Capacity Expansion and Flexibility—DWDM Network


DWDM increases the bandwidth of an optical fiber by multiplexing several wavelengths onto it. Even though it costs more than CWDM, it is currently the most popular WDM technology because it offers the most capacity. This article provides an overview of DWDM networks and its current applications.

Introduction of DWDM Technology
Dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) revolutionized data transmission technology by increasing the capacity signal of embedded fiber. This increase means that the incoming optical signals are assigned to specific wavelengths within a designated frequency band, then multiplexed onto one fiber. By providing channel spacings of 50 GHz (0.4 nm), 100 GHz (0.8 nm) or 200 GHz (1.6 nm), several hundreds of wavelengths can be placed on a single fiber. DWDM takes advantage of the operating window of the Erbium Doped Fibre Amplifier (EDFA) to amplify the optical channels and extend the operating range of the system to over 1500 kilometers. The following picture shows the operation of a DWDM system.


Components of DWDM System
Important components for DWDM systems are transmitters, receivers, optical amplifiers, transponders, DWDM multiplexers, and DWDM demultiplexer. These components, along with conforming to ITU channel standards, allow a DWDM system to interface with other equipment and to implement optical solutions throughout the network.

  • Optical transmitters/receivers

Transmitters are described as DWDM components since they provide the source signals which are then multiplexed. The characteristics of optical transmitters used in DWDM systems are highly important to system design. Multiple optical transmitters are used as the light sources in a DWDM system. Here we can ues a transceiver to replace transmitters and receivers, since it is the combiantion of them. Transceivers applied in DWDM network are often called the DWDM transceiver, of which the transmission distances can reach up to 120 km. The following picture shows the receivers and transmitters in DWDM systems.

Optical transmitters/receivers

  • Optical amplifiers

Optical amplifiers (OAs) boost the amplitude or add gain to optical signals passing on a fiber by directly stimulating the photons of the signal with extra energy. They are “in-fiber” devices. OAs amplify optical signals across a broad range of wavelengths. This is very important for DWDM system application. Erbium-doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs) are the most commonly used type of in-fiber optical fibre. Following picture shows the operation of OA.

Optical amplifiers

  • Transponders

Transponders convert optical signals from one incoming wavelength to another outgoing wavelength suitable for DWDM applications. Transponders are optical-electricaloptical (O-E-O) wavelength converters. A transponder performs an O-E-O operation to convert wavelengths of light. Within the DWDM system a transponder converts the client optical signal back to an electrical signal (O-E) and then performs either 2R (reamplify, reshape) or 3R (reamplify, reshape, and retime) functions. The following picture shows the operation of bidirectional transponder.


A transponder is located between a client device and a DWDM system. From left to right, the transponder receives an optical bit stream operating at one particular wavelength (1310 nm). The transponder converts the operating wavelength of the incoming bitstream to an ITU-compliant wavelength. It transmits its output into a DWDM system. On the receive side (right to left), the process is reversed. The transponder receives an ITU-compliant bit stream and converts the signals back to the wavelength used by the client device.

  • DWDM Multiplexers and Demultiplexers

Multiple wavelengths (all within the 1550 nm band) created by multiple transmitters and operating on different fibers are combined onto one fiber by way of an optical multiplexer. The output signal of an optical multiplexer is referred to as a composite signal. At the receiving end, a demultiplexer separates all of the individual wavelengths of the composite signal out to individual fibers. The individual fibers pass the demultiplexed wavelengths to as many optical receivers. Typically, mux and demux (transmit and receive) components are contained in a single enclosure. Optical mux/demux devices can be passive. Component signals are multiplexed and demultiplexed optically, not electronically, therefore no external power source is required. Following picture shows the operation of DWDM multiplexers and demultiplexers.

DWDM Multiplex and Demultiplex

Applications for DWDM
As occurs with many new technologies, the potential ways in which DWDM can be used are only beginning to be explored. Already, however, the technology has proven to be particularly well suited for several vital applications.

  • DWDM is ready made for long-distance telecommunications operators that use either point–to–point or ring topologies. The sudden availability of 16 new transmission channels where there used to be one dramatically improves an operator’s ability to expand capacity and simultaneously set aside backup bandwidth without installing new fiber.
  • This large amount of capacity is critical to the development of self-healing rings, which characterize today’s most sophisticated telecom networks. By deploying DWDM terminals, an operator can construct a 100% protected, 40 Gb/s ring, with 16 separate communication signals using only two fibers.
  • Operators that are building or expanding their networks will also find DWDM to be an economical way to incrementally increase capacity, rapidly provision new equipment for needed expansion, and future–proof their infrastructure against unforeseen bandwidth demands.