This paper presents a new method for the measurement of distributed polarization mode dispersion (PMD) in optical fibers. This method uses a polarization optical time-domain reflectometer (P-OTDR), and is based on a measurement of the degree of polarization of the backscattered light as a function of distance in the fiber. Both the average and the statistics of the degree of polarization are used to estimate the two relevant parameters for measuring PMD, namely, the beat length and the coupling length. At present, our P-OTDR gives qualitative results only. However, it enables to distinguish between high and low PMD sections in a long fiber link. This should already have practical applications, in particular for the characterization of installed fibers.


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