Infinera has developed a photonics platform that condenses and integrates multiple optical elements—including lasers, modulators and receivers—onto one chip.

Infinera, which was founded in 2001 and developed the silicon in-house, is using that technology to power a metropolitan optical platform called the DTN. Instead of dealing in electronics, Infinera's platform deals in optical waves. In typical analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversions, operators require a spate of components to do that converting. Infinera integrates all of those components.

"Now we have a low-cost way to go from photonics to electronics. This eliminates the need to manage the optical core as optical waves. If I'm managing performance and error correction, I can do it all digitally [with this technology]," explained Rick Dodd, Infinera's director of marketing.

In the cable arena, the company views it as a prime component for the transport of regular high-speed data services, as well as video-on-demand and high-definition television content.

The DTN is capable of pumping out 100 Gbps per line card, or 400 Gbps per chassis.

Infinera's only announced customer is Freenet, an ISP based in Germany that operates a 1,800-kilometer core network connecting cities such as Frankfurt, Leipzip and Dusseldorf. Freenet is using Infinera's platform to support more than 6 million subscribers.

The Freenet deployment "provides first proof that integrated photonic circuits...are carrying mainstream applications," Dodd said.