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 with either silicon or Indium Phosphide. Given the...

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Knocking of Silicon Photonics Now Mainstream

April, 2015

Who would be against the idea of applying Moore’s Law at some time in the future to optical chips in that it would revolutionize the entire cost structure of transporting signals over light? Nevertheless, only a short time ago, there was hardly a peep of public criticism when it came to the obvious shortcomings of silicon photonics for active components with the exception of Finisar being unjustly punished for telling the truth, as well as fibeReality pointing out what was being said behind closed doors at the vast majority of manufacturers. Today, excluding certain individuals in academia, who are unwilling to admit to any negative attributes of Si photonics, it has presently become almost fashionable to openly state the undeniable conclusion expressed by one vendor’s recent response to us: “The only consensus on the technology is that there is no consensus.” In point of fact,...

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Intel's Credibility Problem with Optics?

June, 2015

While the hype machine on the latest and greatest technology always reigns supreme in the fiber optics market, Intel appeared to take Silicon Photonics (SP) to an unprecedented level for an extremely long period of time. Just the sheer amount of money spent by the supplier, specifically the Silicon Photonics Solutions Group’s (SPSG) promotional efforts, including the use of professional graphics artists for its presentations, was remarkable in not only helping to convince certain potential customers of the viability of these solutions, but it likely cannot be ruled out that the funds played a role in misleading high-level executives at the supplier in exaggerating progress. It remains to be seen what the long-term effects will be on Intel’s credibility of not coming through on the promised deliveries of these devices several months ago, especially as the vendor has somewhat pulled...

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IBM Dimming Silicon Photonics Hype Level

July, 2015

Although the hoopla over silicon photonics (SP) has not been as pronounced at IBM as at Intel, including consistent involvement by technologists at the highest corporate layer of the latter, the former was heavily promoting the development of these chips for a long time as well. Each company had been spending R&D funds on SP since 2000. There is ample evidence that by the autumn of 2014, IBM decided to tone down any excessive rhetoric on the technology through changes in management and by shifting some of the public relations focus on leading-edge development away from silicon-based solutions. fibeReality noted in October of last year that IBM’s announcement of $3 billion in spending on chip development placed a good amount of emphasis on non-silicon alternatives. However, it is now our impression that the money mentioned in the July, 2014 press release was not really a new...

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Silicon Photonics’ Shift: Still Cost/Loss Issues

March, 2016

The lead article in the September 1969 issue of the Bell System Technical Journal was written by Stewart E. Miller, entitled “Integrated Optics: An Introduction,” which framed “a proposal for a miniature laser beam circuitry" along with the promise of “economy should ultimately result.” Close to a half of a century later, even with a severe bastardization of the original definition in recent times, as the electronics have been excluded from the chip (even Luxtera had to abandon its vision of “CMOS photonics” at 100-gig), challenges remain with expensive cost along with poor performance. While perhaps the best way to characterize Silicon Photonics (SP) today is the use of a continuous wave light source and a modulator in Si, as opposed to integrated optics (passive AWGs or PLCs), the concept of light going into a waveguide with SP, and pulling it out, results in an...

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