Silicon photonics sales to reach $1B by 2020, says LightCounting

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Although vendors have started to ship silicon photonics based products, the key question is how much impact they will have on the market. That’s the question that market analyst firm LightCounting set out to answer in its latest report, ‘Market Opportunities for Optical Integration Technologies’.

The report offers an analysis of the impact of integration on the market for optical transceivers and related components in the period 2010 – 2015. It also offers a five-year forecast for shipments and sales of discrete and integrated products based on traditional indium phosphide (InP) and gallium arsenide (GaAs) material systems as well as silicon photonics technologies.

“Many in the industry have predicted that silicon photonics will enable inexpensive, mass-produced optical connectivity, radically changing the optical components and modules industry. Our analysis suggests this will not happen in the next five years,” said Vladimir Kozlov, founder and CEO of LightCounting.

LightCounting forecasts that sales of silicon photonics-based optical products will account for roughly 10 per cent of the market by 2020 – or about $1 billion in sales.

Competition from the established indium-phosphide (InP) and gallium arsenide (GaAs) technologies will be fierce. “There is not a single silicon photonics based product on the market that does not have an alternative made using InP and GaAs optics,” Kozlov observed.

However, silicon photonics-based products still have the potential to disrupt the market over the next decade, LightCounting predicts. Such a disruption will require development of wafer-scale optical manufacturing, packaging and testing technologies, and compatibility with 3D wafer stacking for integration with electronics.

Nevertheless, forecasting technological disruptions “is just as hard as predicting earthquakes” according to Kozlov.

“Being prepared seems to be the only practical strategy,” he commented. “Even a distant possibility of a disruption has justified investment into silicon photonics technology by Cisco, which was then followed by many other equipment suppliers. Optical integration start-ups continue to raise funding and all established suppliers of components and modules have silicon technology on their roadmap. The chances for success in these efforts are still low and distant, but no vendor can afford to ignore the possibility of a disruption.”

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