Mitel Corp. semiconductor researchers
Friday announced a breakthrough in fiber optic multiplexing technology.
According to company officials the product, called LightRider, will improve
the price/performance ratio of dense wave division multiplexing, considered
the most efficient method of carrying digital signals over fiber
optics. Using DWDM multiplexing technology, each bit of data is carried
using its own light wavelength, or channel.
Before Friday’s announcement, the ability to carry 80 channels or more over
one fiber optic fiber existed only theoretically. Most commercial
products handle 16 channels, while top-end applications using DWDM
multiplexing can use up to 40 channels with the Arrayed Waveguide Grating.
Jacques Guerette, Mitel vice president of corporate communications, said
the method has always been there, it just took people some time to come up
with the process.
“Historically, it’s been very expensive to produce components for
multiplexing products,” Guerette said. “The challenge has been to do the
precision etching. We have made it so 80 channels isn’t theoretical, but
Mitel believes its chipset is better the AWG, mainly because of the
limitations in capacity and the expense it incurs to manufacture. Most are
constructed using expensive and exotic materials, driving prices upward for
To find a better solution, Mitel
went back to the roots of
computing: Silicon. Using a technique called Echelle Grating, the company
has found a way for routers to run faster and less expensively.
Moris Simson, Mitel senior vice president and chief technology and
marketing officer, said the announcement is just the beginning.
“This is an example of what some people call disruptive technology,” Simson
said. “By being able to etch deep enough, smooth enough and vertical
enough into silica, we have laid the foundation for dramatic improvements
in the capacity, size and cost of these devices.”
Mitel’s has perfected three processes which make Echelle Grating an
efficient solution for chip manufacuture: they were able to control its
refractive index, or performance level; precision etching allowed the
Echelle grating function to work in the first place; and taking the product
from the lab to the field.
John Miller, Mitel director of photonics, said the breakthrough opens
up new avenues of research and will be scalable to future projects.
“With a 40 channel multiplexing device, we believe our footprint per
channel is five times smaller than competing alternatives,” Miller
“With this level of miniaturization, our approach provides
unprecendented scalability leading to higher capacities and reduces the
need for expensive, highly specialized amplifiers in the network. Mitel’s
current prototype conforms to the ITU-T grid with 100GHz channel
spacing. An 80-channel 50GHz device is also in development.”
Product details, including prices, will be announced in the
fall. Officials expect the chip to be sent to equipment makers early next
year. When products featuring the chipset will be released commercially is
up to the manufacturers.