As optical amplifiers have opened new perspectives for optical communication systems with ultrahigh capacities and long-haul transmission distances (more than 1 Tb/s over 10000 km), fundamental limits are being felt. In order to overcome these propagation impairments, another technology revolution is soon required. Promising developments concern in-line all-optical regeneration, which makes it possible to transmit optical data over virtually unlimited distances. In this paper, we recall the basic principles of optical regeneration in optical communication systems and review the current technology alternatives foreseen for future 40-Gb/s transmission system implementation,as investigated in Alcatel Research and Innovation. The alternative offered by optoelectronic regeneration is also discussed, so as to identify and highlight the advantages of the all-optical approach.
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