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Polarization Mode Dispersion

By: Usman Muhammad Nooruddin

Telecommunication service providers continuously demand higher & higher bandwidth for their networks from long-haul to access. As it is very expensive to install new communication links every time, they expand their networks, they prefer to increase the existing capacity of the Fiber links by use of dense wavelength division multiplexing(DWDM) system and using higher bit rate systems. The old optical Fibers, however, exhibit such physical characteristics that limit their ability to transmit high speed signals. One inherent challenge to providing higher data rate communications is managing the dispersion effects on the system. Polarization mode dispersion, in high data rate systems, can significantly diminish the data carrying capacity of a telecommunications network.

A fundamental property of single-mode optical Fiber and components, Polarization Mode Dispersion (PMD) is a broadening of the input pulse due to a phase delay between input polarization states. Single-mode optical Fiber and components support one fundamental mode, which consists of two orthogonal polarization modes. Ideally, the core of an optical Fiber is perfectly circular, and therefore has the same index of refraction for both polarization states. However, mechanical and thermal stresses introduced during manufacturing result in asymmetries in the Fiber core geometry. This asymmetry introduces small index of refraction differences for the two polarization states, a property called birefringence. Birefringence creates differing optical axes that generally correspond to the fast and slow axes. These axes can also be thought of as corresponding to the Linear Polarization (LP) modes or Principal States of Polarization (PSP). Birefringence causes one polarization mode to travel faster than the other, resulting in a difference in the propagation time called the differential group delay (DGD). DGD is the unit that is used to describe PMD. DGD is typically measured in picoseconds. When mode coupling is present, both the PSP and the DGD are also dependent on optical frequency. Mode coupling refers to an exchange of power among propagating polarization modes. This is usually seen in long lengths of single-mode Fiber, and is sometimes observed even in short optical components. PMD effects resemble those of chromatic dispersion, but with some key differences: Chromatic dispersion is a rather stable, linear effect, making compensation relatively easy, but PMD is a linear effect that is time-varying in Fiber links, making compensation difficult. PMD is very stable in components. Unlike chromatic dispersion, the effects of PMD are dependent on the launched polarization state. In high-bit-rate systems, PMD may introduce errors as pulses spread into one another.

PMD Limits:
PMD is caused by Fiber stresses during manufacturing or environmental condition changes and thus it has because an essential part of the networks. But a small PMD level can be tolerable in networks depending upon as to what data rate is under consideration for transmission. The general typical value of PMD is 10% of the bit time. The table below depicts PMD limit for corresponding Transmission rate, bit time for SONET/SDH systems. SDH STM-1 STM-4 STM-16 STM-64 STM-256 SONET OC-1 OC-3 OC-12 OC-24 OC-48 OC-192 OC-768 Transmission Rate 51. 84 Mb/s 155.52 Mb/s 622.08 Mb/s 1244.16 Mb/s 2489.32 Mb/s 9953.28 Mb/s 39318.12 Mb/s Bit Time 19.29 ns 6.43 ns 1.61 ns 803.76 ps 401.88 ps 100.47 ps 25.12 ps PMD Limit 2 ns 160 ps 160 ps 80 ps 40 ps 10 ps 2.5 ps

PMD Compensation:
PMD can be compensated, but it is generally an added cost since it must be done on a per channel basis. There are two ways to compensate for PMD: 1. Optically Optical PMD compensation is done by splitting the signal into two polarization states, actively measuring the PMD of a signal and adjusting an optical delay line to retard or advance one of the polarizations. These techniques were generally very expensive and never were widely deployed. Electronically Electronic PMD compensation can be done using adaptive processing techniques, but have limited range of compensation and are difficult to scale to higher data rates, such as at 40 Gbps. It is best to minimize the needs of the network for compensation by installing low PMD optical Fiber and components.


1. 2. 3. 4. Introduction to Polarization Mode Dispersion, LUNA Technologies. Polarization Mode Dispersion (PMD), its limits, compensation and effects on Optical Fiber Networks, R. L. Sharma, Dr. Ranjit Singh, Vinod Kumar. Polarization Mode Dispersion (PMD) Simplified, Francis Audet. Polarization Mode Dispersion Frequently Asked Questions, R.K. Boncek, A. McCurdy, and A. Sorby.