Gordon and Mollenauer, in their famous paper published in 1990, laid out how the interplay between the nonlinear Kerr effect in optical fibers and the amplified spontaneous-emission (ASE) noise from the optical-amplifiers results in enhanced levels of noise and degrades the performance of modulation schemes that encode information in, particularly, the phase of the optical carrier. This phenomenon has been termed as nonlinear phase noise in the literature. In this paper, we first present a comparative and critical review of previous techniques that have been proposed for the analysis of nonlinear phase noise by forming a classification framework that reveals some key underlying features. We then present a unifying theory and a comprehensive methodology and computational techniques for the analysis and characterization of nonlinear phase noise and its impact on system performance by building on and extending previous work that we identify as most favorable and systematic. In our treatment, we consider a multichannel multispan optically amplified dense wavelength-division multiplexed system and develop general techniques for the analysis of the intricate interplay among Kerr nonlinearity, chromatic dispersion, and ASE noise, and for computing the bit-error-ratio performance of differential phase-shift-keying (DPSK) systems. By means of the extensive results we present, we demonstrate and argue that correlated noise behavior plays a most significant role in understanding nonlinear phase noise and its impact on DPSK system performance.
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