I present numerical simulations of the average transfer function of polarization mode dispersion (PMD) in optical fibers conditioned on various given values of the differential group delay (DGD). I find that even fibers with relatively small mean DGD can exhibit significant coupling between the two principal states of polarization. The average frequency dependence of this coupling can be approximated by a generic analytic function that deviates substantially from the quadratic frequency dependence that is often assumed in second-order PMD models. Finally, I define an extended transfer matrix for first-order PMD that describes the average frequency dependence of all PMD-induced distortions as a function of the DGD and show that this matrix is much better suited for optical PMD compensation than that of a conventional first- and second-order PMD model.
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