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February, 2002 Jerome Laferriere

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Polarization mode dispersion requirements

The need for polarization mode dispersion (PMD) testing in
the field: different technologies are available

Executive summary This paper discusses one particular

The pressures imposed by a competi- aspect of the evolving requirements
tive market entail that service providers in system turn-up, namely, the need
upgrade and maintain their networks for polarization mode dispersion
continuously to ensure that they are (PMD) testing, which is an important
capable of delivering higher-speed, measurement for very high bit rate
higher-quality applications and servic- transmission (above 10 Gbps), but
es to customers. This creates a need to one of the most difficult parameters
verify and make sure that the network’s to test due to its sensitivity to a number
fiber infrastructure and equipment can of environmental constraints.
meet exacting performance standards
and operate reliably. As a result of the
emergence of DWDM networks, some
important changes were made in the
optical fiber characterization and
system turn-up. Consequently new
test tools and procedures were
needed. These are explained in the
Acterna white papers: “1625nm
requirements”, “Chromatic dispersion
requirements”, and “Optical spectrum
analyzer methods”.
Polarization mode ps/( The second order PMD different time intervals with different
dispersion definition gives the delay created by the PMD room temperatures. Another recom-
PMD is caused by the birefringence variation linked to the wavelength, mendation is to use the average of
of the fiber itself, which is based on and therefore is relevant for DWDM multiple measurements at a given
the different indexes of two orthogo- systems. Second order PMD has to be temperature to get even more
nally polarized modes that the fiber added to chromatic dispersion figures, accurate results.
generates from the transmitted and therefore limits the link distance.
signal, and which creates a time delay When conducting the test, the consid-
between the two modes (also called As PMD coefficients take into account ered mode coupling should be known,
mean differential group delay or DGD). the fiber link distance (which may be as this may have an important impact
The main causes of this birefringence different from the cable distance, due on the results, especially in the field.
are noncircularities of the fiber itself to the helix factor), it is important to In theory, there should be a weak
and external stress on the fiber get the fiber link distance accurate, mode coupling for components and
(macro-bending, micro-bending, otherwise this makes the measure- short fiber links (up to a few hundred
twist, temperature variations). ments unreliable. meters), and a strong mode coupling
for long fiber links. For example, with
The mean DGD causes the transmis- Fiber and cable manufacturers are a Fourier transform, a weak mode
sion pulse to broaden when travelling specifyingtheirfiberswith0.5ps/km1/2 coupling can be distinguished if there
along the fiber, generating distortion maximum, according the ITU-T recom- is one main peak on the spectrum.
and increasing bit-error-rate ratio (BER) mendations. Current fibers are easily
of the optical system. Consequently, better than 0.2 ps/km1/2. As PMD is a Different organizations have provided
this creates a distance link limit for a statistical value which is also sensitive documents dealing with PMD
given transmission bit rate (please see to temperature, it is recommended to measurements (see table below).
figure 1 below). carry out different measurements at

Each wavelength, for a given time

and condition, has its absolute DGD. Standards Description
As this varies constantly, a preferred IEC/TS 61941 Technical specifications for polarization mode dispersion measurement techniques
value is the mean DGD, which is the for single-mode optical fibers
GR-2947-CORE Generic requirements for portable polarization mode dispersion (PMD) test sets
PMD delay. The polarization mode TIA/EIA FOTP-113 Polarization mode dispersion measurement for single-mode optical fibers by
dispersion is defined with up to four the fixed analyzer method
main parameters: mean differential TIA/EIA FOTP-122 Polarization mode dispersion measurement for single-mode optical fibers by
group delay (mean DGD or PMD Jones Matrix Eigenanalysis
TIA/EIA FOTP-124 Polarization mode dispersion measurement for single-mode optical fibers by
delay, in ps), PMD coefficient (PMD,
interferometric method
in ps/km1/2), second order PMD TIA/EIA TSB 107 Guideline for the statistical specification of polarization mode dispersion on
delay (DGD2 in ps/nm) and second optical fiber cables
order PMD coefficient (PMD2, in

SM fiber span



figure 1
PMD methods A. Simple PMD calculation for Principle
There are different ways of measuring known fibers For fiber links (usually strong mode
PMD in the field. Only three will be Principle coupling), the result is an interfero-
described here. Other methods exist, Operators who already know their gram with random phases, and the
but they are more for production/lab fibers, can get the PMD of their link mean DGD value is determined from
purposes (the Jones Matrix Eigen- easily by just adding together the its Gaussian curve fit.
analysis method standardized by square root of the values of each Benefits and limits
the TIA/EIA FOTP-122, the Poincaré section of the corresponding link. The upper measurement limit will be
Sphere method newly approved by As PMD does vary along time and defined by the scan range of the
international standards, or the State from manufacturing to installation, adjustable arm of the interferometer.
of Polarization method, or modulation this simple method is applicable but The scan range must be three times
phase shift, or pulse delay, or time not so accurate. larger than the mean DGD value.
delay, or even base-band curve fit). Benefits and limits The lower limit will be defined by
It requires that the operator knows the the spectral width of the source
fiber characteristics of the networks. and by the orthogonality of the
This is mainly applicable for new interferometer arms.
fibers, and if the PMD results are far
from the limits. Care must be taken when using pigtails
and launch cables, as interference
B. PMD with the interferometric effects due to reflections should be
method avoided. For this reason, it is preferred
Equipment to use index matching materials or
This method requires the following: angled cleaves. The instrument itself
a broadband polarized source and an is quite sensitive to shock, vibration
interferometer (Mach-Zehnder or and drop tests. It is also not so accurate
Michelson). This is standardized by when measuring intermediate coupling
the FOTP-124 TIA/EIA “Polarization regimes (neither strong nor weak
mode dispersion measurement for mode coupling).
single-mode optical fibers by inter-
ferometric method” (please see
figure 2 below).


Broadband source Polarizer Polarizer Interferometer

figure 2

C. PMD with the fixed analyzer method Principle Intercomparison between methods
(also known as wavelength scanning) From the spectrum, the mean period of Intercomparison results have been
Equipment the intensity modulation is measured. made by various international
This method requires the following: This is realized by counting the number organizations, and at the present time,
a broadband polarized source and a of extrema (that is, measuring the inter-laboratory measurements indi-
polarized (variable) optical spectrum rate at which the state of polarization cate that there is an agreement of plus
analyzer (OSA). This is standardized changes as wavelength changes), in or minus 10 percent to plus or minus
by the TIA/EIA FOTP-113 “Polarization order to give a mean DGD. Alterna- 20 percent between all the different
mode dispersion measurement for tively, a Fourier transform into a time methods. This is well described in the
single-mode optical fibers by the distribution will also give a graph, TIA/EIA PMD documents. There is fairly
fixed analyzer method” (please see and the mean DGD value is determined good statistical agreement between
figure 3 below). from its Gaussian curve fit (for fiber fixed analyzer with extrema counting
links with strong mode coupling). It is and Jones Matrix Eigenanalysis. On
not necessary to modify the polariza- the other hand, the interferometry
tion angle of the analyzer when high and fixed analyzer with Fourier trans-
mode coupling is used. For weak form are in agreement statistically.
mode coupling, an angle could be However, there may be possible
selected to get the maximum differences between the two types
amplitude of the oscillations. of methods.
Benefits and limits
The upper measurement limit will be
defined by the resolution of the OSA.
The lower limit will be defined by the
wavelength range of the source and
the wavelength range of the OSA.
The instrument is not sensitive to
shock, vibration and drop tests if
the OSA is realized with Fabry-Perot
technology (other technologies are
more sensitive).

This method offers the advantage of

providing two functions in one
solution: PMD and OSA.


Broadband light Rotatable polarizer Optical spectrum

Fixed polarizer
source (SLED) analyser

figure 3

When should I test PMD with my links? To summarize, the main circumstances You will find below (figure 4) the table
PMD testing requirements mainly in which PMD measurement will be for a typical system, which is the
come with the transmission bit rate required are: maximum PMD coefficient as a func-
per channel and the corresponding – Ugrade of current networks for tion of length, for a given transmission
distance. It appears that the measure- 10 Gbps bit rate or higher bit rate in bit rate. This table is provided with the
ment should be at least performed use or planned following assumptions: the PMD is
when the bit rate is equal to or higher – Installation of new fiber networks, considered to be Maxwelliam, NRZ
than 10 Gbps. However, for some for 10 Gbps bit rate or higher bit rate coding is used, 1550 nm lasers
applications, such as analog cable TV in use or planned are used, a maximum power penalty
applications, lower transmission bit – Qualification of fiber/component of 1 dB is acceptable, a BER is typically
rates will be affected by PMD. during manufacturing between 10–9 and 10–12. With this in
mind, the following formula could be
Some of the organizations and stan- applied (L is the distance in km, B the
dards state that 10 percent of the bit bit rate in Gbps, PMD the PMD value
rate for the PMD delay can be tolerated in ps/km1/2).
for a system without disturbing the
network performance by more than
1 dB loss, at 1550 nm, with NRZ coding
(please see table below):

Bit rate per channel SDH SONET Equivalent timeslot PMD delay limit
55 Mbps – OC-1 19.3 ns 2 ns
155 Mbps STM-1 OC-3 6.43 ns 640 ns
622 Mbps STM-4 OC-12 1.61 ns 160 ps
1.2 Gbps – OC-24 803 ps 80 ps
2.5 Gbps STM-16 OC-48 401 ps 40 ps
10 Gbps STM-64 OC-192 100 ps 10 ps
40 Gbps STM-256 OC-768 25.12 ps 2.5 ps

Tables are for information only.


2.5 Gbps OC-48

Distance (km)

10 Gbps OC-192


40 Gbps OC-748

0.01 0.1 1 10 100

PMD (ps/km1/2))

figure 4 Maximum distance vs PMD coefficient and data bit rate

Standards such as ITU-T and IEC, with What do I do with this measurement?
the soon to be published G.dsn, IEC Currently, there is no really simple
61282-3 and IEC 60794-3 documents, and low cost solution/component
will provide more guidelines. TIA/EIA available to correct a link which has a
TSB 107 “Guideline for the statistical high PMD value. This is still under con-
specification of polarization mode sideration and development. So PMD
dispersion on optical fiber cables” is clearly limiting the distance (or the
is also available. transmission bit rate) of a given net-
work application.

Moreover, if there is a PMD issue, there

is no simple method to locate the part
of the link which is generating the
problem. Research & Development
investigations are ongoing to try to
also solve this issue.

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