for computing power, resulting in an urgent and growing demand for much higher-density, low-power interconnects between GPUs and high-bandwidth memory modules.

“Conventional optical interconnects based on VCSELs or silicon photonics promise to extend the interconnect reach. However, they are challenged by the power, bandwidth density, latency, and cost requirements. In contrast, Avicena’s microLED-based LightBundle interconnects provide much lower power and latency, much higher bandwidth density, and can achieve very low costs.”

Researchers from IDLab, a research group at imec / Ghent University, Belgium, presented a new optical receiver achieving a gross data rate of 200 Gbps. Their approach, combining a SiGe BiCMOS traveling-wave electronics integrated circuit and a Silicon Photonics Germanium photodetector, offers not only speed but also scalability, two prerequisites if we want to meet exploding data-rate needs.

“Currently, the most performant optical datacom transceivers operate at speeds up to 800 Gbps, using for example 8 x 100 Gbps channels, but the field is envisioning doubling the channel capacity to 200 Gbps to reduce the transceiver complexity, cost and power consumption while improving manufacturing yield,” said Peter Ossieur, program manager for high-speed transceivers at imec’s IDLab and professor at Ghent University.

Ossieur is leading a team of researchers working towards high-speed integrated circuits for photonics applications. His team has now achieved a gross data rate of 200 Gbps by co-integrating a traveling-wave SiGe BiCMOS transimpedance amplifier with a silicon photonics Ge photodetector.

Lumentum also showcased its latest solutions, conducting live demonstrations, and sharing industry perspectives at ECOC 2023. Highlights included availability of a 130+ GBaud smart transmitter receiver optical sub-assembly, and live demonstrations of the new 800G ZR+ and 0dBm 400G ZR+ compact transceivers.

In addition to the solutions on display, Brian Smith, Senior Principal Engineer, delivered a Market Focus presentation entitled “Sixth generation of fiber optic communications: carrier and spatial division multiplexing.” Smith gave his insights on the next era of optical networking, which Lumentum introduced at its Lite 2023 investor event in March. The discussion complemented a recently published whitepaper on this topic.

Coherent was showing its next-generation transceivers and laser technology for 800G and 1.6T datacom transmission. A live demonstration showcased an 800G transceiver in an OSFP form factor with four CWDM wavelengths, each operating at 200G PAM4, and an 8x100G PAM4 electrical interface.

The demonstration operated over 3 km of single-mode fiber. These transceivers are for use in 25T and 50T Ethernet switches with 100G electrical lanes. The company said that they represent a “natural evolution” from transceivers with 100G optical lanes because they are more power-efficient and cost-effective.

This technology is expected to form the core of the second generation of 800G transceivers and the first generation of 1.6T transceivers. Initial applications are anticipated in AI/ML applications and hyperscale datacenters.

Also at the show, OpenLight, a developer of custom PASIC chip design and manufacturing, announced a strategic partnership with Spark Photonics, an end-to-end integrated photonics design services firm. With this collaboration, Spark Photonics will now offer design and layout services using the OpenLight process design kit with the Luceda IPKISS software suite.

The expansion of design services increases the number of designs OpenLight can support at any one time on the Tower Semiconductor PH18DA process, reducing time to market for PICs and expanding the silicon photonics industry’s reach to drive advances across applications.

Dr. Adam Carter, CEO of OpenLight, commented, “With the integration of industry-leading expertise and resources from OpenLight and Luceda coupled with best-in-class design services from Spark, we are fostering a new era for customers to tape in MPW engineering and production wafer run designs directly to Tower.”

Mad City Labs, Inc.AlluxaCHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.Universe Kogaku America Inc.TRIOPTICS GmbHABTechLASEROPTIK GmbH
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