Si photonics: beyond the tipping point

Extracted from:
Silicon photonics and Photonic Integrated Circuits report from Yole Développement, 2019
Intel Silicon Photonic 100G PSM4 QFSP28 Transceiver from System Plus Consulting, 2019.


  • Today driven by data center interconnects, more applications are looming for pics!
  • The market will boom, with 400G growing faster than 100G for Si photonics.
  • Beyond the tipping point, but not yet fully mature!
  • In only a few years, Intel has become the number two supplier for silicon photonics-based optical transceivers.
  • 1st Executive Forum on Silicon Photonics: Yole’s team is proud to collaborate with the China International Optoelectronic Expo (CIOE) to organize an all-new Executive Forum on Silicon Photonics, on September 4, 2019 in Shenzhen, China.


LYON, France – May 2, 2019: The total market for PIC -based transceivers will grow from around US$4 billion in 2018 to around US$19 billion in 2024, from around 30 million units to around 160 million units. These are the impressive figures announces by Yole Développement (Yole) in its latest PICs report released last week, Silicon Photonics and Photonic Integrated Circuits 2019. In collaboration with Jean-Louis Malinge, a world-renowned telecommunication & photonics expert, Yole’s analysts propose today a comprehensive understanding of the PIC applications and related technologies as well as the technical and market challenges with a special focus on Si photonics.
The largest volume demand for PICs is for data center interconnects (or DCIs) in data and telecom networks, with new applications coming such as 5G wireless technology, automotive or medical sensors. InP is the most used but Si photonics is growing faster. Hyperscale networking companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft (GAFAMs) are today the driving force for the deployment of Si photonics technology.
Under this dynamic context, the market research and strategy consulting company Yole and its partner System Plus Consulting with its dedicated report focused on Intel’s Si photonic transceivers invite you to dive in the photonic ICs sector.

PICs are built from many different materials, on custom manufacturing platforms. These include silicon (Si), indium phosphide (InP), silica (SiO2), lithium niobate (LiNbO3), silicon nitride (SiN), polymer or glass. PICs aim to bring advantages of the semiconductor world, in particular wafer scale manufacturing, to photonics. The motivations for PICs are numerous, including smaller photonic dies, higher data rates, lower power consumption, lower cost per bit of data and better reliability compared to legacy optics. PICs are progressively replacing vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs) for increasing bandwidth and distance in Datacom networks. PICs are used for high data rate transceivers (100G and above) in coherent or non-coherent mode. In the future, PICs will be needed when close integration of electronics and photonics will be needed.

“Si photonics will have the highest CAGR of 44% in volume”, announces Eric Mounier, PhD, Fellow Analyst at Yole. “It will grow from around US$455 million in 2018, equating to 1.3 million units, to around US$4 billion in 2024, equating to 23.5 million units.”
DCI from metro to long haul/subsea is the largest market, with coherent telecom and sensors being a minute part. 5G is coming and could involve large volumes in the future as well. Beyond DCI, other applications are looming. For example, the following companies plan to use their PIC platform for LiDAR applications: Intel, Rockley Photonics, SiLC, Blackmore, and probably many more.
The Si photonic market currently only involves a few players: Luxtera/Cisco, Intel, Acacia and InPhi. Founded in 2001, Luxtera, now part of Cisco, is the historical pioneer, with almost 2M QSFP transceivers shipped since starting volume production in 2009. And Intel introduced a silicon photonics QSFP transceiver that supports 100G communications in 2016. The company now ships a million units of the product per year into data centers. Intel’s 400G products are expected to enter volume production in the second half of 2019.
Moreover, a lot of new startups are being created and more foundries are involved from the IC and MEMS industries. Last but not least, there is always a big R&D effort worldwide with many industrial contracts in North America, Europe and Japan. So this market is on its way to industrial maturity and very large volumes. “In only a few years, Intel has become the number two supplier for silicon photonics-based optical transceivers,” comments Sylvain Hallereau, Expert Analyst, at System Plus Consulting.“Intel has succeeded because it put a lot of effort into the bottleneck, which was integrating the laser chip through InP chiplet bonding followed by post processing.”
Intel’s transceiver contains two separate blocks, each with several dies. The transmitter integrates several InP lasers and a CMOS die chiplets through bonding on the main silicon die in flip-chip configuration. On the main silicon die a Mach-Zehnder modulator encodes signals. Other components focus or isolate the signals. Data are processed using a four-channel 25G optical CDR component from MACOM. The receiver function is performed by four germanium photo-diode dies and a TIA circuit. The Ge photo-diodes are manufactured on a dedicated Silicon-on-Insulator substrate. A fiber-optical coupler with focusing lens connects the photodiode die with the fiber optic… System Plus Consulting is offering a deep technical analysis of Intel’s Transceiver in its latest report, Intel Silicon Photonic 100G PSM4 QFSP28 Transceiver.

A full description of both reports, Silicon photonics and photonic integrated Circuits and- Intel Silicon Photonic 100G PSM4 QFSP28 Transceiver is available on, photonics & optoelectronic section.

In addition, Yole Group of Companies proposes a dedicated conference, titled 1st Executive Forum on Silicon Photonics. Yole’s team is proud to collaborate with the China International Optoelectronic Expo (CIOE) to organize an all-new Executive Forum on Silicon Photonics. It takes place on September 4, 2019 in Shenzhen, alongside the 21th CIOE.
“Silicon photonics is an exciting technology, leveraging semiconductor manufacturing infrastructure to combine different photonic functionalities on the same chip,”
comments Eric Mounier from Yole Développement.
Make sure to attend this powerful conference & register today on

 PIC : Photonic Integrated Circuit
CAGR : Compound Annual Growth Rate
DCI : Data Center Interconnect
QSFP : Quad Small Form-Factor Pluggable
CDR : Clock and Data Recovery
TIA : Trans Impedance Amplifier

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