Apple is entering silicon photonics

Extracted from:
Silicon Photonics 2021 report, Yole Développement
Intel Silicon Photonic 100G CWDM4 QFSP28 Transceiver, System Plus Consulting, 2020

Beyond communication, silicon photonics is penetrating consumer and automotive.


  • Market forecasts:
    Overall, the silicon photonics transceiver market will reach US$4.6 billion in 2026, with a CAGR of 25% between 2021 and 2026.
    The total silicon photonic die market should go over US$1 billion in 2026.
    By 2035, the silicon photonic market could grow further with a large contribution of consumer healthcare.
    Automotive and autonomous driving will benefit from silicon photonics sensing in the future.
  • Technology trends:
    The main application of silicon photonics is optical communication.
    New applications have entered the market in 2020 such as immunoassays, FOG…
    Novel applications of silicon photonics are expected to reach the market in the coming five years…
    Three main companies are preparing for CPO: Cisco, Intel, and Broadcom.
  • Supply chain:
    Rockley Photonics as announced plans for biosensors in smart watches with Apple using silicon photonics.
    The silicon photonics eco-system is getting larger with more fabs and foundries, more companies involved in packaging, modelization, PDKs, and designs.
    Three developments are evident in the silicon photonics industrial landscape: vertical integration, SPAC, and emerging foundry services.

“Since the 1998 release by Bookham of the first product using the silicon photonics platform, the main application for silicon photonics has been optical communication.” asserts Alexis Debray, Ph.D., Senior Analyst at Yole Développement (Yole).
He adds:
“And after the 2008 release by Luxtera (now Cisco) of the first optical transceiver using silicon photonics, the silicon photonics optical transceiver market has grown to US$581 million, with almost 5 million units shipped.”

In this dynamic context, Yole and System Plus Consulting, both part of Yole Group of Companies, investigate disruptive photonics technologies and related markets in depth, to point out the latest innovations and underline the business opportunities.
• Released today, the Silicon Photonics 2021 report from Yole provides market data on silicon photonics dies, SOI wafers, and transceivers and describes the novel silicon photonics applications in consumer, automotive, and computing. It also presents a complete analysis of the silicon photonics market up to 2026 with revenues, volumes, and average selling prices segmented by applications and technologies.
This technology and market report has been developed in collaboration with Jean-Louis Malinge, strongly involved in this industry for a while. Jean-Louis Malinge and Yole collaborate for a long time to get a deep understanding of the silicon photonics technologies and identify related applications and market segments.
• In addition, the custom reverse costing analyses company, System Plus Consulting, presents the Intel Silicon Photonic 100G CWDM4 QFSP28 Transceiver, a special case study focused on Intel’s silicon photonic transceiver to illustrate latest innovations and technical choices made by the leading company. This report describes Intel’s potential in terms of packaging and photonics.
With both analyses, Yole and System Plus Consulting present a unique understanding of the silicon photonics industry.

Because silicon photonics is a platform, numerous applications are today possible, and many have been proposed by research centers and universities.
In 2020, two new applications reached the market. Genalyte, a California company established by one of the co-founders of Luxtera, released systems for immunoassays based on silicon photonics elements. Also, KVH released FOG based on silicon photonics, intended for robotic car navigation.
For Eric Mounier PhD., Director of Market Research at Yole:
“Novel applications for silicon photonics are poised to further penetrate the market. In March 2021, Aeva, another California-based company, went public with an initial valuation of US$1.7 billion”.
The company’s goal is to bring FMCW LiDAR to the market with silicon photonics to serve autonomous driving. Also in March 2021, the American company Rockley Photonics announced its intention to go public in Q2 2021 at an initial valuation of US$1.2 billion with an Apple-supported spectrophotometer project for smartwatches.
In addition to sensing for immunoassays, FOG, LiDAR, and consumer healthcare, other applications for silicon photonics include electronic noses, OCT, and cardiovascular diagnostic devices. Computing could also benefit from silicon photonics through photonic computing and quantum computing, as well as optical interconnects in disaggregated datacenters, which will allow using light to connect the various elements of high-performance computing.

Apple started working with Rockley Photonics in 2017 and has since become Rockley Photonics’ largest customer, with US$70 million of NRE commitment to date. In 2019 and 2020, Rockley Photonics had two main customers that accounted for 100% (2020) and 99.6% of its revenue (2019). To date, Rockley Photonics has received US$359 million in investments. Rockley Photonics seeks to develop and produce photonic modules (based on silicon photonics) that can measure numerous biological parameters such as blood oxygen levels, lactate, alcohol, and glucose, among others. The project is known as a “clinic-on-the-wrist” and relies on a miniaturized spectrophotometer. Universities have previously demonstrated such spectrophotometers, but industrialization to the level of the Apple Watch could be a tough challenge.
According to Alexis Debray from Yole:
“With an estimated silicon photonics die price of US$18, the module could be estimated at US$45 and could fit a new, high-end US$699 Apple Watch with healthcare functions. If the adoption rate of healthcare functions for smartwatches reaches 20% by 2035, the associated silicon photonics die market could reach US$1.1 billion. By comparison, the 2020 silicon photonics die market for optical transceivers is estimated at US$84 million”.

Intel, which is marketing servers, has 53% market share in silicon photonic transceivers for datacom in 2020. Intel is one of the leading silicon photonics companies, without doubts.
In this context, Yole’s partner, System Plus Consulting, releases an exhaustive analysis of the Intel Silicon Photonic 100G CWDM4 QFSP28 Transceiver.
For Sylvain Hallereau, PhD, Principal Technology & Cost Analyst at System Plus Consulting:
“In just a few short years, Intel has already shipped more than 3M units of its 100G pluggable transceivers. And with its CWDM4 100G technology, Intel is the first in the world to offer a silicon photonic solution up to 10km. The 100G PSM4 and CWDM4 represent the first step, with Intel’s 200G and 400G products expected to enter volume production in the second half of 2020.”

All year long, Yole Group of Companies, including Yole Développement and System Plus Consulting publishes numerous reports and monitors. In addition, experts realize various key presentations and organize key conferences.

In this regard, do not miss the Optical Transceivers & Silicon Photonics Forum 2021 on September 2nd in Shenzhen, China & online, presented by:
- Alexis Debray, Senior Analyst, Emerging Technologies, from Yole
- Martin Vallo, Technology & Market Analyst, Solid-State Lighting, from Yole
- Sylvain Hallereau, Principal Technology & Cost Analyst at System Plus Consulting
- Sven Otte, CEO of Sicoya
Further speakers will be confirmed soon. Register now Register on i-Micronews!
Make sure to be aware of the latest news coming from the industry and get an overview of our activities, including interviews with leading companies and more on i-Micronews. Stay tuned!

CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate
FOG: Fiber Optical Gyroscopes
CPO: Co-Packaged Optics
PDK: Process Design Kit
SPAC: Special Purpose Acquisition Company
FMCW: Frequency Modulated Continuous Waves
OCT: Optical Coherence Tomography
NRE: Non-Recurring Engineering
InP: Indium Phosphide
DFB: Distributed FeedBack