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Differences between CWDM and DWDM

In fiber-optic communications, WDM (wavelength-division multiplexing) is a technology which multiplexes a number of optical carrier signals onto a single optical fiber by using different wavelengths (i.e., colors) of laser light. This technique enables bidirectional communications over one strand of fiber as well as multiplication of capacity. Generally, WDM technology is applied to an optical carrier which is typically described by its wavelength.

WDM system uses a multiplexer at the transmitter to join the signals together, and a demultiplexer at the receiver to split the signals apart (see Figure 1). WDM system is very popular in the telecommunication industry because it allows the capacity of the network to be expanded without laying more fiber. By utilizing WDM and optical amplifiers, users can accommodate several generations of technology development in their optical infrastructure without having to overhaul the backbone network. Moreover, the capacity of a given link can be expanded simply by upgrading the multiplexers and demultiplexers at each end.

Figure 1

WDM could be divided into CWDM (coarse wavelength division multiplexing) and DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing). DWDM and CWDM are based on the same concept of using multiple wavelengths of light on a single fiber but differ in the spacing of the wavelengths, number of channels, and the ability to amplify the multiplexed signals in the optical space. Below part will introduce some differences between CWDM and DWDM system.

Wavelength Spacing

CWDM provides 8 channels with 8 wavelengths (from 1470nm through 1610nm) with a channel spacing of 20nm. While DWDM can accommodate 40, 80 or even 160 wavelengths with narrower wavelength spans which are as small as 0.8nm, 0.4nm or even 0.2nm (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Transmission Distance

DWDM multiplexing system is capable of having a longer haul transmittal by keeping the wavelengths tightly packed. It can transmit more data over a larger run of cable with less interference than CWDM system. CWDM system cannot transmit data over long distance as the wavelengths are not amplified. Usually, CWDM can transmit data up to 100 miles (160km).

Power Requirements

The power requirements for DWDM are significantly higher. For instance, DWDM lasers are temperature-stabilized with Peltier coolers integrated into their module package. The cooler along with associated monitor and control circuitry consumes around 4W per wavelength. Meanwhile, an uncooled CWDM laser transmitter uses about 0.5W of power.