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Difference between CWDM and DWDM

There are several differences between

DWDM and CWDM systems. CWDM
systems are older and cannot fit as many
data streams. CWDM systems, however, are
also less expensive from the outset. The
design, function and purpose also differ in
terms of transmission length and distance.
When dealing with fiber optic transmission
systems, there are two main types of
wavelength division multiplexing, or WDM,
systems used to transmit the necessary data:
DWDM and CWDM. Coarse wavelength
division multiplexing systems, or CWDM
systems, are used when there are eight or
fewer wavelengths in each fiber that are
multiplexing systems, or DWDM systems,
are used when there are eight or greater
wavelengths active in each fiber.
Dense wavelength division multiplying
systems can fit more than 40 different data
streams in the same amount of fiber used for
two data streams in a CWDM system.
CWDM systems were invented prior to
dense wavelength systems, because the cost
of cabling was a major factor. Now that
cabling and transmittal has become more
affordable, DWDM systems are often used
in place of CWDM systems. One other
major difference is that wavelength systems
define CWDM systems, while DWDM
systems are defined by frequencies.
CWDM systems can perform many of the
same tasks as a dense wavelength system, at
a lesser initial cost. Despite the lower

transmittal of data through a CWDM

system, these are still viable options for fiber
optic data transmittal. CWDM systems carry
less data, but the cabling used to run them is
less expensive and less complex. A DWDM
system has much denser cabling and can
carry a significantly larger amount of data,
but it can be cost prohibitive, especially
where there is a need for a large amount of
cabling in an application.
Another major difference between the two is
that DWDM multiplexing systems are made
for longer haul transmittal, by keeping the
wavelengths tightly packed. They can
transmit more data over a significantly
larger run of cable with less interference
than a comparable CWDM system. If the
need is there to transmit the data over a very
long range, the dense system solution will
likely be the best in terms of functionality of
the data transmittal as well as the lessened
interference over the longer distances that
the wavelengths must travel.
CWDM cannot travel long distances
because the wavelengths are not amplified,
and therefore CWDM is limited in its
Typically, CWDM can travel anywhere up to
about 100 miles (160 km), while an
amplified dense wavelength system can go
much further as the signal strength is
boosted periodically throughout the run. As
a result of the additional cost required to
provide signal amplification, the CWDM
solution is best for short runs that do not
have mission critical data.