The last decade was first characterised by a series of breakthroughs in the development of optical device building blocks using silicon photonics followed by a spate of silicon photonics, start-up acquisitions. More recently, silicon photonics has entered a quiet period. But in May, Acacia Communications, a maker of coherent optical modules and a silicon photonics specialist, made headlines by raising $103.5 million in a successful initial public offering (IPO).
Forty years ago, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit would double approximately every two years – a prediction that proved astonishingly accurate.
Optical communications has progressed at a much slower pace. Historically electronic components have become about 70 per cent faster each year, while in contrast the capacity of optical transmission systems and their optical interfaces has only increased by about 20 per cent annually.
Few industries are subject to the pace of innovation experienced in the telecom sector. But, as innovation escalates, so too does the cost of developing the novel technologies that help to keep companies ahead of their rivals. Optical components and module vendors in particular are feeling the pressure.
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