Low-cost Lasers Tunable for Fiber Optics Move Quickly to Commercial Deployment

Achievement date: 

Information will enter and leave data centers more quickly with the help of a new vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) that’s already been commercialized in a startup company called Bandwidth10. The technology and startup both arose from work at the Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) with headquarters at the University of Arizona.


Deploying the new VCSEL will spur their application in fiber optic communications because they enable the low-cost lasers to be tuned at a wavelength critical to single-mode fiber communications. Their deployment as a commercial product will likely accelerate data centers moving from multi-mode fiber to higher performance single mode fiber—meaning faster speeds in and out of data centers.


VCSELs are the state of the art in low-cost lasers since they can be manufactured in very high volumes using reliable, low-cost wafer scale testing. They have rapidly taken over the market where they find application and are available in many consumer devices. However, they have not found wide spread application in fiber optic communications due to the difficulty of realizing tunable, high performance VCSELs at the critical telecom single-mode fiber wavelength of 1.5 microns.

A CIAN research team led by Connie Chang-Hasnain at the University of California at Berkeley, not only developed a 1.5 micron tunable VCSEL capable of 10 Gb/s transmission over 100 km of single mode fiber, but now have shown that the same device can be used as a detector to realize a low-cost, high performance and bi-directional communication link. This opens the door for the dramatic cost reductions afforded by VCSELs in many new fiber optic telecom and datacom applications.

Bandwidth10 is a company based in San Jose where Chang-Hasnain serves as the CTO and that recently reported it has five employees. The company is already marketing the 1550nm Tunable VCSELs.