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Optical Communications
Dr. Zafrullah

Optics is an old subject involving the

generation, propagation & detection of light.
Three major developments are responsible for
rejuvenation of optics & its application into the
modern technology:
1 Invention of Laser
2 Fabrication of low-loss optical Fiber
3 Development of SC Optical Devices
Electro-Optics: is generally reserved for optical
devices in which electrical effects play a role,
such as lasers, electro-optic modulators &

Optoelectronics: refers to devices & systems that are
essentially electronics but involve lights, such as
LED, liquid crystal displays & array photodetectors
Lightwave Technology: describes systems & devices
that are used in optical communication & signal
Photonics: in analogy with electronics, involves the
control of photons in free space and matter. It reflects
the importance of the photon nature of light
since electrons often control the flow of photons &
conversely, photons control the flow of electrons

Optical Communication
The Scope of Photonics:
1 Generation of Light (coherent & incoherent)
2 Transmission of Light (through free space, fibers,
imaging systems, waveguides, )
3 Detection of Light (coherent & incoherent)
4 Processing of Light Signals (modulation,
switching, amplification, frequency conversion, )
Photonic Communications: describes the applications
of photonic technology in communication devices &
systems, such as transmitters, transmission media,
receivers & signal processors.

E=h c = = constant

Note the relation between frequency & energy



Wavelength Bands of Interest

50 nm (UV) 100 m (IR)

400 nm 700 nm (visible region)

800 nm 1600 nm (1.55m) range

Attenuation Units
Ratio of optical output power Pout [P(z)] to optical
input power Pin [P(0)]
G = 10 log [P(z)/P(0)] dB, dBm
For Fibers
Pz = P0 exp ( p z)
where p = (1/z) ln [(P(0)/P(z)], (per cm)
= attenuation coefficient, (dB/km)
= (10/z) log [(P(0)/P(z)]

Prove that = 4.343 p (Hint: Log (e1) = 0.4343)

Why Optical Communications?

Extremely wide bandwidth: High carrier frequency ( a wavelength
of 1552.5 nm corresponds to a center frequency of 193.1 THz)
Small size & light weight
Immunity to Interference: Electromagnetic interference (high
voltage transmission lines, radar systems, power electronic systems,
airborne systems, )
Signal Security
Lack of EMI cross talk between channels
Ruggedness and Flexibility
Low Transmission loss (0.25 to 0.3 dB/km)
System Reliability and Ease of Maintenance: high performance
active & passive photonic components such as tunable lasers, very
sensitive photodetectors, couplers, filters,
Low Cost systems for data rates in excess of Gbps


Evolution of fiber optic systems
1950s: Imaging applications in medicine
& non-destructive testing, lighting
1960s: Research on lowering the fiber loss for
Telecom applications
1970s: Development of low loss fibers,
SC light sources & photodetectors
1980s: Single mode fibers (OC3 to OC48)
over repeater spacing of 40 km
1990s: Optical Amplifiers (e.g. EDFA), WDM
toward DWDM


Optical Fiber Transmission Windows


Operating range of 4 key components

Optical Fibers

Optical Sources

Optical Amplifiers

Optical Detectors


Optical Fiber


Major elements Of typical photonic comm link


Installation of Fiber optics


Submarine Systems


Basic Communication & Digital Data Concepts

Analog Signal

Digital Signal
Formats ?


Basic Communication & Digital Data Concepts (cntd)

Analog Signal

Quantized Sample

Digital Stream


Basic Communication & Digital Data Concepts (cntd)

5 Channels in 15 Sec
at their own turn

Multiple frequencies at the same time


Concept of Wavelength Division Multiplexing


Multiple wavelengths at the same time

on a single fiber


SONET & SDH Standards

Synchronous frame structure for sending multiplexed digital
traffic over fiber
SONET (Synchronous Optical NETwork):
used in North America
The basic building block of SONET is called STS-1
(Synchronous Transport Signal) with 51.84 Mbps data rate
Higher-rate SONET signals are obtained by byte-interleaving N
STS-1 frames, which are scrambled & converted to an Optical
Carrier Level N (OC-N) signal
SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy):
The basic building block of SDH is called STM-1 (Synchronous
Transport Module) with 155.52 Mbps data rate. Higher-rate SDH
signals are achieved by synchronously multiplexing N different
STM-1 frames to form STM-N signal




Standard Bit Rates
1 telephone call = 64 kbps

155 Mb/s = 2000 telephone calls

620 Mb/s = 8000 telephone calls
2.5 Gb/s = 30,000 telephone calls
10 Gb/s = 120,000 telephone calls
40 Gb/s = 480,000 telephone calls




Digital Transmission Hierarchy


No of Audio Channels =

At a bit rate of 1% of the carrier Bit rate vs Frequency ?

No of Photons

Sampling and Quantization in Digital Communication

E = h (in Joules (watt x Sec))
1 eV = 1.6 x 10 19 Joule

Homework Exercise 1

Exercise 1
1: Calculate the carrier frequency for optical communication
systems operating at 0.88, 1.3, and 1.55 m. What is the
photon energy (in eV) in each case?
(at 0.88 m, the photon energy = 1.41 eV)
2: Calculate the transmission distance over which the optical
power will attenuate by a factor of 10 for three fibers with
losses of 0.2, 20, and 2000 dB/km. Assuming that the optical
power decreases as exp( L), calculate (in cm 1) for the
three fibers.
(with loss of 0.2 dB/km, p = 4.61 x 10 -7 per cm & L = 50 km)


3: Assume that a digital communication system can be operated
at a bit rate of up to 1% of the carrier frequency. How many
audio channels at 64 kb/s can be transmitted over a
microwave carrier at 5 GHz and an optical carrier at 1.55 m?
(N = 781, at 5 GHz)
4: A 1-hour lecture script is stored on the computer hard disk in
the ASCII format. Estimate the total number of bits assuming
a delivery rate of 200 words per minute and on average 5
letters per word. How long will it take to transmit the script at
a bit rate of 1 Gb/s? (0.5 mSec)
5: A 1.55 m digital communication system operating at 1 Gb/s
receives an average power of 40 dBm at the detector.
Assuming that 1 and 0 bits are equally likely to occur,
calculate the number of photons received within each 1 bit.
(Np = 1560)

6: An analog voice signal that can vary over the range 0.50 mA is
digitized by sampling it at 8 kHz. The first four sample values
are 10, 21, 36, and 16 mA. Write the corresponding digital
signal (a string of 1 and 0 bits) by using a 4-bit representation
for each sample. (0011 0110 1011 0101)
7: A 1.55-m fiber-optic communication system is transmitting
digital signals over 100 km at 2 Gb/s. The transmitter
launches 2 mW of average power into the fiber cable, having
a net loss of 0.3 dB/km. How many photons are incident on
the receiver during a single 1 bit? Assume that 0 bits carry no
power, while 1 bits are in the form of a rectangular pulse
occupying the entire bit slot (NRZ format). (Np = 15625)


8: Sketch the variation of optical power with time for a digital
NRZ bit stream 010111101110 by assuming a bit rate of 2.5
Gb/s. What is the duration of the shortest and widest optical
pulse? (Duration of the shortest pulse = 0.4 nSec)
9: A 0.8-m optical receiver needs at least 1000 photons to detect
the 1 bits accurately. What is the maximum possible length of
the fiber link for a 100-Mb/s optical communication system
designed to transmit 10 dBm of average power? The fiber
loss is 2 dB/km at 0.8 mm. Assume the NRZ format and a
rectangular pulse shape. (19.535 km)
10: A 1.3-m optical transmitter is used to obtain a digital bit
stream at a bit rate of 2 Gb/s. Calculate the number of
photons contained in a single 1 bit when the average power
emitted by the transmitter is 4 mW. Assume that the 0 bits
carry no energy. (Np = 2.62 x 10 7)


11: A 50-km fiber link requires at least 0.3 W at the receiver.

The fiber loss is 0.5 dB/km. Fiber is spliced every 5 km and
has two connectors of 1dB loss at both ends. Splice loss is
only 0.2 dB. Determine the minimum power that must be
launched into the fiber.
(0.3 W = 35.23 dBm Pin = 0.227 mW)
12: A typical sheet of paper is 0.003 in. thick. How many
wavelengths of 820 nm light will fit into this distance? How
does this compare 50 m dia optical fiber?
13: A wave is specified by y = 8 cos 2 (2t 0.8z) m. Find the
amplitude, angular frequency and the displacement at t = 0
and z = 4 m