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Optical Communication

  1. Bin Wang

Published Online: 14 DEC 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470050118.ecse554

Wiley Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Engineering

Wiley Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Engineering

How to Cite

Wang, B. 2007. Optical Communication. Wiley Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Engineering. .

Author Information

  1. Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 14 DEC 2007


Optical communication is a form of telecommunication that uses light as the transmission medium. An optical communication system consists of a transmitter or a light source that encodes a message into an optical signal, a channel or a waveguide that carries the signal to its destination, and a receiver that reproduces the message from the received optical signal. The development of modern optical communication is indebted to technological breakthroughs and improvements realized in a several areas: light source, materials and manufacturing of low-loss lightwave guides components and devices essential for effective optical transmission and communication, as well as sophisticated electronics and signal processing techniques.

Optical communication has played a key role in increasing the bandwidth of telecommunications networks, especially in the last two decades as the Internet has penetrated our daily lives. The evolution of optical communication and networking has gone through several generations.

This article describes and briefly evaluates the basic components of optical communication and networking, the two main types of optical communication bases on the medium or optical waveguide that optical signals traverse:

  1. Fiber optical communication and

  2. free space optical communication, as well as optical networking technologies and their applications.


  • optical communication;
  • optical fiber;
  • single-mode fiber;
  • multimode fiber;
  • free-space optics;
  • wavelength division multiplexing;
  • wavelength-routed networks;
  • access networks