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PMD MEASUREMENT: THE EXFO

096 APPLICATION NOTE


INTERFEROMETRIC METHOD

Francis Audet, Eng., Product Manager


Normand Cyr, Ph.D., Senior Optical Researcher

The interferometric method has always been the only accepted and proper method to test PMD in the field. Historically, all PMD instruments
based on the interferometric method have been driven by the TIA/IEC standard document FOTP-124, entitled Polarization-Mode Dispersion
Measurement for Single-Mode Optical Fibers by Interferometry. Although this standardized technique remains the correct way to test PMD,
it is important to remember that it also has its limitations. Other methods do exist, but none are reliable or adequate for testing PMD in the
field, where conditions can vary quickly due to vibrations, patchcord movement, gusts of wind, etc. But what if the standard method just got
a lot better and a lot more powerful?

This application note introduces an exact analysis, based on the fundamentals of the standard method, but using a slightly modified setup,
largely extending the application domain of the interferometric approach.

Standard Method—Overview and Limitations


The interferometric method presented in the FOTP-124 describes the actual test setup and defines a possible mathematical method to extract
the PMD information from the raw data. Since this approach became generalized, as time went by, the industry no longer remembered that
this mathematical method was just that: one of many possible methods. Therefore, it has been used and accepted somewhat blindly.

The method described in the standard and, first and foremost, the mathematical analysis behind it, relies on a number of assumptions that
render the standard method fully applicable only in a limited number of cases. Among these underlying assumptions are the following:
Ideal random-coupling DUT with an infinite coupling ratio
A perfectly Gaussian interferogram
A smooth, ripple-free, gaussian-like spectrum at the receiver end
PMD x spectral width much larger than 1

When these conditions are met, or nearly met, the standard method gives accurate results. But what happens when either one of the
assumptions is not respected? Of course, the instrument still displays a result, but, in this case, how reliable is it really? Unfortunately, industry
professionals have forgotten about most of these underlying assumptions and have, therefore, fully trusted the displayed results. And since
no other mathematical analysis that could bypass these assumptions was developed, who can really blame them?

However, due to these stringent assumptions, the standard interferometric PMD-measurement method, as described in FOTP-124, has severe
limitations which stem from the basic theory that supports the method and its embedded analysis. This severely restrains the measurement
conditions and the application domain in which the standard analysis remains fully valid.

The first, and most important, assumption on which the standard analysis relies is the presumed Gaussian-shaped interferogram (which, in
itself, is based on another assumption; that is, an ideal random-coupling DUT). But actually, most interferograms are not Gaussian, even when
the DUT is a long fiber link. They often tend to be somewhat flattened; sometimes they look like a rectangular window, or even have a concave
shape with a depression at the center, in which case the Gaussian assumption would be totally false. This is clearly stated in paragraph 6.2
of the FOTP-124:

“6.2 Accuracy: Accuracy is related to the capability to precisely fit the interferogram with the Gaussian function”…

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Consequently, a non-Gaussian interferogram produces false results. Moreover, if the assumptions are not strictly met, it is not specified by
how much the result may be off target; for instance, in cases of mixed coupling, or when interferograms deviate significantly from the assumed
Gaussian shape, which is a frequent occurrence.

A second important limit comes from the assumption that the spectrum at the receiver end is perfectly smooth, ripple-free and Gaussian-like.
The interferometer in the instrument creates interference between the two principal states of polarization (PSPs). Around a position of zero
delay (center of the interferogram), the auto-correlation of the source peak corresponds to the spectrum, which is basically the Fourier
transform of the spectrum itself. The resulting interferogram is the addition of both this auto-correlation (containing no PMD information) and
the cross-correlation.

As a first, obvious consequence, it was thus important that this auto-correlation have minimal impact on the total interferogram, to hide or
falsify results as little as possible. A broad Gaussian source creates a single narrow auto-correlation peak, easily removable from the total
interferogram. A spectrum with abrupt changes or ripples creates a complex interferogram, which is added to the cross-correlation and adds
unknown error to the analysis (using the standard method). PMD analyzer vendors were aware of this and did offer smooth, polarized
broadband sources, but testing through devices, which altered the spectral shape, was not recommended.

However, even by optically removing the auto-correlation peak, the problem was not entirely solved. Although less obvious, the most basic
issue regarding spectrum smoothness is that the width of the cross-correlation itself depends on the width of the spectrum's auto-correlation
(Fourier transform). And this type of dependence is not known or specified within the mathematical framework of the standard method.
Therefore, testing through optical add/drop multiplexers (OADMs) or erbium-doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs) was impossible, even if a specially
configured interferometer was used to remove the auto-correlation peak.

Fine-Tuning the Standard Method


In the new proposed method, all severe limitations are eliminated, thanks to a theoretical framework that simply removes the stringent
assumptions from the basic theory. Now, the formula that links PMD to the interferogram is exact in all cases, with any interferogram shape
and any type of coupling, and without any of the previous stringent assumptions. As an added bonus consequence, the exact analysis allows
us to specify by how much the standard analysis is off target when interferograms are not Gaussian. Nonetheless, this new approach still fully
respects the FOTP-124 recommendation. Remember that FOTP-124 states that what is described therein is "a" method for deducing PMD
from the observed interferograms, not "the" only imaginable method. In cases of a tested fiber that respects the conditions stated previously
in the FOTP-124, both mathematical approaches will render the same results.

For the first time, an interferometric PMD analyzer will offer truly reliable PMD measurements (not assumed ones) that compare exactly, and
that are rigorously traceable to concrete wavelength-averaged DGDs (rms value), measured with a reference test method (RTM) such as the
Poincaré Sphere Analysis (PSA) or the Jones Matrix Eigenanalysis (JME). This is valid for any coupling ratio, as well as any interferogram and
spectrum shape. Moreover, measurement of PMD = 0 is also offered; and as a last, very powerful benefit, it allows for testing of entire links
that include EDFAs and OADMs.

While the purpose of this application note does not extend to explaining the mathematics behind the machine, the sections below will provide
you with a general idea of how all the above is possible.

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Setup
Our new patent-pending setup for measuring PMD is a slightly modified version of the setup defined in the FOTP-124 (basic interferometer).
Starting from the standard setup, a polarization beam splitter is added at the interferometer output. Two interferograms along the two
orthogonal polarizations are sampled by separate detectors.

Light from DUT

To detectors

By adding the signal from the two detectors, the auto-correlation interferogram remains, while the cross-correlation interferogram cancels out.
Inversely, by subtracting the signals, the auto-correlation is canceled out while the cross-correlation interferogram remains. The point is to get
both interferograms separately, without one interfering with the other (no matter what the spectral shape of the signal entering the
interferometer). The new exact analysis that removes all previously mentioned limitations needs the two interferograms, separately.

Exact Analysis
A new mathematical approach has been developed, which is not based on the assumption of a Gaussian-shaped cross-correlation.
This approach also allows for the elimination of the offset generated by ill-shaped, unsmooth or excessively narrow spectra, as is the case
when measuring entire links with amplifiers for example. How so? First, a mathematical equation is applied separately on both the squared
cross-correlation envelope and the squared auto-correlation envelope, which, thanks to the modified setup, has been measured separately
without one interfering with the other. The rms width of both s-envelopes (s- stands for "squared") are obtained. But, according to the new
formula given below, the squared rms width of the auto-correlation s-envelope acts as an offset, which is subtracted from the result, completely
eliminating the effect of ill-shaped spectra. Thus, with this new modified setup and new mathematical approach, any source shape can be
used, including sources that were altered by EDFAs, allowing you to test the whole network at once, instead of section per section, which, in
turn, saves considerable amounts of time and money.

Non-Gaussian Interferograms
Non-Gaussian interferograms are very common (see image below) and typically produce flat-top shapes, far from a strictly Gaussian shape.
In some case, for example, the true PMD (rms–DGD) is 10 ps. The standard analysis gives 7.5 ps in such a bad scenario; i.e., 25 % off target

3
PMD = 2 (σ 2
x σ 20 )

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(but still, there can be worse cases). This can mean the difference between making the right decision or the wrong one; for example, a network
can be determined suitable for 10 Gb/s transmission when in fact it is not. An error like this can have a huge impact on performance and,
most importantly, can be very costly. But, from now on, such errors can be avoided.

As mentioned previously, we can now precisely determine by how much the standard analysis is off target. This is expressed as a Gaussian
Compliance Factor and is simply defined as the standard analysis result divided by the exact analysis result.

EDFA Test Results


As an illustration of how this works with EDFAs, consider the following real example of a network tested using this method. The network was
looped and accounted for a total of 844 km. It contained 11 EDFAs altogether. The spectrum at the output of the entire looped link was as
follows:
Because PMD varies statistically as a function of the input state of polarization (SOP), results mentioned hereafter come from averaging 30
measurements at different SOPs, using a polarization scrambler.

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All the sections of the link were measured separately, and the sum of the sections (square root of the sum of the square of each section) gave
a PMD value of 9.06 ps. The end-to-end measurement (each section plus contribution of each EDFA) resulted in a PMD of 9.08 ps. To truly
validate the quality of the result, known PMD emulators were added at the end of the link (5 ps or 10 ps).

The fact that the obtained result was always within 1 % of the expected result (when doing the quadratic sum) proves that testing accurately
through EDFAs is now possible.

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Appnote096.2AN © 2005 EXFO Electro-Optical Engineering Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in Canada 05/05