Silicon Photonics: High Speed Optical Connectivity for 5G

ECOC 2018, one of the biggest European conferences on optical communication, is taking place this week in Rome. The conference will be packed with some really exciting updates from Intel’s Connectivity group through the forms of demos, panels, and workshops. The conference comes at a particularly good time as our fast-changing industry sees a renaissance of connectivity. Network connectivity is the backbone of today’s data centers, and Intel’s connectivity strategy addresses its criticality.

Connectivity in Intel’s New Data-Centric Infrastructure

In August at Intel’s Data-Centric Innovation Summit, I shared some of the innovations for the next era of connectivity, which are centered around Intel’s new data-centric infrastructure approach. In this new era, cloud providers, communications service providers, and enterprises will deliver high performance distributed compute systems by fundamentally improving the way data is moved, stored, and processed. We are excited to build off of the momentum of the summit, and reveal the next level of detail on new technologies, products, and solutions that will unleash the power of data across the network. We will showcase many of these at ECOC, including an exciting new product for emerging data-intensive 5G wireless networks.

Silicon Photonics: Integrating Lasers into Silicon

At ECOC, we are sharing new demos featuring Intel® Silicon Photonics, which integrates the laser into silicon, creating significant optical performance and size advantages. Intel® Silicon Photonics also drives cost and scale advantages over traditional optics through wafer-scale manufacturing. Semiconductor industry packaging and assembly techniques readily enable mass manufacturing.

In July, we were excited to receive the Americas Award from SEMI for our industry leading efforts in process and integration. Just two years after we began our first production shipments in 2016, we are now shipping our portfolio of 100G data center products at a 1Mu+/year run-rate with plans to grow significantly further. Even with the broad adoption of Intel® Silicon Photonics in the data center, we're still only at the beginning of seeing the benefits of integrating lasers into silicon as we expand into new markets, such as 5G wireless.

The Future of 5G

New 5G networks will set the stage for data-rich services, sophisticated cloud apps, and machine-to-machine communications, delivered faster and with lower latency than ever. 5G will transform our lives by helping deliver a connected society with smart cities, self-driving cars, and new industrial efficiencies. For this to happen, networks must become faster, smarter, and more agile to handle the unprecedented increase in volume and complexity of data traffic as more devices become connected and new digital services are offered.

To help meet the increased bandwidth and low latency requirements of 5G, we have developed an environmentally-hardened version of our Intel® Silicon Photonics 100Gbps CWDM4 transceiver for use from the cell tower antenna to the baseband unit or central office with a range of up to 10km. This will enable wireless carriers to take advantage of already existing fiber optic networks put in place with 4G with a boost to 100Gbps speeds in order to handle the oncoming onslaught of 5G traffic.

Further Innovation in the Data Center

Today, we are also unveiling more specifics on our 400G silicon photonics rollout. We first demonstrated our 400G silicon photonics at the Optical Fiber Conference back in March. We will provide 400G DR4 silicon photonics module samples to customers beginning in Q4 ‘18 and begin volume production in 2H ’19. This will align with the anticipated demand of 400G in the data center.

Finally, I encourage you to attend the Building Inclusive Organizations: Women in Photonics panel. As we move into this new frontier, building diverse and inclusive teams is truly critical for our industry. I’m absolutely committed to this effort. I’m excited to have the honor of sharing my perspectives and speaking with a panel of industry leaders on how we all can work to build more inclusive organizations.

This is an exciting time for our industry. Please join us at the Intel booth (#612) as we demonstrate new products and talk about the future of connectivity. I look forward to seeing you at ECOC 2018 in Rome. Grazi!

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Alexis Björlin

About Alexis Björlin

Alexis is responsible for leading Intel's data center Connectivity business, providing differentiated end-to-end data center networking connectivity solutions including Intel® Ethernet controllers, Intel® Omni-Path fabric controller and switch, and Intel® Silicon Photonics modules. Before joining Intel, Björlin served as president of Source Photonics, where she was responsible for global business, product development, operations, and the P&L—growing the business from $30M to over $250M in revenue. She was also a member of Source Photonics board of directors. Prior to Source Photonics, Björlin served as chief optical architect for Zaffire, Inc, a venture-backed DWDM Metropolitan Networks company. Björlin holds a bachelor of science in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in materials science from the University of California, Santa Barbara.