Optical amplifiers are a key technology used for optical communication. It is a device used to amplify any input optical signal without the need to first transform it into an electronic signal. Together with the technology of wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) which allows the communication of various channels over the same optical fiber, now it is possible to transmit many terabits of data covering a distance of few hundred kilometers to transoceanic distances with the help of optical amplifiers. Generally an optical communication comprises of a transmitter and a receiver connected with an optical fiber. Although the signals transmitted through optical fiber suffer far less disturbances than in other mediums like copper, there is always distance of 100 kilometers a signal can travel before the signal becomes too noisy.
Before the introduction of optical amplifiers, it was mandatory to regenerate the optical signals every 80-100 km in order to attain transmission over long distances. It includes receiving of optical signal, cleaning and amplifying it electronically and then again transmitting it over the next segment of communication link. Optical amplifier made it possible to amplify together all the WDM channels, their bit rate, modulation format and protocols which are completely transparent to all the communication channels. So, multiple components which are required for regeneration of electronic signals can be replaced with the help of a single optical fiber.
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Constant availability of 100Gbps devices and massive increase in the internet traffic over the communication network is playing the role of key drivers in the optical amplifiers market. The growth of internet traffic comes from the fact that everything is going mobile nowadays with the growth of various smart phones and tablets providing universal connectivity. This results in demand of different optical components in order to ensure smooth communication over the network consisting of lakhs of users.
There are primarily two types of optical amplifiers, semiconductor laser amplifiers and fiber amplifiers. Semiconductor laser amplifier is further divided into Travelling wave amplifier (TWA) and Fabry-perot amplifier. Fiber amplifiers include Erbium doped fiber amplifier (EDFA). Semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOA) are basically laser diodes which can amplify any optical signal coming from either side of the fiber-end and send the amplified version of the signal out of the fiber attached through the other end.
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They are constructed in a small package and transmit bidirectional reducing the size of a device. However, it has some limitations which include high coupling loss, dependence of polarization and a high noise figure. It requires very high quality of anti-reflective coatings. Fiber amplifiers are silica fibers doped with an earth element Erbium. It consists of a reliable and compact high power semiconductor pump lasers which is used for fast communications over the large area of network. Further, it introduces no crosstalk when amplifying the WDM signals.
The opportunity of this market lies in the 4G facilities which are gradually being introduced by various mobile telecom companies in order to reduce the internet traffic and deliver the best communication services to all the mobile operators across the globe. Also, the optical amplifiers see strong potential in the field of laser physics involving all the quantum mechanics and photonics instrumentation. The key players in the market include Finisar corp., Avago technologies Ltd, Furukawa co. Ltd., NEC corporation, Sumitomo Heavy industries, Ltd., and Source Photonics., Inc., among others.