SAN JOSE -- Carriers are not expected to deploy networks that run at transmission speeds of 40-gigabits-per-second (OC-768) until 2003 or so. But in an effort to get a jump on this market, several chip makers are already racing each other to develop the critical physical-layer (PHY) devices for these high-speed networks.
Chip makers are also engaged in a major debate over which process technology will pave the way for high-speed OC-768 networks. Among the leading technology candidates in this arena include traditional gallium arsenide (GaAs), Indium Phosphide (InP), silicon germanium (SiGe), and even standard CMOS.
At the Supercomm trade show in Atlanta today, Munich-based Infineon Technologies Inc. will make a bold statement by announcing what the company calls the world's first multiplexer/demultiplexer chip set for OC-768 applications.
The device is based on Infineon's own, proprietary SiGe technology, which was rolled out by the German company last year. The company's SiGe technology is more robust and features a lower power consumption than competitive processes for high-end networking applications, said Bob Pierce, vice president of sales and marketing for the Communications Group at Infineon Technologies, who is based in San Jose.
"In terms of next-generation networks, silicon germanium is the way to go," said Pierce an interview with SBN.
Some chip makers agree, but they are going down a slightly different path. For example, Applied Micro Circuits Corp. of San Diego plans to launch a range of OC-768 devices based on a competitive SiGe process technology from IBM Microelectronics. IBM makes SiGe-enabled parts on a foundry basis for AMCC, as part of a deal between the two companies.
Agere Systems Inc. (formerly Lucent Technologies Inc.'s Microelectronics Group) and Conexant Systems Inc. are also developing OC-768 devices, which are based on their own, respective SiGe process technologies.
Still other chip makers are going down another route. Last week, for example, Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. announced that it will ship its first OC-768 parts in early 2002. The devices are based on a proprietary InP heterojunction bipolar transistors (HBTs) process technology (see May 30 story ).
And one company--Broadcom Corp.--believes that standard CMOS can serve most 10-gigabits-per-second (OC-192) applications and some emerging OC-768 tasks (see May 8 story ).
Nonetheless, there is little demand for parts based on OC-768 technology right now. Currently, major carriers are still deploying their systems at transmission speeds of 10-gigabits-per-second (OC-192), and will not move towards OC-768 until 2003 or so, analysts said.
Still, chip makers are developing their OC-768 parts in order to get a jump on the market, said Judith Meester, product manager for Infineon. "Right now, it's a 2.5-gigabits-per-second (OC-48) market," Meester said. "Carriers are beginning to cry for OC-192 devices. The OC-768 market will eventually take off," she said in an interview with SBN.
The stakes for devices makers in the OC-768 market are huge. The total port count for systems based on OC-768 technology will be 30,000-to-50,000 units by 2003, according to analysts. That translates to a $120-to-$200 million market for physical-layer devices by 2003, analysts said.
To compete in this market, Infineon will roll out a chip set designed for synchronous optical networking/synchronous digital hierarchy (SONET/SDH) communication systems.
Infineon's products include separate multiplexer and demultiplexer devices. The chip set has 16 2.5-gigabits-per-second input channels, which are multiplexed to a single serial OC-768 data rate. It supports forward-error correction and other features.
The multiplexer device features a clock management unit functionality as well as a selectable 20- and 40-GHz clock output to support both no-return-to-zero and return-to-zero line coding, respectively. The demultiplexer device integrates clock and data recovery functionality. Both chips operate at a single 5.5V supply voltage.
Samples of the chip set are now available, with production slated by year's end. Prices were not given, however.