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Chapter 1 Overview of Optical Fiber Communications

Fundamentals of communications Terahertz communications : the potential Limitations of electronic communications communications Optical Communication Systems Novel Techniques

Fundamentals of Communications


A Historical Perspective
1837 - Morse demonstrates telegraph 1878 - Bell invents telephone 1878 - Maxwells equations describe propagation Maxwell of Electromagnetic Waves 1888 - Hertzs demonstration of long radio waves Hertz 1895 - Marconis demonstration of wireless radio Marconi communications




The information is usually transferred over the communication channel by superimposing the information onto a sinusoidally varying electromagnetic wave known as the carrier.

The amount of information that can be transmitted is directly related to the frequency of the carrier. Early radio (15 KHz voice signals in the 0.5 -2 MHz range) Television (6 MHz bandwidth, Carrier frequencies in the 100 MHz range) Microwaves (GHz domain) Optical Communications (THz ?) The trend has been to employ progressively higher frequencies for the carrier.

The optical spectrum ranges from about 50 nm to 100 m. Ultraviolet 50 nm Visible light 400 to 700 nm Near Infrared about 800 to 5,000 nm Mid Infrared about 5,000 to 30,000 nm Far Infrared 30,000 nm and longer Optical fiber communications usually operate in the 800 to 1,600 nm wavelength band.

Key technical problems

Highest speeds for electronic devices (picosecond range = 10-12 secs) secs) There are no devices currently that can react at the frequency of light for communication purposes. Detection is at much slower rates (relative to the light carrier) by intensity modulation. We need a reliable and consistent transmission medium. Optical mediums include free space optical waveguides

THz Communications... First laser (Ruby) operated at a wavelength of 694 nm This wavelength corresponds to a carrier frequency of 5 x 1014 Hz

Note : 1 % of vruby = 5 x 1012 Hz ( 5 THz!) Can carry 106 commercial video channels Can carry 109 telephone calls at 5 kHz per call
So why isnt this bandwidth being fully utilized ? isn Appropriate light sources that can be modulated anywhere near that fast. And detectors that can react to the frequency rather than the intensity of the light.

The Role of the Optical Fiber

The advantages of guided wave propagation

One reason for an optical fiber is the limitations of free space optical communication. In free space communication, no one owns the channel. The user is subject to the whims of weather, passing beam obstructions (birds, dust, new buildings) and so on. A free space channel might be a hazardous to people and objects in high optical power conditions. A free space channel is inherently line of sight. No over the horizon communication!

The channel is well-defined with reliable and repeatable performance. Long distance communication is now possible within the limits of channel attenuation and distortion. No horizon problem. Early fibers had large attenuation (1000 dB/km !) Elimination of impurities has dramatically lowered attenuation to a low of 0.2 dB/km at a wavelength of 1500 nm.

Advantages of Optical Fiber Communications Capacity for 25 THz information bandwidth Low loss. Signal can travel for very long distances without repeaters or regenerators. Light weight. A fiber bundle is much lighter than an equal sized metal conductor cable. The signal capacity within the same size optical fiber bundle is much greater than for metal conductors. Immunity from EMI and crosstalk. The optical signal is not usually affected by nearby electromagnetic fields even large ones.

Advantages of Optical Fiber Communications

Compatible family of devices exist. There are now lasers, detectors and optoelectronic integrated circuits (OEICs) from many vendors that are compatible at (OEIC specific wavelengths.

Types of Optical Fiber Communication Systems

What is required ?

Long Distance Telecommunication

Point to point links (between cities) Telephone communications Purchasing and installing fiber

Data Communications
Local Area Networks Computers, Databases, Workstations Hardware costs (TXR, Connectors, Switches, Filters, RCVRS)

Switches Amplifiers Filters Connectors Better modulation schemes (FM or PM)

Novel Techniques

Section 1.1 Basic Network Information Rates Various services require different data rates for useful communication.

Wavelength Division Multiplexers Optical Amplifiers Optical Filters & Switches Coherent Modulation Schemes

Historically these various services were time division multiplexed onto higher capacity transmission channels.

Example of telecommunication multiplexing scheme

Section 1.1 Basic Network Information Rates There are many competing and complimentary formats and schemes in use including SONET synchronous optical network SDH synchronous digital hierarchy ATM asynchronous transfer mode The trend is to communicate at very high data rates to accommodate various purposes rather than characterizing the channel by the source (such as voice, fax, video)

Fig. 1-2: Digital transmission hierarchy

Section 1.2 The Evolution of Fiber Optic Systems The bit-rate-distance product (BL) measures the transmission capacity of optical fiber links. Since 1974, the transmission capacity has increased by 10-fold every four years! The transmission capacity increase has resulted from innovation in the four key components of an optical link. The optical fiber Light sources Photodetectors Optical amplifiers

Section 1.2 The Evolution of Fiber Optic Systems Optical fiber improvements resulted in wider repeater spacing due to improvements in Attenuation at specific wavelengths Dispersion (distortion of the light pulse) Light sources have improved in reliability, modulation rate, power consumption and wavelength availability. Photodetectors also saw improvement in noise performance and low light detection capability. Optical amplifiers have reduced the need to detect/regenerate/retransmit light signals. This has fairly dramatically increased repeater separation distances.

Section 1.3 Elements of an Optical Fiber Transmission Link An optical fiber transmission link comprises: Light transmitter and associated drive circuitry. Optical fiber in a cable for mechanical and environmental protection. Receiver consisting of a photodetector plus amplification and signal-restoring circuitry. Frequently the fiber cable may contain copper wires for powering optical amplifiers or signal regenerators.

Fig. 1-3: Operating ranges of components

Fig. 1-5: Major elements of an optical fiber link

Fig. 1-6: Optical fiber cable installations

Section 1.3 Elements of an Optical Fiber Transmission Link One of the principal characteristics of an optical fiber is its attenuation as a function of wavelength. Historically, 800 to 900 nm was the first band for fiber transmission. This is called the first window. Continued fiber development resulted in very low loss in the 1,100 to 1,600 nm region. Centered at 1,310 nm is the second window. Centered at 1,550 nm is the third window. Fig. 1-7: History of attenuation

Section 1.3 Elements of an Optical Fiber Transmission Link Once the fiber cable is installed, a light source that is dimensionally compatible with the fiber core is used to launch optical power into the fiber. Semiconductor light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser diodes are suitable for this purpose. Their light output can be modulated rapidly by simply varying the bias current at the desired transmission rate. At high data rates (> 1 GHz), direct modulation of the source can lead to unacceptable signal distortion. Thus an external modulator is frequently used.

Section 1.4 Simulation and Modeling Tools Hand analysis results in ball-park answers. Increasingly, photonic design automation (simulation) is used to refine designs to be more efficient, cost-effective and robust. The author has included the student edition of one such simulation program the Photonic Transmission Design Suite (PTDS) by Virtual Photonics, Inc. The department also has a copy of LINKSIM by RSoft, as well as NIs labVIEW. We will use various combinations of the software during the semester.

End of Chapter 1 Overview of Optical Fiber Communications