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Rockley and Hengtong set up $42m joint venture

09 Jan 2018

Silicon photonics products to serve global networks with low-power demand and superior economics.

Rockley Photonics, a company that innovates in silicon photonics for next-generation networks, has announced a joint venture with Hengtong Optic-Electric to manufacture high performance optical transceiver modules based on Rockley's silicon photonics technology.

The JV was established in 2017, based on a $42 million co-investment led by Hengtong Optic-Electric, a leading player in the fiber-optic communication industry, and will commercialize Rockley’s advanced photonics technology for networking.

The partners will manufacture and sell silicon photonics optical modules to meet the burgeoning market for high-speed data communication, including carrier networks, internet data centers, high performance computing, and deep learning applications.

The new products will use Rockley Photonics’ innovations for high-density optical integration with innovative monolithic fiber attach technologies and an all-CMOS electrical chipset to enable a new generation of photonic optical transceiver modules delivering lower power and high manufacturing efficiencies, the partners claim.

'Demand increasing'

“Demand for high-speed optical interconnect is increasing at an unprecedented rate, and technology providers must demonstrate capacity to deliver solutions at high volume scale,” said Dr. Andrew Rickman, CEO, Rockley Photonics. “Hengtong Optic-Electric is a recognized manufacturing leader for fiber-optic technologies, and we are excited to partner with them in delivering our next generation solutions.”

“Silicon photonic technology is reshaping the economic structure of optical module market,” said Weiming Shi, spokesman from Hengtong Optic-Electric, and General Manager of Jiangsu Hengtong Optical Network Technology.

“The joint venture will employ Hengtong’s advanced R&D of optical module and intelligent manufacturing technology, along with Rockley’s silicon photonic technology platform. We are pleased to be working with with Rockley to deploy these technologies, and the combination of our companies with help satisfy the worldwide demand for low-power, cost-effective optical modules,” he added.

The global optical network hardware market is forecast to grow to $24.99 billion by 2021, at a compound growth rate of close to 13%, according to research published by analyst company Technavio. Growing mobile data traffic, high demand for data centers and development of 5G networks are just some of the leading drivers of demand for new optical network hardware.

Rockley Photonics’ silicon photonics designs are designed to meet the increasing demands of higher speed and integration for more efficient data transmission, while satisfying customer requirements for low power and superior economics.

Presentation at Photonics West 2018

later this month (January), Rockley’s Dr Andrew Rickman will give a plenary presentation at Photonics West 2018, entitled, “Silicon Photonics: Bigger is Better”

In his abstract, Rickman states: “Over the past 30 years silicon photonics has evolved into a volume technology supporting mainstream commercial applications. Though we have seen a proliferation of new approaches, the attributes required for commercial success remain the same as they were three decades ago: volume manufacturability, optical power efficiency, and high-signalling bandwidth.

“Comparing to the evolution of the silicon microelectronics industry several decades earlier however, in the history of silicon photonics we see one key difference: for electronic Integrated circuit design, reductions in process node geometry have generally always contributed to advancing the goals of the product, leading to a conclusion that smaller is better.

In contrast, for silicon photonics, reducing process geometries have introduced complexities that can inversely impact manufacturability, optical power efficiency and fiber-optic packaging. As microelectronics races to progressively smaller nodes the industry faces a question: what makes for a leading photonics platform? Perhaps bigger is better!” He concludes.

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