In this paper, we theoretically and experimentally investigate the performance of erbium-doped fiber amplifier (EDFA)-based WDM ring networks with free amplified spontaneous emission (ASE) light recirculation. We show that, with proper network and amplifier design, the lasing light generated by free ASE recirculation within the looped network provides an effective gain clamping technique, ensuring limited signal power excursions under WDM channels add-drop operations. Considering a ring network composed of eight fiber sections and eight EDFAs, maximum signal power overshoots below 2.5dB have been measured under 23/24 WDM channels drop. Optical signal-to-noise ratio (OSNR) analysis and bit-error rate (BER) measurement at 10 Gb/s confirm acceptable performances and negligible penalties due to polarization effects and relative intensity noise transfer from laser light to WDM signals. We also propose and demonstrate a new link control technique which overcomes the main limiting factors of such networks, respectively, related to OSNR degradation, stability and survivability to fiber and EDFA breakages.
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