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From O to L: The Future of

Optical-Wavelength Bands
Intercity and metro ring fiber already carry signals on multiple wavelengths
to increase bandwidth. Fibers entering the home will soon do the same.
Vendors are preparing for it.
By Laurent Gasca Draka

nstalling new optical fiber requires
a huge investment whose return is Both EPON and GPON are time-division
not fully realized for several years.
During that time, technological evolu- multiplexing systems.
tion can change projections of financial
return. This article explains how optical
telecom systems are evolving with regard gions. The E-band represents the water between wavelength bands increases
to band expansions, and alerts readers to peak region, while the U/XL-band re- the number of wavelengths and enables
some of the pitfalls. sides at the very end of the transmission data rates of several terabits per second
Contrary to popular belief, further window for silica glass. (Tbps) in a single fiber.
decreases in the OH absorption peak Several types of optical telecom sys- These systems were first developed for
(also called the water peak, because the tems have been developed, some based laser-light wavelengths in the C-band,
OH bonds due to included water in older on time-division multiplexing (TDM) and later in the L-band, leveraging the
fiber absorb certain wavelengths of light) and others on wavelength-division mul- wavelengths with the lowest attenuation
will lead to a reduction in the transmis- tiplexing (WDM), either dense WDM rates in glass fiber as well as the possi-
sion window, not an increase. We also (DWDM) or coarse WDM (CWDM). bility of optical amplification. Erbium-
discuss trends toward use of the C- and First, lets review the high-performance doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs, which
L- bands, as well as loss requirements for systems, because a good understanding work at these wavelengths) are a key en-
present and future fiber generations. of these systems is helpful in understand- abling technology for these systems.
ing the industry trend toward systems The relationship between WDM
The Evolution of capable of even higher performance. and optical amplification spurred bil-
Transmission Bands lions of dollars in research and develop-
Several transmission bands have been Dense Wavelength-Division ment throughout the 1990s for applying
defined and standardized, from the Multiplexing optical amplification in other telecom
original O-band to the U/XL-bands (see DWDM systems were developed to bands, using Raman amplification
Table 1). The E- and U/XL-bands have cope with the rising bandwidth needs of and thulium-doped fiber amplifiers. In
typically been avoided because they cor- backbone optical networks. The narrow order to meet the demand for unlim-
respond to high transmission loss re- spacing (down to 25 GHz or 0.2 nm) ited bandwidth, it was believed that

Table 1. ITU-T definition of telecom optical wavelength bands. (The arrow stands for the wavelength increase and
the general trend toward higher performance systems.)

June 2008 | www.broadbandproper ties.com | BROADBAND PROPERTIES | 83

DWDM would have to be extended to between 1260 and 1360 nm upstream, nm. The result is a specification for 1383
more bands. Progress toward this end 1440 to 1500 nm downstream, and 1550 nm in the range of 0.32 0.34 dB/km.
was stalled by two events: to 1560 nm for cable-TV video. Transmission reach is limited by the
To meet the rise in bandwidth de- wavelength with the highest attenua-
1. The bursting of the telecom industry
mand, these systems will require up- tion. Therefore, to leverage a 1383-nm
bubble in 2000; and attenuation (water peak) lower than that
grading. Some anticipate that TDM and
2. The emergence of very high bit-rate at 1310 nm, one should not use the part
CWDM (or even DWDM) will have to
technologies 2.5-, 10- and 40-Gbps of the wavelength band with higher at-
coexist in the same installed network
data rates in commercial products tenuation. As shown in Figure 2, the ex-
fibers.3 To achieve this, work is under-
with the outlook for more than 100 treme case of a fiber with no water peak
way within the standardization bodies
Gbps, according to research papers.1 leads to a reduction of the total trans-
to define filters that block non-GPON
The only real success for WDM was wavelengths to currently installed cus- mission window by a quarter!
with the C-band and EDFAs. Despite tomers. This will require the CWDM Some fiber manufacturers claim up
great expectations, the number of in- portion to use wavelength bands far to 12 percent more reach and up to 27
stalled systems using all-Raman solutions away from those reserved for GPON. percent greater served area if no wa-
worldwide can be counted on one hand. ter peak fiber is used in place of low
Consequently, they will have to use the
In the future, however, the L-band water peak fiber. While it makes for
L-band or the C- and L-bands, provided
clever marketing, this statement is mis-
will also prove to be useful. Because ED- video is not used (see Figure 1).
leading. It is relevant only if the system
FAs are less efficient in the L-band, the
Water Peak Challenges operates ONLY in the water peak region
use of Raman amplification technology (E-band) and does not use 1310 nm or
will be re-addressed, with related pump- Until a few years ago, manufacturers
below (O-band). No such systems exist
ing wavelengths close to 1485 nm. avoided the water peak region, or E-
in the real world 1310 nm is one of the
band, because it was a high-attenuation
most commonly used wavelengths. Be-
Coarse Wave-Division region. Today, however, optical fiber
cause the E-band is used as an extension
Multiplexing manufacturers have dramatically re-
of the O-band, its limiting parameter is
CWDM is the low-cost version of duced losses in this region, and look for- the 1310 nm loss value.
WDM. Generally these systems are not ward to reducing them even further. Another argument in favor of very,
amplified and therefore have limited Some E-band advocates are trying very low water peak is the use of distrib-
range. They typically use less expensive to reduce losses as much as possible in uted Raman amplification in the C-band.
light sources that are not temperature- hopes that some systems will be able to In this scenario, the pump wavelength is
stabilized. Larger gaps between wave- operate solely in this band. This is like in the 1440 nm region. However, expec-
lengths are necessary, usually 20nm. Of erasing the highest peaks of the Rocky tations for Raman applications in the C-
course, this reduces the number of wave- Mountains while neglecting the gentle band are very low EDFAs have proven
lengths that can be used and thus also valley and convenient passes below. far more convenient.
reduces the total available bandwidth. Economically and environmentally, it is Raman amplification could be re-
Current systems use the S-, C- and simply not feasible. considered in the L-band, but then
L-bands because these bands inhabit In fact, the E-band can really only be the wavelength pump would be in the
the natural region for low optical losses used as an extension of the O-band, so 1485-nm-wavelength region where
in glass fiber. For example, Alcatel-Lu- its limiting parameter is the 1310 nm loss the influence of the water peak is ex-
cents eight-wavelength CWDM system value. Consequently, standardization tremely low. For example, reducing the
extends across the 1470-to-1610 nm bodies have cleverly defined low-water- 1383-nm peak from 0.32 to 0.30 dB/
range.2 Although extension into the O- peak fiber standards (ITUT G.652D km would lead to an improvement of
and E-band (1310 nm to 1450 nm) is IEC B1.3) such that attenuation at 1383 less than 0.001 dB/km at 1485 nm.4 At
possible, system reach (the distance the nm is equal or lower than that at 1310 1440 nm, the same 1383-nm reduction
light can travel in fiber and still provide
good signal without amplification) will
suffer as a result of losses incurred by use
of the 1310 nm region in modern fibers.

Time-Division Multiplexing
TDM systems use either one wavelength
band or two (with one wavelength band
allocated to each direction). TDM solu-
tions are currently in the spotlight with
the deployment of fiber-to-the-home
(FTTH) technologies. Both EPON and
GPON are TDM systems. The standard
bandwidth allocation for GPON requires Figure 1. CWDM upgrade of GPON wavelength plan.

84 | BROADBAND PROPERTIES | www.broadbandproper ties.com | June 2008

In FTTH networks, bend-tolerant-
The C-band has been a gift to optical only fibers (fibers that only comply with
the lower A grade of the new ITU-T
communications, being a region of very low standard G.657A) will not permit any
upgrade at longer wavelengths. For
losses that facilitates very efficient optical example, the storage of two times one
amplification. The L-band represents a meter of G.657A-only fiber in a small
footprint box (radius 15mm) results in
region of even lower losses, provided certain a loss of 2dB at 1625 nm. That repre-
sents 10 percent of a PON budget just
parameters are carefully mastered. for one box! It is only 0.2dB for G.657B
bend-insensitive fibers. Telcos should be
acutely aware of this issue and demand
would lead to an improvement of 0.002 even lower losses, provided that certain G.657A and B-compliant fibers.
dB/km, which is also negligible. parameters are carefully mastered.
Much of the industry believes that The most recognized drawbacks New Battlefields
the era of pursuing perfection with no of the L-band are associated with mi- In any technology development, the is-
practical benefit has come to an end. crobend-induced losses. These addi- sues surrounding key challenges will
Everything has a cost even from an tional losses must be maintained at very change with time, dependent on the
environmental point of view. Environ- low levels throughout the fiber life by progress achieved and the requirements
mentally responsible companies are not good design of the primary and second- of the applications. For optical fibers,
supporting the race toward ever-decreas- ary coatings.5 Additionally, some fibers the main battlefields have been reducing
ing water peak. It is a waste of effort as have a specific trench-assisted design background losses, mastering mechani-
well as an unnecessary depletion of en- that significantly decreases these losses. cal and geometrical parameters and re-
ergy and drying gas, such as chlorine. ducing water peak.
The combination of these two tech-
These companies fully support the stan- But these are old fights. In each case,
niques can decrease such losses by two
dardization bodies logic that defines the sufficient performance has been demon-
orders of magnitude.6
right attenuation level as 1310 nm. strated to ensure high performance for
Another drawback of the L-band is
todays and tomorrows systems. The
L-Band Challenges its macrobend sensitivity. For the same
new battlefields are the macrobend and
Telecom is trending toward using the radius, optical losses caused by bending
microbend losses associated with FTTH
longer-wavelength bands. The C-band could be increased by several hundred deployments and the need to use C- and
has been a gift to optical communications percent at 1625 nm as compared to 1550 L-bands in many future systems. BBP
because it is a region of very low losses nm. Although bending is not a signifi-
that also facilitates very efficient optical cant issue for backbone networks, it is a
amplification. The L-band is a region of real challenge for FTTH architectures. About the Author
Laurent Gasca is a product line manager at
Draka (www.draka.com), headquartered
in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

1. G. Raybon, P.J. Winzer, C.R. Doerr 10
x 107Gbps electronically multiplexed and
optically equalized NRZ transmission over
400km, OFC, PDP32, 2006.
2. Technical Datasheet, Alcatel 1692 MSE.
3. H. Suzuki and al., Wavelength-Tunable
DWDM-SFP Transceiver with a Signal
Monitoring Interface and Its Application to
Coexistence-Type Colorless WDM-PON[,
ECOC, PD3.4, 2007.
4. Bredol M., Leers D., Bosselaar L. and Hutjens
M.,Improved model for OH absorption in
optical fibers, Journal of Lightwave Technol-
ogy, Vol. 8, Issue 10, pp 1536-1539 (1990).
5. ColorLockXS, Draka Fibre Coating, Ap-
plication note, Draka Comteq, www.draka-
Figure 2. The advocated use of a fiber with no-water-peak contribution 6. A Comparison of Bend-Insensitive Single
limits the usable wavelength band (in blue) by one quarter compared to Mode Fibers, Application note, Draka
the wavelength band offered by a G.652D-compliant fiber. Comteq, www.drakafibre.com.

June 2008 | www.broadbandproper ties.com | BROADBAND PROPERTIES | 85