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Bandwidth forecast stresses hybrid integration

CIP's predictions of exponential growth in demand for data will require economical InP devices that perform many functions "“ paired with other materials for the best results.

Peak internet traffic could balloon from just a few hundred thousand Gbit/s today to over 7 million Gbit/s in 2018, according to a report commissioned by the Centre for Integrated Photonics.

As a result, fiber-optic network capacity will expand by two to three orders of magnitude in the next decade "“ but revenues to optical components companies providing the additional bandwidth expansion won t.

David Payne of the Institute of Advanced Telecommunications at Swansea University, UK, (who is not the David Payne who co-invented the erbium-doped fiber amplifier) arrived at the traffic figure by assuming that 80 percent of entertainment video will be viewed online in around ten years from now. “Today's network architectures will not be able to cope or scale economically to meet these unprecedented demands,” writes Payne in the report.

CIP says that in order for this growth to become a reality it s crucial for component suppliers to economically address 10 Gbit/s-plus communications.

“The capacity has to grow exponentially but the money to invest is obviously not going to grow at anywhere like that rate,” CIP s chief technology officer, David Smith, told compoundsemiconductor.net.

“There s got to be significant changes to the technology, to get much more for less. For optoelectronics, we think that this is going to lead to increased pressures for integration.”

The UK-based optical component supplier specializes in hybrid integration of highly functionalized InP components with silica-on-silicon waveguides (see related story Dual integration aims for 100Gb/s economy).

Smith says that while integrating active components like lasers and optical amplifiers in InP is achievable, CIP considers optimizing more advanced integrated components made from this one material to be near-impossible.

“If you want to make low-loss passive waveguide devices, filters, wave combiners, or arrayed waveguide grating devices, then there are real advantages to doing that in planar silica-on-silicon,” Smith said.

“It has low loss and you can achieve larger area devices with lower cost and higher yield than InP, so the approach that we've been taking is to look at how you integrate the different technologies to get the best features of both.”

Payne s report also emphasizes the importance of deploying fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure in order to satisfy the expected demand for bandwidth. Here, the costs of physically installing the fiber are the biggest barrier to the technology s adoption.

Smith says that the optoelectronic equipment to be used in houses for FTTP must be low-cost initially, but will need further development to continue to satisfy exponential bandwidth demand growth.

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