Silicon Photonics: a Tale of Two Markets


Silicon photonics has proved its basic technical function and scalability but is in an early commercial phase. Vendors seek to address both the chip interconnect and 100G transceiver/active optical cable markets. This report articulates the markets’ different needs, details approaches taken by 11 vendors, compares silicon photonics to competing solutions, and highlights key steps to be taken.


Developers say they are addressing both the on-board/in-package interconnect and pluggable transceiver modules markets, but two markets are not better than one: responsibility, requirements, and status are made murky. The dichotomy already drives subtly different versions of silicon photonics, and we believe designs will diverge further.

Market requirements at 100G are indeed transformational: they are forcing the industry to become open to new approaches. Silicon photonics is but one of the avenues being explored for integrated devices and new materials. The oft-cited drivers for silicon photonics also support competing directions.

Features and Benefits

  • Describes and compares silicon photonics applications and estimates addressable market size for optical transceiver and optical interconnect markets

  • Assesses how the major players in silicon photonics are positioned relative to these two markets

  • Provides company briefs on 11 significant market players including positioning, technical approach, and Ovum's assessment of their strategies

  • Offers a taxonomy of different kinds of silicon photonics and provides context for assessing claims made by proponents on the technology’s benefits

Key Questions Answered

  • What is the real status of silicon photonics given the hype it has gotten? Will it displace current transceiver technology?

  • Who are the key players and what are their motivations? Who is still missing from the picture?

  • What are the likely next developments in the market to watch for? How important is it to have a silicon laser?

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