What is WDM?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Wavelength-division multiplexing or WDM is a signaling process that employs the use of laser technology as part of the communication protocol. The essentials of this process include the combination of several signals that are carried along laser beams. Each of the signals are set a different wavelengths and are transmitted using fiber optics. Specialized filters at the point of reception help to convert the laser driven multiplexing signals into a form that can be processed into a workable signal.

While somewhat similar in nature to frequency-division multiplexing processes, wavelength-division multiplexing does not make use of standard radio frequencies to configure the various signals. Instead, the method will translate the signals into infrared wavelengths that are all part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Together, the signals move across the fiber optics network and are segregated at the point of termination. At the same time, the signals are reconverted into their original form, making it possible for the receiver to interpret the signal properly.


While the basic process of wavelength-division multiplexing has more or less remained the same for a number of years, the ability to make use of this process has greatly increased, thanks to enhancements in technology. At one time, it was not possible to make use of more than two infrared channels at any one time using optical cables. While more efficient that previous communication methods, it quickly became apparent that the process could be upgraded to allow the use of more channels. This was achieved by adding more filters that could function at the point of termination to segregate and route more signals at a time.

The use of wavelength-division multiplexing today has reached a point where the signal integrity is extremely high, making audio signals carried across networks in this fashion crystal clear at both ends of the connection. Currently, more research is being conducted to improve the way that wavelength-division multiplexing makes use of electromagnetic bandwidths within the communication process. The focus is to allow the method to carry additional signals while still maintaining current standards of clarity.


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