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Notes on Optical Fiber


: Optics and Laser Communication

Text Book : Optical Fiber Communication: Senior

Optical Fiber Communication: Gerd Keiser
Fiber Optic Communication System: Govind Agarwal

Historical Development
Optical Communication

Free Space

Guided Waves
(Fibre Optics)

Important Milestones
Circa 2500 B.C. Earliest known glass
Roman times-glass drawn into fibers
Venice Decorative Flowers made of glass fibers
1609-Galileo uses optical telescope
1626-Snell formulates law of refraction
1668-Newton invents reflection telescope
1840-Samuel Morse Invents Telegraph
1841-Daniel Colladon-Light guiding demonstrated
in water jet
1870-Tyndall observes light guiding in a thin water jet
1873-Maxwell electromagnetic waves
1876-Elisha Gray and Alexander Bell Invent Telephone
1877-First Telephone Exchange
1880-Bell invents Photophone
1888-Hertz Confirms EM waves and relation to light
1880-1920 Glass rods used for illumination
1897-Rayleigh analyzes waveguide
1899-Marconi Radio Communication
1902-Marconi invention of radio detector
1910-1940 Vacuum Tubes invented and developed
1930-Heinrich Lamb experiments with silica fiber
1936-1940 Communication using a waveguide

1951-Heel, Hopkins, Kapany image transmission using

fiber bundles
1957-First Endoscope used in patient
1958-Goubau et. al. Experiments with the lens guide
1958-59 Kapany creates optical fiber with cladding
1960-Ted Maiman demonstrates first laser in Ruby
1960-Javan et. al. invents HeNe laser
1962-4 Groups simultaneously make first semiconductor
1961-66 Kao, Snitzer et al conceive of low loss single
mode fiber communications and develop theory
1970-First room temp. CW semiconductor laser-Hayashi
& Panish
April 1977-First fiber link with live telephone trafficGTE Long Beach 6 Mb/s
May 1977-First Bell system 45 mb/s links
GaAs lasers 850nm Multimode -2dB/km loss
Early 1980s-InGaAsP 1.3 m Lasers
- 0.5 dB/km, lower dispersion-Single mode
Late 1980s-Single mode transmission at 1.55 m -0.2
1989-Erbium doped fiber amplifier
1 Q 1996-8 Channel WDM
4th Q 1996-16 Channel WDM
1Q 1998-40 Channel WDM

Optical Telegraphy

Electrical Telegraphy

A semaphore or optical telegraph is an apparatus for conveying information

by means of visual signals, with towers with pivoting blades or paddles,
shutters, in a matrix, or hand-held flags etc

Alexander Graham Bell patented an optical telephone system, which

he called the Photophone, in 1880, but his earlier invention, the
telephone, proved far more practical. He dreamed of sending signals
through the air, but the atmosphere didn't transmit light as reliably as
wires carried electricity.

Bells Photophone
1880 - Photophone Receiver

1880 - Photophone

The ordinary manwill find a little difficulty in comprehending how sunbeams are to be used. Does Prof. Bell intend to
connect Boston and Cambridgewith a line of sunbeams hung on telegraph posts, and, if so, what diameter are the
sunbeams to be?will it be necessary to insulate them against the weather?until (the public) sees a man going through
the streets with a coil of No. 12 sunbeams on his shoulder, and suspending them from pole to pole, there will be a general
feeling that there is something about Prof. Bells photophone which places a tremendous strain on human credulity.
New York Times Editorial, 30 August 1880

Do you know !?!

William Wheeling, in 1880, patented a method of light

transfer called piping light. Wheeling believed that by
using mirrored pipes branching off from a single source
of illumination, i.e. a bright electric arc, he could send
the light to many different rooms in the same way that
water, through plumbing, is carried throughout
buildings today. Due to the ineffectiveness of
Wheelings idea and to the concurrent introduction of
Edisons highly successful incandescent light bulb, the
concept of piping light never took off.

IDEA !?!In 1870, John Tyndall, using a

jet of water that flowed from one
container to another and a beam
of light, demonstrated that light
used internal reflection to follow
a specific path. As water poured
out through the spout of the
first container, Tyndall directed
a beam of sunlight at the path of
the water. The light, as seen by
the audience, followed a zigzag
path inside the curved path of
the water. This simple
experiment, illustrated in
Figure, marked the first
research into the guided
transmission of light.

Bare Fiber
During 1920-1950,
thin, flexible rods of
glass or plastic were
used to guide light
Such bare fibers
require air outside
each fiber
Image from Wikipedia

Fiber With Cladding

Developed in 1954 by
Van Heel, Hopkins &
Cladding is a glass or
plastic cover around the
Protects the totalreflection surface
Reduces cross-talk
from fibers in bundles

Medical Imaging
By 1960, glass-clad fibers were available
for medical instruments, to look inside the
The glass was unable to transmit light far
enough for communications, because of
Attenuation (loss of light) was 1 decibel per

Decibels are a logarithmic scale of power
Abbreviated dB

A loss of 10 decibels means only 10% of the

light gets through
A loss of 20 dB means 1% of the light gets
Sunglasses stop 99% of light, so they cause a loss of
20 dB

For communications, loss must be no more than

10 or 20 decibels per kilometer

Important Breakthrough

Kao and Hockham in 1966

The breakthrough came when
Dr Kao worked out that the loss
of light was not an inherent
property of the glass, but was
due to imperfections in the
material. If the glass could be
improved so that imperfections
were removed, leaving an
acceptable rate of light loss at
20 decibels per kilometre, then
many of the hurdles to optical
communication would fall. [
before loss was ~1000 dB/km]
In 1970 Kapron, Keck and
Maurer (Corning Glass
Corporation) were successful in
producing silica fibers with a
loss of about 17 dB/km at a
wavelength of 633 nm
In 1985 ~0.25 dB/km

1970 I. Hayashi
Semiconductor Laser

Optical Fiber in 1977

Telephone signals used infrared light with
a wavelength of 850 nm to send data at
6.2 Mbps
Loss was 2 dB per km
Repeaters were required every few
The repeaters were electro-optical
converting the light to electricity and then
back to light

History of Attenuation

First Generation (1974-1980)
Mutimode fibers
Intermodal dispersion and fiber
loss quite high
45 140 Mb/s
Repeater Spacing: 10 km

Second Generation (-1987-)

Single mode
152 - 622 Mb/s - 1.7 Gb/s
Repeater Spacing: 40 km

Third Generation (-1996-)

Dispersion shifted fibers
2.5 Gb/s 10 Gb/s
Rep. Spacing: 90 km (undersea)

Fourth Generation (2000)

WDM: Wavelength divison multiplexing
: Multiple sources operating at slightly
different wavelength to transmit several
independent information,
Combination of EDFA and WDM boosted fiber capacity
10 Tb/s

Erbium Doped Fiber Amplifier

Higher than 90 km
SEA-ME-WE3 Cable : Runs from Germany to Singapore

Fifth Generation (Today)

Solitons: Non dispersive optical pulse that preserve their shape by
counteracting the effects of dispersion with the nonlinear effect of the fiber by
using pulses of a specific shape.
Increasing the range of WDM from C band (1.53-1.57 um) to 1.30 to 1.65 um
14 Tb/s over a single 160 km line using optical amplifiers

WDM:An Analogy with Multiple lane highway

Optical Fiber Link : An Overview

Different Ways of Installation

SEA-ME-WE3 Undersea WDM cable network

Advantages: Comparison with

Electrical transmission
Enormous Wide Bandwidth:
Optical carrier frequency : 1014 Hz/105 GHz
Optical bandwidth ~ (1013 Hz ) around 104 times higher than the bandwidth
of highest microwave transmission

Low Transmission Loss : 0.2 dB/km

Immunity to Interference and Cross talk
Free from Electromagnetic Interference (EMI), radiofrequency interference
(RFI) or switching transients giving electromagnetic pulses (EMP)

Signal security
Unlike the situation with copper cables, a transmitted optical signal cannot
be obtained from a fiber in a noninvasive manner

Electrical isolation
Ideally suited for communication in electrically hazardous environments

Ruggedness and flexibility

Bent, twisted without any damage

Small size and weight

Potential low cost

Advantages of Electrical
Electrical transmission is often preferred for
Short Distance
Low Bandwidth applications
Lower material cost, where large quantities are not required
Lower cost of transmitters and receivers
Ease of splicing
Capability to carry electrical power as well as signals
In certain situations fiber may be used even for short distance or low
bandwidth applications because of immunity to electromagnetic
interference, high electrical resistance, lighter weight,
electromagnetically not radiating and much smaller cable size