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Test market provides revenue while sector
|02/23/2004 08:31 AM |
Continuum Photonics Inc. in Billerica surprised
the optical world in the summer of 2002 when it managed to raise
$14.5 million to build optical subsystems. It was the nadir of the
optical market collapse.
The company forged ahead, however,
and this week will show off its first product at the Optical Fiber
Conference in Los Angeles. But it’s not an optical switching
“About 18 months ago, we saw that we not only had
performance specs that that we needed for the telecom market,” said
Aaron Bent, vice president of marketing and business development for
Continuum. “But that it was also
perfect for the test and measurement market.”
Continuum is attacking the testing market with
its DirectLight IG Series, optical automation system products that
aim to allow engineers to reconfigure test networks with just a few
keystrokes instead of pulling and reinserting cables.
qualification cycles for network products can take a year, and while
there are significant RFPs out there, it still takes a year to go
through field trials and testing,” said Jeffrey Farmer, chief
executive at Continuum.
sales cycle for the testing marketplace is significantly shorter,
“Obviously, they’d go after the testing market
because (all-optical) switches aren’t being deployed mainstream,”
said Patrick Matthews, a senior analyst at the Yankee Group. “A
company like Continuum is looking for
other ways to make revenue until it comes around.”
are just beginning to understand how all-optical switches would
physically work within their networks and when it might be
appropriate to begin installing them, Matthews
Continuum hasn’t given
up on optical switching, however. Far from it.
In the second
quarter of this year, Continuum
expects to begin system vendor evaluations of its DirectLight TL
Series, which are low-cost matrix switches for integration into
multiservice provision platforms, wave division multiplexing
transport, and core grooming switches.
And in the fourth
quarter, Continuum will introduce a
low-cost fiber distribution switch aimed at the last-mile fiber
networks that Verizon Communications and other large carriers have
said they plan to build.
Continuum’s core technology centers around beam
steering, a concept that has been around since the mid-1980s, but
has not historically been practical for use in optical
Beam steering uses piezoelectric materials to
accurately reflect lasers without resorting to three-dimensional
microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) mirrors.
Continuum has integrated a piezoelectric
actuator with MEMS structures to produce a subsystem that uses free
space optics instead of fiber to switch beams. The company also
claims its product has low loss, no sub-micro packaging and no
been working with these materials since the 1990s, when it was
making military hardware and high-end tennis rackets.
addition, as the company releases its first product, CEO Farmer is
working on a new, $12 million round of funding.
“I have a
commitment from all our major VCs and am talking to new VCs,” Farmer
The company has raised money from Flagship Ventures,
Prism Venture Partners, Harris & Harris, GE Capital and the
Massachusetts Technology Development Corp.