Intel optical components may cut carrier costs

Intel on Wednesday announced a transceiver and a processor for optical network equipment that could help lower costs in carrier networks.

The rollouts had been anticipated as Intel's next move into the optical networking industry, where the Santa Clara, California, company has signalled its intention to be a major competitor. The TXN 13500 8-Channel Tunable DWDM (Dense Wavelength-Division Multiplexing) Optical Transceiver and IXF30009 Optical Transport Processor are designed to let network equipment makers build line cards for their devices, according to an Intel statement.

The components can support three types of optical networks: 10-Gigabit Ethernet, SONet/SDH (Synchronous Optical Network/Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) and optical transport networks, a fledgling technology that would allow system vendors to combine aggregation and transport functions in a single device. The Intel parts can be used in a variety of types of devices, including add-drop multiplexers, multiservice provisioning platforms and DWDM transport equipment.

Lowering capital and operating expenses has become critical for carriers as excess capacity and a weak economy clamp down on their budgets.

The TXN13500 transceiver uses a tunable laser, which can be adjusted to transmit several different wavelengths. In WDM (wavelength-division multiplexing) systems, a single fiber can carry multiple wavelengths of light, each modulated by its own data signal. Tunable lasers are designed to reduce a high-cost requirement in current systems that use fixed-wavelength lasers: Carriers need to have one replacement laser on hand for each one in active use. A tunable backup laser can substitute for any of a number of different lasers.

The new transceiver's laser can handle eight different channels, so that only 10 spare transceivers would be required to cover a range of 80 channels. Intel's May acquisition of New Focus Inc. should allow it to offer even more widely tunable lasers, according to industry analysts.

The transceiver is designed to handle multiple data rates, ranging from 9.5G bps (bits per second) to 11.1G bps, so it can work with different optical technologies. Signals from the transceiver can travel 80 kilometers without regeneration, according to Intel.

Intel's new optical processor offers its own capabilities to extend transmission reach. Its FEC (forward error correction) function can be tailored to the needs of different types of connections, including metropolitan, long-haul, ultra-long-haul, and submarine. Forward error correction reduces the degradation of data as it travels over fiber, allowing the transmission to cover a longer distance without errors. The further an optical system can send its signal, the fewer signal amplifiers a carrier needs to install on its network, so error correction saves service providers money.

The TXN13500 transceiver is now available in sample quantities, and Intel expects it to be generally available in the first quarter of 2003. The IXF30009 processor will come out in sample quantities by the end of this year and be generally available in the second quarter of 2003. Intel did not disclose pricing.

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