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Group Sets its Sights on Tunable Lasers

Four companies in the Silicon Valley-based joined forces Thursday to form a Multi-Source Agreement (MSA) for tunable lasers.

The coalition of iolon Inc., Intel , Bookham Technology and Santur Corp. says its goal is standardizing functionality, size and performance for optical internetworking based on the Optical Internetworking Forum's (OIF) tunable laser implementation agreement (IA) published in November 2002. More than 20 companies support the OIF IA, including system vendors, component manufacturers and chip vendors. The list includes Agere Systems, Blue Sky Research, Ciena, Lucent, Nortel and Texas Instruments. Version 1.0 of the group's MSA has already been published.

Tunable lasers can be adjusted to emit one of several different wavelengths, such as on the ITU-Grid . The result is optical networking that can be switched with the click of a mouse. Previously, optical providers had to physically send someone out to the field to do a hardwire swap of components.

The group says customers require the same communication protocol, electrical interface, power supply and mechanical form factor from tunable laser modules and integrate-able assemblies as well as a basic set of minimum optical performance requirements.

"This MSA takes the implementation agreement to the next level. It moves the entire industry one step forward towards fully compatible tunable laser modules, and ultimately tunable integrated assemblies and tunable transponders," said iolon vice president of product management Saeid Aramideh.

At its recent developer's conference, Intel demonstrated the first transmission of silicon photonics through optical fiber. The demonstration highlighted how Intel chips could be used as a tunable gate to phase optical signals into on-off configurations.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is currently building its strategy around the silicon-ization of photo electronics and the optical communication on one die using CMOS configurations with silicon-based optical modulators, additional channels, passive alignment, silicon-germanium (SiGE) and a photo detector.

The group says standardizing benefits both the companies working on tunable laser technology, but also the carriers and equipment OEMs who will include DWDM platforms in the near future.