The design of optical communication networks with network switching elements operating in the optical domain requires careful system analysis and potentially stringent component requirements. We consider here network elements such as transparent optical cross-connects that demultiplex WDM signals,optically switch individual channels, and then multiplex the wavelengths together again before transmission into the next span. Network element optical impairments that can significantly degrade signal quality are in-band (same wavelength) crosstalk and signal distortion from filter concatenation effects. We examine tradeoffs between accumulated crosstalk and filter distortion in the context of the optical filters used in the network elements and demonstrate the balance that must be struck in the design of the filters and network system. As an example, we study a 10-Gb/s network with 50-GHz channel spacing, examining both nonreturn-to-zero (NRZ) and return-to-zero (RZ) modulation formats. In both cases, we find optimal filter bandwidths that minimize the total signal degradation measured in terms of Q penalty,including filter misalignment statistics and signal laser frequency offset. A model is developed to treat the statistical nature of filter misalignment and its effect on filter-generated in-band crosstalk. The optical node penalties suffered by RZ signals can be significantly higher than that of NRZ signals and must be considered when estimating overall system reach.
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