980-nm Laser Diodes to Power Transoceanic Telecommunications
Robert C. Pini
Submarine system developers are racing to deploy networks that perform at maximum power and reliability. To meet those somewhat inversely related needs, industry leaders have worked to qualify 980-nm laser diodes for use in undersea systems.
In the year ahead, two major submarine system developers will roll out amplifier modules with the 980-nm laser diodes. Tyco Submarine Systems Ltd. is first off the line with a $150 million purchase of laser pump modules from Lucent Technologies' Microelectronics Group in Allentown, Pa. Alcatel Submarine Networks in London also expects to deploy the 980-nm laser diodes this year, marking an industrywide shift from 1480-nm devices.
According to Pat Trischitta, director of product management at Tyco, the 980 supports the design of an undersea repeater that can carry more 10-Gb channels with more power per channel and lower noise. And it does all that with reliability to meet the 29-year-lifetime rating required for undersea operation. "980 is the chip of the future," said Steve Hill, divisional manager for product development at Alcatel.
The Lucent modules incorporate submounted AlGaInAs laser diodes from Uniphase Corp. in San Jose, Calif. At SDL Inc., also in San Jose, employees are working with three companies to qualify SDL's 980-nm laser diode for undersea deployment, said Mike Staskus, product line manager for submarine and terrestrial telecommunications pump lasers.
Alcatel did not disclose its supply relationships, but industry sources see the two laser diode makers splitting the market for the 980s. And with growth of 50 percent a year or more, that market is far outpacing growth of 1480-nm diodes, according to Anthony R. Muller, Uniphase's senior vice president. Industry analyst CIBC Oppenheimer in New York projects the size of the 980-nm laser diode market at up to $288 million through 2002.
Chuck Jackson, Lucent marketing manager for pump lasers, said the Lucent modules will fill Tyco's needs for $4 billion worth of systems deployment over the next two years. How many modules does $150 million buy these days? Industry sources estimate the unit price of modules at $5000 to $7000, with laser diodes accounting for $1000 to $2500 of that. But with volume discounts and long-term contracts, prices may vary. Uniphase will reap an estimated $40 million to $50 million in revenue from Lucent's contract with Tyco.
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