Recent company acquisition benefits university and community

ECE News

Bridget Maiellaro, ECE Illinois

Story Highlights

  • ECE faculty members Andrew Singer and Naresh Shanbhag co-founded Intersymbol, which designs signal processing enhanced mixed-signal integrated circuits (ICs) for ultra long-haul and metro fiber links.
  • Finisar Corporation, Inc., a leading manufacturer of fiber optic subsystems, acquired Intersymbol in March.
  • The acquisition will make more opportunities for University faculty and students.

Andrew Singer
Andrew Singer

Through the acquisition of Intersymbol Communications, Inc., in March 2007, Champaign-Urbana researchers, businesses, residents, and University students will now benefit from having a large, public company, Finisar Corporation, Inc, in the University of Illinois Research Park.

Naresh R. Shanbhag
Naresh R. Shanbhag

In 2000, ECE faculty members Andrew Singer and Naresh Shanbhag co-founded Intersymbol, a Champaign-based company that has grown into an acknowledged word-leader in designing signal processing enhanced mixed-signal integrated circuits (ICs) for ultra long-haul and metro fiber links. The company, whose key engineers are graduates of the University, obtained two rounds of venture financing before being acquired by Kodeos Communications, Inc., in March of 2006.

Intersymbol Communications, Inc., which started through conversations between Shanbhag and Singer in the Coordinated Science Laboratory, developed electronic dispersion compensation (EDC) technology based on maximum likelihood sequence estimation (MLSE). This technology enables telecommunications carriers such as Verizon and AT&T to enhance data rates from 2.5 Gigabits/sec to over 10 Gigabits/sec using existing legacy fiber.

Intersymbol Communications
Intersymbol Communications

“Our goal was to bring signal processing and mixed signal integrated circuit design into the optical market,” Shanbhag said. “The optical market is somewhat primitive when it comes to the sophistication of its receivers. A limited amount of signal processing is done today. In fact, it is negligible. The problems that were being faced by carriers could be solved by using the application of signal processing and by implementing them in ICs. So we introduced the notion of using signal processing enhanced mixed signal ICs (integrated circuits) for optical links.”

Initially a customer of Intersymbol, Kodeos Communications, Inc., a private company founded in 2001 that designed leading-edge transponders that contain ICs, purchased Intersymbol Communications, Inc. in March 2006. Through the acquisition, Intersymbol began to integrate its chips into Kodeos’ transponders.

“We decided to merge the two companies, so that we could design a world-class, leading-edge transponder for the optical market using Intersymbol’s receive-side MLSE ICs and Kodeos’ transponder technology,” Shanbhag said. “Our work essentially did not change. The only thing that changed for us was that (Kodeos) brought in their marketing and sales networks, and sub-system test and production capabilities.”


Finisar Corporation, Inc., a leading manufacturer of fiber optic subsystems such as transponders, acquired Kodeos, along with its subsidiary Intersymbol, on March 15, 2007. The purchase, completed in early April 2007, established the presence of another large publicly-traded high-tech company in the Champaign-Urbana area.

The transaction will allow Shanbhag and Singer the opportunity to grow their engineering team in Champaign, which currently has five employees, and the resources to continue to explore next generation technology. Shanbhag believes that the acquisition will have a positive impact on the team’s research, the company, and the community.

“If we continue to do as well as we have done in the past few years, then Finisar will ask us to grow the company here, which means an increase in the tax base of the local community,” he said. “It enables local business to benefit from the presence of engineers and employees in Finisar. The future is pretty much unlimited. It all depends on how we make it grow.”

Shanbhag said that the acquisition provides additional opportunities for University faculty and students.

“It’s a great opportunity for students. They could work at the company after graduation, but now they can come and work as summer interns,” he said. “Then they can graduate and get jobs. Meanwhile, faculty can consult with Finisar on a regular basis, if they chose to. Finisar benefits because now they can dip into the rich pool of expertise in the ECE Department, CSL, and the University.”

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