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2 November 2014 Taiz University, YEMEN

• Data carried in an optical fiber consists of pulses of light energy

consists of a large number of frequencies travelling at a given rate.
• There is a limit to the highest data rate (frequency) that can be sent
down a fiber and be expected to emerge intact at the output.
• This is because of a phenomenon known as Dispersion (pulse
spreading), which limits the "Bandwidth” of the fiber.

• Dispersion can be divided into modal dispersion or also known as

intermodal dispersion and chromatic dispersion or also known as
intramodal dispersion.

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An illustration using the digital bit pattern 1011 of the broadening of light pulses as they are transmitted along a fiber:
(a) fiber input; (b) fiber output at adistance L1; (c) fiber output at a distance L2 > L1

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• For no overlapping of light pulses down on an
optical fiber link the digital bit rate BT must be
less than the reciprocal of the broadened
(through dispersion) pulse duration (2τ).
𝐵𝑇 ≤
• This assumes that the pulse broadening due to
dispersion on the channel is τ which dictates
the input pulse duration which is also τ.
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• Another more accurate estimate of the
maximum bit rate for an optical channel with
dispersion may be obtained by considering the
light pulses at the output to have a Gaussian
shape with an rms width of σ.
𝐵𝑇(𝑚𝑎𝑥) =

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• The conversion of bit rate to bandwidth in hertz
depends on the digital coding format used.

Schematic illustration of the relationships of the bit rate to wavelength for

digital codes: (a) nonreturn-to-zero (NRZ); (b) return-to-zero (RZ)

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• The relationship between the maximum bandwidth B
and the maximum data rate BT is given by:
𝐵 𝑇 𝑚𝑎𝑥 = 2𝐵 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑁𝑅𝑍
𝐵 𝑇 𝑚𝑎𝑥 = 𝐵 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑅𝑍
• When the limitations in the bandwidth of a fiber due
to dispersion are stated (i.e. optical bandwidth Bopt),
it is usually with regard to a RZ code where the
bandwidth in hertz is considered equal to the digital
bit rate.
𝐵𝑜𝑝𝑡 = 𝐵
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• The number of optical signal pulses which may be
transmitted in a given period, and therefore the
information-carrying capacity of the fiber, is restricted by
the amount of pulse dispersion per unit length.
• In the absence of mode coupling or filtering, the pulse
broadening increases linearly with fiber length and thus the
bandwidth is inversely proportional to distance. This leads
to the adoption of a more useful parameter for the
information-carrying capacity of an optical fiber which is
known as the bandwidth–length product (i.e. Bopt × L).
• The dispersion per unit length may be acquired simply by:
𝐷𝑖𝑠𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑖𝑜𝑛 =

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Dispersion in three types of optical fiber

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A multimode graded index fiber exhibits total

pulse broadening of 0.1 μs over a distance of 15
km. Estimate:
(a) the maximum possible bandwidth on the link
assuming no intersymbol interference;
(b) the pulse dispersion per unit length;
(c) the bandwidth–length product for the fiber.
Answers: 5 MHz, 6.67 ns km−1, 75 MHz km
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• This dispersion is due to the finite spectral linewidth (Δλ) of the
optical source.
• It is a result of group velocity being a function of wavelength. In any
given mode different spectral components of a pulse traveling
through the fiber at different speed.

• May occur in all fiber, but is the dominant in single mode fiber
• Main causes:
Material dispersion - different wavelengths => different speeds
Waveguide dispersion- different wavelengths => different angles

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• Material dispersion is caused by the natural property of glass,
the material used in manufacturing fiber.
• Pulse broadening due to material dispersion happens
because pulses at different wavelengths have different group
velocities are launched into the fiber from the optical source.
• It occurs when the phase velocity of a plane wave
propagating in the dielectric medium varies nonlinearly with
wavelength, and a material is said to exhibit material
dispersion when the second differential of the refractive
index with respect to wavelength is not zero that is d2n/dλ2 ≠

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• Cause of Material dispersion, DM -- refractive index of silica
varies with the wavelength.
• Can be approximated by:
DM  122 1  ZD /   ps / nm.km
[λZD = zero dispersion wavelength (λZD = 1276 nm for pure
silica or can be approximated as 1300 nm)]
• Manufacturers also specify the chromatic dispersion
parameter by: S 0  ZD 4 
DM  D   1  ( ) 
4   
So is the zero-dispersion slope in ps/(nm2km). Typical value is 0.097

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• The unit for material dispersion, DM is read as picosecond of
pulse spreading per nanometer of source spectral width per
km of path length. DM is negative for wavelengths below λZD
and becomes positive above that.

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• Caused by the fact that light is guided by a STRUCTURE within

• Pulses of same mode but different wavelengths need to travel

at different angle or different group velocities.

• For a particular mode whose propagation constant is β the

fiber exhibits waveguide dispersion when d2β/dλ2 ≠ 0.

• Multimode fibers, where the majority of modes propagate far

from cut-off, are almost free of waveguide dispersion and it is
generally negligible compared with material dispersion.

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• However, with single mode fibers waveguide
dispersion may be significant due to the fact that due
to small value of V, the spot size will be large causing
quite a large portion of the light to propagate
through the cladding. The cladding portion of the
wave will travel faster since n2 < n1. This causes
waveguide dispersion.
• Changing the design of the core-cladding interface
can alter waveguide dispersion, shifting the zero
point of chromatic dispersion to other wavelengths.
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• The total chromatic dispersion can be obtained by adding DM and DW i.e.
(DM + DW)Δλ.

• Waveguide dispersion offsets chromatic dispersion to produce zero

dispersion at 1.31 μm in step-index single-mode fiber.
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• Normally DM > DW in the range of wavelengths 800 - 900
• Therefore, waveguide dispersion can be neglected except
for systems operating in the region 1200 nm - 1600 nm.
• The main effect of DW is to shift λZD by an amount 30 - 40
nm so that the total dispersion is zero near 1.31 µm.
• It also reduces the total dispersion from its material value
DM in the wavelength range 1.3-1.6 µm.
• Pulse spreading reduces BW and data capacity of a fiber
communication link.
• Therefore, we must reduce dispersion by operating at zero
dispersion wavelength or choosing a very coherent light
sources ( i.e. with small Δλ).

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• It was found earlier that, lowest attenuation is achieved at 1550 nm.
• If the dispersion curve could be made to have zero dispersion at this λ we
can have an optimum system.
• This is achieved by dispersion shifted fiber achieved by modifying the fiber
so that DM and DW cancel each other at the lowest attenuation (i.e. at

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Material, waveguide and total dispersion characteristics for conventional and shifted step index single mode fibers
showing variation with composition and spot size (w0)

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• The total first-order dispersion DT in a practical
single-mode fiber as comprising:

𝐷𝑇 = 𝐷𝑀 + 𝐷𝑊 + 𝐷𝑃 𝑝𝑠 𝑛𝑚−1 𝑘𝑚−1

which is simply the addition of the material

dispersion DM, the waveguide dispersion DW and
the profile dispersion DP components.

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• Other methods are by using dispersion flattened fiber,
dispersion shifted fiber and depressed cladding fiber. All
these methods modify the refractive index profile of the
a) Dispersion shifted fiber.
The waveguide dispersion is exploited to interact with
the material dispersion to shift the zero dispersion
wavelength to a value which will have the lowest
attenuation. That is, the zero dispersion wavelength is
shifted from 1.276 µm to 1.55 µm. This is made
possible due to the fact that DW depends on fiber
parameters and can be modified to interact with DM.

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b) Dispersion flattened fiber.
The fiber is modified to achieve low dispersion window over the low loss
wavelength region between 1.3 µm and 1.6 µm.
c) Depressed cladding fiber.
The fiber is made so that the core is surrounded by a thin inner cladding
whose index is low and an outer cladding whose index is slightly higher.

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A typical single-mode fiber has a zero-dispersion

wavelength of 1.31 μm with a dispersion slope of
0.09 ps nm−2 km−1. Compare the total first-order
dispersion for the fiber at the wavelengths of 1.28
μm and 1.55 μm. When the material dispersion and
profile dispersion at the latter wavelength are 13.5
ps nm−1 km−1 and 0.4 ps nm−1 km−1, respectively,
determine the waveguide dispersion at this
Answers: −2.8 ps nm−1 km−1 , 17.1 ps nm−1 km−1, 3.2 ps nm−1 km−1

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• Lower order modes travel travelling almost parallel to the centre line of
the fiber cover the shortest distance, thus reaching the end of fiber
• The higher order modes (more zig-zag rays) take a longer route as they
pass along the fiber and so reach the end of the fiber later.
• So different modes propagating through the fiber will have different net
velocities and will arrive at different time at the output This causes the
waveform to spread.
• This is called multimode or modal dispersion.
• Multimode dispersion does not depend on Δλ.
• Therefore even if the source has Δλ = 0, then DM and DW will be zero, but it
will still suffer multimode dispersion.

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• The amount of modal dispersion or spreading is easily developed by the
difference in travel time between mode propagating at the steepest angle with
respect to the axis.
• Using the ray theory model, the fastest and slowest modes propagating in step
index fiber may be represented by the axial ray and the extreme meridional ray
which is incident at the core-cladding interface at the critical angle ɸc,


The paths taken by the axial ray and the extreme meridional ray in a perfect multimode step index fiber.

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• Axial ray travel time,
t min 
c / n1
• The critical angle ray or the extreme ray will arrive last among the many
rays (or modes), because it travel the farthest.
The travel time is,
L/2 L
t max 
2 L1 cos  
c / n1 L1 2 L1
Distance = 2L1
2 = L/cos 
 sin Φc = n2/n1 = cos 
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• Therefore pulse spread per unit length is,
tmax  tmin  / L   / L s
n n
 1  1
cn2 c
n1 n1  n2 

n1 n1  n2
  ;[  ]
c n2

 NA
; [ NA  n1 2  ]
1/ 2

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• This expression gives the pulse spread per unit length that can be used to
estimate maximum pulse broadening due to intermodal dispersion in
• Therefore, in MMF all three dispersion mechanism exist simultaneously
that is material dispersion, waveguide dispersion, and multimode
• The table below shows the types of fiber and the kinds dispersion present
in each of them respectively:

Fiber Type Dispersion Present

Multimode Fiber Step Index DM, DW, Modal
Multimode Graded Index DM, DW, Modal
Single Mode Fiber DM, DW
2 November 2014 Taiz University, YEMEN 29
• The maximum bit rate (BT) can be estimated from the total
dispersion. There are two approach in estimating the bandwidth
namely assuming non-overlapping of the digital pulses and certain
degree of overlapping of the pulses.

 Assuming the non-overlapping case,

BT = 1/2τ bits/sec.

 In the case of the overlapping pulses, the pulses are

assumed to have a Gaussian distribution with
standard deviation or r.m.s width σ. The bit rate will
then be given by,
BT = 0.2/σ bits/sec

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• The formulas for modal dispersion for the various type of
fibers according to overlapping and non-overlapping
approximations are:
Fiber Non Overlapping Overlapping (Gaussian)
SI- MMF(sec)
L( NA) 2 Ln1 L( NA) 2 s
s   s  
2cn1 c 4 3cn1 2 3
n12 n12 L
g  L g 
8c 20c 3
Max bit rate(bit/sec) 1 0.2
BT  BT 
2 

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A 6 km optical link consists of multimode step index fiber with a
core refractive index of 1.5 and a relative refractive index
difference of 1%. Estimate:
(a) the delay difference between the slowest and fastest modes
at the fiber output;
(b) the rms pulse broadening due to intermodal dispersion on
the link;
(c) the maximum bit rate that may be obtained without
substantial errors on the link assuming only intermodal
(d) the bandwidth–length product corresponding to (c).
Answers: (a) 300 ns, (b) 86.7 ns, (c) 2.3 Mbps, (d) 13.8 MHz km.

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• The overall dispersion in fibers comprise both
intramodal and intermodal terms.
• The total r.m.s. broadening T is given by:
• T = (C2 + n2 )1/2 where C is the intramodal or
chromatic broadening and n is the intermodal
broadening caused by delay differences between the
modes (i.e. s for multimode step index fiber and g for
multimode graded index fiber.
• The intramodal term c consist of pulse broadening due
to both material and waveguide dispersion.
• However, since waveguide dispersion is generally
negligible compared with material dispersion in
multimode fibers, then c = m.

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