Since leaving his day job at TriLumina, the semiconductor laser technology company he helped found, John Joseph, a former college basketball player, artist and serial entrepreneur, spends most of his time these days in his garage.
Joseph has transformed the space into a private optics laboratory to develop his latest invention, an inexpensive chip the size of a head of pin that has potential to help solve one of the most vexing challenges of the digital age: delivering affordable gigabit-speed Internet to even the most remote of towns without the need to lay miles upon miles of costly fiber.
The secret, he says, lies in his formula for arraying hundreds of VCSELS, or vertical cavity surface emitting lasers, on a wafer, enabling them to turn on and off at the same frequency to produce a high-power, high-bandwidth optical signal that can travel long distances.
“This type of chip is very significant because lasers typically will be either very fast without very much power or slow with lots of power,” he said. “And so this is a little bit different. This has the characteristics of a single laser, which goes a very long distance, and now we can put the power behind it and get it even farther.”
The wireless broadband system is being developed under the name of his newest company, OptiPulse, and builds upon his years of experience in VCSEL development at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.
Optipulse is only the latest in a series of successful startups for Joseph. He’s been involved in three others in New Mexico and Silicon Valley, including Radiation Detector Associates, which he co-founded after leaving Los Alamos in 1997 and sold two years later.
Although declining to publicly name companies he is currently working with for Optipulse, Joseph said he is preparing to deliver his first unit for business that needs a 10 gigabit per second wireless optic connection that can travel more than 10 kilometers.
The bigger news, however, he says, lies in his concept to use his new technology to launch a high-speed wireless ISP that taps into the fiber being laid to deliver gigabit Internet service across Albuquerque’s downtown corridor. Using three rings in a plastic cylinder that could be placed on utility poles, he says his system would beam that high speed signal wirelessly to residents and businesses across the city, and beyond, at speeds in the 1 to 10 gigabit-per-second range.
Because the units are inexpensive to build, operate and install, he said, “We’re talking about delivering service much cheaper, and faster, than what is available now.”
“Our plan is to make a virtual grid across Albuquerque, about every two kilometers. … People will be able get that map from the Internet, and as soon as five or 10 people from an area commit to service, that unit will go in.”
The nodes on the network, he said, could also be used to enable so-called “mesh” networks, such as one being developed by a Silicon Valley start-up, Veniam, which is leveraging short-range vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems to create a mobile WiFi network connecting anything and anyone around it.
Joseph said his concept was developed with the ultimate goal of spreading affordable high-speed Internet connections to rural towns and Native American reservations through long distance, solar-powered networks installed on existing utility poles or new ones that could be easily installed.
The system, he said, also offers a potential solution for bringing 5G LTE cell service to New Mexico, as well as the widespread high-speed Internet service that will be required for self-driving cars.
Joseph says he is currently seeking investors on fundable.com, but will only sell up to a five percent stake in his company.