SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- Optoelectronics IC startup OEpic Inc. today announced it has raised more than $30 million in investments to serve high-speed optical networks with complete front-end chip-set solutions, based on compound semiconductors. In the second quarter, the 21-month-old startup plans to begin shipping samples of its first indium-phosphide (InP) IC products made in a fully equipped wafer fab here.
OEpic (pronounced "epic") is targeting complete front-end optoelectronics receiver and transmitter chip-set solutions for 10- and 40-gigabit-per-second communications networks--a market potential that could range between $3-and-$5 billion by 2006, according to company officials, quoting forecasts from research firms.
To get started, OEpic today is rolling out samples of its first chip-set product--a highly integrated front-end optoelectronics receiver and transmitter, fabricated with indium-gallium-phosphide (InGaP) heterojunction bipolar transistors (HBTs) by an undisclosed foundry company. The new 10-gigabit-per-second chip set is aimed at "very short range" optical communications applications, operating up to 200 meters. It breaks the $100 price point barrier for front-end optical receiver and transmitter functions, according to OEpic.
"We are an optoelectronics IC chip company--not a module or subsystem or transceiver company," said Yi-Ching Pao, president, CEO and a co-founder of OEpic. "We are also not a pure-play foundry, but rather an IP intellectual property-based chip company," he said, distinguishing OEpic from a handful of other startups and several InP chip manufacturers offering third-party fabrication services.
"One of our key differentiators is that we have our own in-house indium-phosphide production capability, but we also will outsource non-InP products to outside foundries as much as we can to lower cost of products," he said, referring to the company's GaAs series of products.
OEpic is targeting its InP-based products and manufacturing technologies at optical networks operating up to 40-Gbits/sec. for metro and long-haul telecom and data communications systems. The company has installed InP fabrication capacity for 6,000 wafers (three- and four-inch diameter substrates) per year. The fab has epitaxial growth capability--both molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) and metal organic chemical-vapor deposition (MOCVD).
The Sunnyvale fab also has two electron-beam direct write lithography tools that are capable of patterning features down to 100 nm (0.10 micron), and i-line stepper. Back-end packaging and testing capabilities have also been set up for the InP products, said the startup, which is going up against a number of compound semiconductor manufacturers, including Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. and TRW Inc.'s Velocium.
"We have been sampling some 40-GHz amplifiers for drivers," explained Yi-Ching. "In the next quarter, we will begin sampling InP-based photodiodes. Currently, we believe demand for 40-Gibit/sec. is still in the sampling stage until the later part of this year. So we are focusing all our energy right now on introducing 10-Gbit/sec. products," he explained. OEpic will work with customers to produce custom InP-based front-end devices in addition to offering standard products.
The initial InGaP-based chip set is aimed at 850-nm very short-range applications, such as 10-Gigabit Ethernet, storage area networks (SANs), and Fibre Channel. The four-chip set product is being introduced at the Optical Fiber Communications Conference in Anaheim, Calif. today.
The PT1001 receiver is a GaAs-based PIN photo detector with an integrated InGaP-HBT transimpedance amplifier (TIA), The L1001 is a limiting amplifier supporting signals up to 10 Gbit/sec. The LV1001 VCSEL transmitter is a high-radiance 850-nm vertical cavity surface emitting laser, and the DV1001 VCSEL driver amplifier is an InGaP-HBT amp designed to provide bias and modulation currents to the LV1001.
"We think the most exciting part of this market is now happening in the data communications area, which is moving up in speed with 10-Gbit Ethernet most likely to become a major market for us," said George Bechtel, director of marketing at OEpic. Bechtel--a former industry analyst at Strategies Unlimited in nearby Mountain View--said the startup is now anticipating that this segment will become a multi-billion market. The overall fiber optic component market is expected to grow from $4 billion in 2002 to over $10 billion in 2005, according to a recent forecast from market researcher RHK Inc.
The initial chip set will be available in volume shipments in the third quarter of 2002 at a price of $99 for bare die or $199 as packaged parts in TO and QFN packages.
"We have benchmarked our InGaP HBT chip set against competitors at 10-Gbit, and we are at less than half the power consumption of the silicon-germanium," said Yi-Ching. "We believe our products--both GaAs and InP in the future--will offer a lot of advantages in the power consumption area."
In the middle of this year, OEpic plans to introduce front-end chips for 1310-nm metro markets, comprising of PIN photodetectors and TIAs, produced on the company's InP fab line. In 2003, the company expects to introduce its 40-Gbit/sec. integrated front-end products, when the higher-speed market emerges as an upgrade to today's 10-Gbit/sec. networks.
--J. Robert Lineback