Integrated Photonics Clash

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Please join us for our panel at OFC 2015 for a change of pace with fewer slides and with a focus on a lively discussion (and lots of audience participation), which will genuinely face the challenges involved in achieving the goal of increased photonic integration. One of the biggest areas of contention between the speakers will concern cost as well as other factors in advocating the use of optics versus pushing for greater utilization of electronics to achieve the desired objective.

Also, some conflict will arise over the economics of large and small companies including access to adequate capital. In particular, the panel will address a very significant problem. With both system vendors and little component firms (in some cases, being funded by huge enterprises to obtain the lowest cost devices) cherry picking the most lucrative opportunities, how does that prevent the major players in optical componentry from getting squeezed out with greater commoditization of hardware vital to their businesses? Who is going to do the bulk of the research for the next generation of optoelectronics devices?

It is also quite likely that “captive” suppliers, such as InnoLight Technologies, realize one day that it has not been paying for R&D. Google may indeed provide more money so that InnoLight can hire PhDs in China and it can start producing other types of gear – lasers, as an example.

Yet, how long will it be before the newcomer is having difficulty making money and is forced to raise its prices to cover its development costs – and ultimately the cycle starts all over again in the long term? At the same time, how much valuable intellectual property does not get retained during these transitions that will wind up being detrimental to Google and other similar investors?

Nevertheless, in looking at the present situation, one should not be surprised if it is hard to avoid the conclusion that all of the components vendors, regardless of size, are all sinking. Furthermore, it is hardly out of the question that there is a different outcome than what is described above for the bigger companies – as they may ultimately be needed to save the smaller ones.

The sheer amount of chaos in the industry has resulted in many cases in an inability to make money. There are still way too many components vendors in the space because of an insufficient amount of consolidation.

The panel will also be looking at whether it is even possible (despite hyperbole to the contrary) to have a totally monolithic situation as with silicon photonics, particularly with the high cost of packaging. There may not be a way in the foreseeable future to completely avoid a hybrid approach (the involvement of some type of electronics).

[written by Mark Lutkowitz]