In a fibre optic system, there are several small devices and components, to which one might not give due credit and understand their importance. However, the truth is that it is these small components that build up the backbone of the entire system, and without these the system would be nothing but a pile of hardware unable to perform its desired function.
Let’s look, for example, at optical attenuators that are used extensively in fibre optic communication systems such as datacentres etc. This little component has the capability to reduce a strong optic signal to a desired lower power level. Imagine a multi-wavelength fibre optic system, in which you need to equalize the optical channel strength so that all the channels have similar power levels. This means to reduce stronger channel’s power to match lower power channels. Another good example may be that the received optical power is so strong that it saturates the receiver. You then need an attenuator to reduce the power so that the receiver can detect the signal correctly without saturating.
How does an optical attenuator reduce power? Well, it introduces a segment of “attenuating fibre” in the optical path, which is created by either using a solution doping technique or rare earth elements into the fibre’s core that reduces the transmission of fibre. Furthermore there are optical attenuators which reduce the power to a fixed desired level and as such are termed fixed type. On the other hand, there are also variable type optical attenuators that are used to reduce powers with an adjustable range. Top fibre optic equipment manufacturers like Apollo technology designs these attenuators according to industrial standards to work with different kinds of connectors such as SC, LC, FC and ST etc. They also assure the quality of attenuators by performing 100% interferometric testing and insertion loss testing on connectors.
The need for optical attenuators is on the rise, particularly with the technological advancements in the fibre optics domain and the subsequent emerging high speed applications like modern day datacentres and fibre optics lasers used to knock out space debris! Optical attenuators will play an even more important role in fusing the new high speed fibre optic infrastructure with the already existing one while operating at a different power level altogether. A market forecast report has been announced by MarketResearchReports.com on the technology trends and global consumption of component-level fixed and variable fibre optic attenuators in optical fibre networks. According to this report, the global consumption value of component-level fibre optic attenuators is expected to reach about $324.2 million in 2015, whereas the consumption of manually controlled and electrically controlled Variable Optical Attenuators (VOAs) is projected to reach $254 million. These values are expected to increase with the annual growth rate of 5.6 percent to reach till $426.6 million in 2020.
“The use of variable optical attenuators (VOAs) with optical switching is contributing to the steady increase of this particular component. A critical functional area in fibre optic communication includes optical switching and VOAs; therefore, the increase in 100G is contributing to the increase demand of VOAs in both the telecommunication and datacom segments”, said Analyst.
Other benefits of using fibre optic attenuators that make them ideal for DWDM applications are their low back reflection, wide wavelength range, insensitivity to polarization and compact and rugged housing.
Optical attenuators serve as an essential backbone component to today’s fibre optic communication providing successful transmission of signals without destroying equipment due to unmatched power levels. Manufacturers like Apollo technology also play their role in providing these high quality attenuators thus raising the possibility of testing and implementing new generation of high speed systems with existing ones, raising the bar of fibre optic technology to another level.