Wavelength converters based on cross-phase modulation in semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOAs) in the arms of a Mach-Zehnder interferometer (MZI) provide a key network element for reconfigurable optical networks that incorporate wavelength routing. For system design purposes, the properties of the intensity and phase (chirp) modulation of the wavelength-converted signal for an SOA-MZI wavelength converter are important. In this paper, the small-signal α parameter, which characterizes the converter chirp, and the conversion frequency response are characterized experimentally for an integrated all-active SOA-MZI wavelength converter. For both co-and counterpropagating signals, the variation of the α parameter along the interference and conversion curves is considered in detail. Three optical modulators with quite different chirp properties are used to generate the modulated input signal to the wavelength converter. The results demonstrate that the chirp of the wavelength-converted signal is primarily determined by the device properties and the intensity of the modulated input signal. The α parameter of the wavelength-converted signal is negative for noninverting operation and positive for inverting operation. An important contribution of the paper is the detailed assessment of this key device characteristic. The experimental characterization of the wavelength converter is incorporated into a device model that can be used to obtain the pulse response. Calculated and measured results for the time dependence of the intensity and chirp of the wavelength-converted signal are in good agreement. The conversion frequency response for the intensity modulation is also measured along the conversion curve. The 3-dB bandwidth is found to be generally about 8-10 GHz.
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