We have proposed and experimentally demonstrated three different optical front-ends to implement in wavelength-division-multiplexing (WDM) radio-over-fiber (ROF) networks to minimize the cost of the ROF system. When the number of WDM channels is small, such as smaller than four channels, the simplest front-end to generate WDM optical millimeter (mm)-wave signals is to use only broadband direct-modulation laser (DML) for each WDM channel. In this case, the expensive external modulator can be removed. However, when the number of WDM channels is large, such as larger than four, the frond-end to generate WDM optical mm-wave signals can be realized by using an external modulator to upconvert simultaneously all channels after the WDM channel signals are multiplexed. In this way, the cost of the expensive external modulator will be shared by all channels. For seamless integration of WDM signals that come from the existing backbone with ROF system, a broadband external modulator can be used to upconvert WDM signals.
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