Optical multiplexing is the art of combining multiple optical signals into one to make full use of the immense bandwidth potential of an optical channel. It can perform additional roles like providing redundancy, supporting advanced topologies, reducing hardware and cost, etc. The idea is to divide the huge bandwidth of optical fiber into individual channels of lower bandwidth, so that multiple access with lower-speed electronics is achieved. This chapter focuses on one of the most common and important optical multiplexing techniques, wavelength division multiplexing (WDM). The chapter begins with a quick historical account of the origin of optical communication and its exponential growth following the invention of erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA) leading to the widespread adoption of WDM. Alternate multiplexing schemes are also briefly discussed, including time-division multiplexing (TDM), space-division multiplexing (SDM), etc. A typical WDM link and its components are then discussed with special focus on WDM Mux/demultiplexer (DeMux). Further, certain challenges in this field are addressed along with some potential solutions. The chapter concludes by highlighting some features and limitations of optically multiplexed WDM systems.
Part of the book: Multiplexing