The Roles of Semiconductor Optical Amplifiers in Optical Networks

Optical amplifiers have played a leading role in the evolution of telecommunications over the course of the past decade. What would the world of telecommunications look like if optical amplifier technology had not been developed? For a start, wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) would be impractical: At every repeating station the signal would have to be demultiplexed, electronically regenerated, and retransmitted. In this scenario, multiple fibers—rather than multiple wavelengths—would probably be the most economical way to increase transmission system capacity. Cost per bit would be much higher than is the case for WDM systems. This added expense would most certainly have limited the growth of the Internet, since its market penetration is primarily due to transmission bandwidth availability and low connection costs.

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