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Swedish Start-Up Optillion Receives More Funds (Fiber Optics News)

Swedish start-up company Optillion, currently based in Kista, has received second round funding of $53 million. In what was one of last autumn s largest private placements in Sweden, Optillion raised the money through a new share issue. The company plans to develop, manufacture and market highly integrated, ultra-high bandwidth fiber-optic Ethernet transceivers for next-generation networks. Transmission capacity in the company s first transceiver is expected to be 10 Gb/s, for 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and future products will aim to enable even higher speeds. Optillion is the brainchild of engineer turned business man Jan Nilsson. In all Nilsson has founded no less than 11 information technology companies, both in Europe and in the US, as part of an entrepreneurial career that spans 25 years. Starting in retail computer stores, he has moved through software companies, fileservers and into telecoms and datacoms components. In 1997, he founded SwitchCore, a company which specialized in silicon solutions for LAN switching and routing. Optillion was founded in December 1999 by Nilsson along with two leading Swedish academic researchers. Christer Svensson is a professor of electronic components at the University of Linkping and Lars Thylen a professor in photonics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. In the company s first year they have put together a technologically strong team, with expertise in the fields of high-speed electronics, high-speed optics, automated manufacturing and encasing. The company currently employs 68 people, of whom 46 have M.Sc. degrees; 20 of those also have Ph.D. degrees in electronics or photonics. Major seed investment for Optillion came from Itact, a Swedish venture capital provider specializing in early-stage hardware-related information technology start-ups. The new second round funding comes from a group with lead partner Crescendo Ventures, and also includes Itact, Cisco Systems and Investor AB. Products for 10 Gigabit Ethernet The latest investment will help finance a new manufacturing facility currently being built in Stockholm, at which the company will manufacture high-performance transceivers in high volumes for 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE). The expected completion date is mid-2001, at which point it will become the center of Optillion s business operation. The financial boost will also enable Optillion to accelerate the development of its transceivers and open an office in the US. The new production facility will fabricate optoelectronic chips, and encase and mount the transceivers. Indium phosphide wafers will be processed in order to fabricate lasers and detectors, and silicon wafers will be used to fabricate micro-mechanical optoelectronic chip carriers. Optillion will also be developing processes in the new plant, such as epitaxy, etching, lithography and metallization for the production of optoelectronic components. The devices they plan to make include DFB and DBR lasers, optical modulators, and detectors, for both 1310 and 1550 nm fiber-optic transmission at bit-rates of 10 Gb/s and higher. Optillion is a principal member of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance, and is currently developing its first 10 GbE transceivers, which are designed to have lower power consumption and small size. Other criteria include design for automated manufacturing, which will ensure scalability, and field configuration for different transmission distances. The 10 GbE standard, IEEE n802a.e, will be set by the first quarter of 2002; the modules are compatible with the proposals for the standard, and will be ready for launch in mid 2002. Prototypes will be ready by Q4 2001. The transceivers are integrated, complete Ethernet PHY modules that provide high-speed serial links at a signaling rate of 10.3 GBaud. The physical (PHY) layer is a crucial part of the Gigabit Ethernet specification, and provides the interface between the media access control (MAC) layer and the transceivers in Gigabit Ethernet hardware. The PHY layer performs encoding, decoding, carrier sense, and link monitor functions. Helne Wolpher, a spokesperson for Optillion, sees the company s strength in its team. "We have a team with world- class competence within high-speed electronic design, optical components, low-cost packaging and automated manufacturing. Moreover, the Optillion team has an excellent track record for 10 Gb/s and beyond, in providing low-cost, high performance products to the marketplace."
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