A simple model to evaluate the penalty due to amplifier gainshape in a wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) optical system is proposed. The model requires only knowledge of the overall gain of the amplifier chain for all channels and provides signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) penalties for given launched powers. It also provides the input power distribution required for SNR equalization, and the associated SNR penalty, by solving an eigenvalue/eigenvector problem. The penalty predicted by the model agrees well with recent field measurements on a transoceanic cable. The model can also be applied to predict the gainshape of the amplifier chain from a measurement of the output noise spectrum with no input signal. The capacity of a long amplifier chain can thereby be determined from the receiving terminal only.
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