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Silicon Photonics At Tipping Point, Says Yole

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2025 market will be $560 million at chip level and almost $4 billion at transceiver level according to new report

Silicon photonics is a small market with sales at die level estimated to be $30 million in 2016. However, according to Yole Développement, it is at a tipping point of huge potential, with a 2025 market value expected to be $560 million at chip level and almost $4 billion at transceiver level.

In its latest report ('Silicon Photonics' by Eric Mounier from Yole and Jean-Louis Malinge, former CEO of Kotura), Yole forecasts that silicon photonics technology will grow from a few percent of total optical transceiver market value in 2016 to 35 percent of the market in 2025, mostly for intra-data centre communication. The strongest demand is for 400G. In parallel, 200G could be only an intermediate step between 100G and 400G.

“The next evolution is to develop a 400G optical port over a single fibre across 500m at less than $1 per gigabit and with power <5mW/Gb", explains Mounier, senior technology & market analyst at Yole. One terabit per second rates should follow. Although the wafer area this accounts for will be a minute part of the worldwide SOI market, it will represent significant value because of the SOI wafer high price...

In the new study, Yole’s analysts reveal the current status and future challenges for data centres. They also explain why silicon photonics is the answer to future DC needs and other possible applications.

“We believe we are only at the very beginning as there is massive ongoing development worldwide for further integration", asserts Mounier. Adding: “The recent involvement of large integrated circuit foundries, such as TSMC’s relationship with Luxtera, and GlobalFoundries with Ayar Labs, are very encouraging signs showing the big promise for silicon photonics."

The 'Zero-Change' processes currently in development, manufacturing optical components without making any changes to a CMOS process, are targeting future inter-chip optical interconnects that could represent huge market volumes. Silicon photonics is at the maturity level of the electronics industry in the 1980s and there are still challenges to overcome.

For all these challenges, technical breakthroughs will be necessary and are detailed in Yole’s silicon photonics roadmap:

• Laser source integration: lasers are still in competition with VCSELs for low distance and developments of Si-based lasers are no longer progressing. Quantum dot lasers could be a solution in long term as they are less temperature sensitive.

• Modulators: smaller size modulators are required and silicon photonics offers modulator integration advantage.

• Assembly and testing: more advancements in lower cost packaging and wafer level testing are needed.

• Design and software: specific software are required for photonics with pre-defined models.

• Supply chain maturation similar to the semiconductor supply chain.

• New manufacturing solutions: for example, a new trend is to have a zero-change approach on CMOS lines.

• Higher distance transmission.


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