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Wavelength Division Multiplexing


Until the late 1980s, optical fiber communications was mainly confined to transmitting a single optical channel. Because fiber attenuation was involved, this channel required periodic regeneration, which included detection, electronic processing, and optical retransmission. Such regeneration causes a high-speed optoelectronic bottleneck and can handle only a single wavelength. After the new generation amplifiers were developed, it enabled us to accomplish high-speed repeaterless single-channel transmission. We can think of single ~Gbps channel as a single high-speed lane in a highway in which the cars are packets of optical data and the highway is the optical fiber. However, the ~25 THz optical fiber can accommodate much more bandwidth than the traffic from a single lane. To increase the system capacity we can transmit several different independent wavelengths simultaneously down a fiber to fully utilize this enormous fiber bandwidth. Therefore, the intent was to develop a multiple-lane highway, with each lane representing data traveling on a different wavelength. Thus, a WDM system enables the fiber to carry more throughput. By using wavelength-selective devices, independent signal routing also can be accomplished. The highway principle is illustrated in

Basic Operation

As explained before, WDM enables the utilization of a significant portion of the available fiber bandwidth by allowing many independent signals to be transmitted simultaneously on one fiber, with each signal located at a different wavelength. Routing and detection of these signals can be accomplished independently, with the wavelength determining the communication path by acting as the signature address of the origin, destination or routing. Components are therefore required that are wavelength selective, allowing for the transmission, recovery, or routing of specific wavelengths.
In a simple WDM system ( Figure 7 ), each laser must emit light at a different wavelength, with all the lasers? light multiplexed together onto a single optical fiber. After being transmitted through a high-bandwidth optical fiber, the combined optical signals must be demultiplexed at the receiving end by distributing the total optical power to each output port and then requiring that each receiver selectively recover only one wavelength by using a tunable optical filter. Each laser is modulated at a given speed, and the total aggregate capacity being transmitted along the high-bandwidth fiber is the sum total of the bit rates of the individual lasers. An example of the system capacity enhancement is the situation in which ten 2.5-Gbps signals can be transmitted on one fiber, producing a system capacity of 25 Gbps. This wavelength-parallelism circumvents the problem of typical optoelectronic devices, which do not have bandwidths exceeding a few gigahertz unless they are exotic and expensive. The speed requirements for the individual optoelectronic components are, therefore, relaxed, even though a significant amount of total fiber bandwidth is still being utilized.





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