Intel takes aim at 5G infrastructure with latest silicon photonics technology

Intel sign
Intel announced details on the expansion of its portfolio of 100G silicon photonics transceivers. (FierceWireless)

Intel is going beyond the data center and into 5G with its portfolio of 100G silicon photonics transceivers.

The company announced Monday at the European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC) in Rome that samples of its silicon photonics transceivers targeting 5G wireless infrastructure are available now. Production start for the new silicon photonics wireless modules is set for the first quarter of 2019.

With 5G, “there will be huge demands for high-speed optics for these fronthaul deployments,” said Robert Blum, strategic marketing director at Intel, in an interview with FierceWirelessTech. “There’s a massive amount of transceivers and optics that will be needed."

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Compared to traditional optics, “we think silicon photonics really has a very strong advantage, especially as you’re looking at some of these more integrated modules,” such as the 100G modules, he said.

Intel said the transceivers are designed to meet the harsh outdoor conditions of cell phone towers with the capability to support optical transport to the nearest baseband unit or central office (up to 10 km).

Intel pointed out that the industry’s move to 5G, along with a ramp in existing network traffic such as video streaming, is straining existing infrastructure that must support an expanded spectrum range, including millimeter wave, Massive MIMO and network densification. Enter Intel’s latest 100G silicon photonics transceivers, which meet the bandwidth demands of 5G wireless fronthaul applications.

“Our hyperscale cloud customers are currently using Intel’s 100G silicon photonics transceivers to deliver high performance data center infrastructure at scale,” said Hong Hou, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Silicon Photonics Product Division, in a statement. “By extending this technology outside the data center and into 5G infrastructure at the edge of the network, we can provide the same benefits to communications service providers while supporting 5G fronthaul bandwidth needs.”

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Intel projects the total market opportunity for its connectivity business, which includes silicon photonics, will grow from $4 billion today to a $11 billion total addressable market by 2022.

Earlier this year, Intel demonstrated its 400G silicon photonics capabilities. Samples of its 400G silicon photonics products are expected to be available next quarter with volume shipment of 400G modules in the second half of 2019.