OADM – Optical Add Drop Multiplexer

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Overview

The OADM, short for optical add drop multiplexer, is a gateway into and out of a single mode fiber. In practice, most signals pass through the device, but some would be “dropped” by splitting them from the line. Signals originating at that point can be “added” into the line and directed to another destination. An OADM may be considered to be a specific type of optical cross-connect, widely used in wavelength division multiplexing systems for multiplexing and routing fiber optic signals. They selectively add and drop individual or sets of wavelength channels from a dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) multi-channel stream. OADMs are used to cost effectively access part of the bandwidth in the optical domain being passed through the in-line amplifiers with the minimum amount of electronics.

Types

OADMs have passive and active modes depending on the wavelength. In passive OADM, the add and drop wavelengths are fixed beforehand while in dynamic mode, OADM can be set to any wavelength after installation. Passive OADM uses WDM Filters, fiber gratings, and planar waveguides in networks with WDM systems. The active mode, we call Dynamic OADM, can select any wavelength by provisioning on demand without changing its physical configuration. It is also less expensive and more flexible than passive OADM. Dynamic OADM is separated into two generations.

Uses

A typical OADM consists of three stages: an optical demultiplexer, an optical multiplexer, and between them a method of reconfiguring the paths between the optical demultiplexer, the optical multiplexer and a set of ports for adding and dropping signals. The optical demultiplexer separates wavelengths in an input fiber onto ports. The reconfiguration can be achieved by a cross connect patch panel or by optical switches which direct the wavelengths to the optical multiplexer or to drop ports. The optical multiplexer multiplexes the wavelength channels that are to continue on from demultipexer ports with those from the add ports, onto a single output fiber.

Physically, there are several ways to realize an OADM. There are a variety of demultiplexer and multiplexer technologies including thin film filters, fiber Bragg gratings with optical circulators, free space grating devices and integrated planar arrayed waveguide gratings. The switching or reconfiguration functions range from the manual fiber patch panel to a variety of switching technologies including microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), liquid crystal and thermo-optic switches in planar waveguide circuits.

CWDM and DWDM OADM provide data access for intermediate network devices along a shared optical media network path. Regardless of the network topology, OADM access points allow design flexibility to communicate to locations along the fiber path. CWDM OADM provides the ability to add or drop a single wavelength or multi-wavelengths from a fully multiplexed optical signal. This permits intermediate locations between remote sites to access the common, point-to-point fiber message linking them. Wavelengths not dropped, pass-through the OADM and keep on in the direction of the remote site. Additional selected wavelengths can be added or dropped by successive OADMS as needed.

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