With the growth of traffic volume and the emergence of various new applications, future telecom networks are expected to be increasingly heterogeneous with respect to applications supported and underlying technologies employed. To address this heterogeneity, it may be most cost effective to set up different lightpaths at different bit rates in such a backbone telecom mesh network employing optical wavelength-division multiplexing. This approach can be cost effective because low-bit-rate services will need less grooming (i.e., less multiplexing with other low-bit-rate services onto high-capacity wavelengths), while a high-bit-rate service can be accommodated directly on a wavelength itself. Optical networks with mixed line rates (MLRs), e.g., 10/40/100Gb/s over different wavelength channels, are a new networking paradigm. The unregenerated reach of a lightpath depends on its line rate. So, the assignment of a line rate to a lightpath is a tradeoff between its capacity and transparent reach. Thus, based on their signal-quality constraints (threshold bit error rate), intelligent assignment of line rates to lightpaths can minimize the need for signal regeneration. This constraint on the transparent reach based on threshold signal quality can be relaxed by employing more advanced modulation formats, but with more investment. We propose a design method for MLR optical networks with transceivers employing different modulation formats. Our results demonstrate the tradeoff between a transceiver's cost and its optical reach in overall network design.
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