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Coherent Detection for Optical Communications using Digital Signal Processing


Michael G. Taylor
Dept.. of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, University College London, Torrington Place, London, WC1E 7JE, U.K. mtaylor@unodos.net

Abstract: Coherent detection offers a viable alternative to direct detection following the arrival of real-time digital signal processing technology. Experimental results show how coherent detection gives better performance. Some challenges of the digital approach are addressed. 2007 Optical Society of America
OCIS codes: (060.1660) coherent communications, (060.4510) optical communications, (060.2920) homodyning

1. Introduction Coherent detection of optical communication signals has long been known to offer several performance advantages over direct detection [1], but to date it has not been deployed in fiber optic networks. Coherent detection is sensitive to the phase and amplitude of an optical signal, and it can be used to detect phase-encoded modulation formats like binary phase shift keying (BPSK), quadrature phase shift keying (QPSK) and quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). These formats give better receiver sensitivity than simple on-off modulation. QPSK and QAM allow many bits per symbol to be transmitted without a substantial degradation in receiver sensitivity, by transmitting information in both quadrature components. Coherent detection responds only to the optical spectrum in the immediate neighbourhood of the local oscillator, so it is equivalent to including a narrow optical filter in the receiver. In fact coherent detection is the only method that can detect information spectral densities approaching the Shannon limit. Another advantage of coherent over direct detection is the possibility of correcting fiber propagation impairments like chromatic dispersion (CD) in the electrical domain. These advantages are all valuable in todays fiber optic transmission systems, which use high channel count wavelength division multiplexing over multi-1000km distances. The great disadvantage of coherent detection is the complexity, and therefore the cost, of the receiver. A mechanism is needed to match the state of polarisation (SOP) of the local oscillator (LO) to that of the signal. Also, hardware is required to recover the phase of the signal for synchronous detection, and to lock the phase of the LO in the case of homodyne detection. While there are many simplified configurations available, such as heterodyne detection or phase diverse asynchronous detection, each of these typically gives up some performance advantage. Recently there has been renewed interest in coherent detection, this time using real time digital signal processing (DSP) technology [2-4]. The real time DSP technology has emerged in the past five years, and it has been successfully applied in commercial 10Gb/s direct detection transceivers to compensate for chromatic dispersion. The application of this technology to coherent detection brings more benefits than with direct detection receivers. The challenging operations of coherent detection, such as phase estimation and alignment of polarisations, are done digitally. Other than the DSP hardware, the coherent receiver then comprises a free-running local oscillator laser (i.e. not phase locked) and a passive optical component to combine the signal with the LO. Like other solutions where DSP takes over an analog function, the DSP version offers more flexibility and new functionality, and if it can be sold in volume it is expected to cost less. The cost of this kind of coherent receiver may become sufficiently low to capture long-haul applications away from direct detection solutions. 2. Sampled Coherent Detection Coherent detection using digital processing is able to achieve all the performance metrics of the best mode of coherent detection, homodyne detection, but without phase locked lasers and with relatively simple hardware. Figure 1 shows a coherent receiver. The LO is mixed with the signal in a polarisation diverse configuration. Each LO branch is combined with the signal in a 90 phase diverse hybrid, in a dashed box in figure 1. The 90 hybrid combines the LO and signal in two parallel paths, and has the property that the phase of the LO is 90 advanced in one path compared to the other. The extra path length shown in one arm produces the 90 phase shift. This means that one output of the 90 hybrid sees an inphase component and the other output a quadrature component. The overall polarisation diverse configuration sees all four quadratures of the signal (both quadratures in both states of polarisation). Single ended detection is shown in figure 1. It is also possible to use differential detection, with four pairs of photodetectors followed by four differencing amplifiers. The outputs of the photodetectors are digitised by

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high speed A/D converters. The sampling rate is typically 2x symbol rate, but does not have to be locked to the symbol clock if digital clock recovery is used. The digital signal processor is able to compute the electric field envelope, and hence the information content, of the optical signal. In addition, the DSP can include an operation to compensate for fiber propagation impairments. Compensation for chromatic dispersion has been demonstrated, as discussed below, which means that optical dispersion compensation (i.e. dispersion compensation fiber) is no longer required at repeater sites. It should also be possible to compensate for nonlinear propagation impairments like self phase modulation. Digital processing of the electric field offers other new features: two polarisation multiplexed channels can be demultiplexed within the DSP; the optical filter shape can be tailored to be appropriate for the signals being received. Also the signalling baud rate and the modulation format (BPSK, QAM, etc.) can be set under software control, so that we have a receiver that adapts to the signal-to-noise ratio and available channel bandwidth. These flexible transceiver features will in turn enable flexible network architectures.
incoming signal standard 1:2 splitter 90 hybrid

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Figure 1 Optical and electrical hardware for sampled coherent detection.

2. Experiments The coherent receivers used in all experiments to date follow the plan of figure 1, but a real-time sampling oscilloscope is used in place of the DSP and A/D converters, because of the prohibitive cost of developing a digital processor for use in experiments. The oscilloscope acquires a measurement burst, which is then transferred to a computer for offline processing. The burst is typically several thousand symbols in length, so that a continuous digital processor may be accurately emulated. In the experiments done by this author, only one polarisation branch was used, and the local oscillator was matched in SOP to the signal by a manual polarisation controller. A polarisation diverse configuration has been used elsewhere to demonstrate a record information spectral density [4]. The first demonstration of the new method of coherent detection was on a 10.7Gb/s BPSK signal [2]. The transmitter consisted of an external cavity laser followed by a single element LiNbO3 external phase modulator. The local oscillator was also an external cavity laser, and the difference in optical frequency, which varied slightly, was at most 150MHz. The oscilloscope acquired 4s measurements at 20GSa/s. Optical noise loaded measurements were made for a range of optical signal-to-noise ration (OSNR). Measurements were made with and without a spool of 89km of standard singlemode fiber. The following operations were performed on each burst to recover the data content of the signal Each trace was convolved with a 9 point impulse response vector to reverse the non-flat frequency response of the detector + scope front end. The transmit clock (10.7GHz) was recovered for the two channels. The 20GSa/s data was retimed to exactly two samples per bit, with alternate samples lying at the bit centre. The frequency difference and phase were estimated. Since external cavity lasers were used, these parameters were constant for the burst. More sophisticated phase estimation is needed for continuous operation, as discussed in section 3. The two channels were combined to give the complex envelope of the signal electric field. For the measurements over fiber an equalisation filter was applied. The complex signal was convolved with the inverse Fourier transform of the chromatic dispersion transfer function, exp(i22L/2), truncated to 7 points. The Q vs. OSNR curve for the back-to-back case is shown in the black squares in figure 2. It is only 2.5dB worse than the theoretical minimum for BPSK, which compares very well with other reported results. The Q vs. OSNR points for the case with 89km fiber are the closed circles (without CD equalisation) and open circles (with CD equalisation). There is no residual penalty associated with digital domain CD compensation, as can be seen by the fact that the open circles overlay with the back-to-back case. This behaviour is observed because the electric

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field vector is processed to compensate CD, in contrast to the case where equalisation is applied following direct detection. The eye diagrams for the two cases and the corresponding phase diagrams are shown in figure 3.
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Figure 2 Results of Q factor vs. OSNR.

Figure 3 Eye diagram and phase diagram for 89km NDSF case with (top) and without (bottom) equalisation.

3. Phase Estimation CMOS technology is becoming available that is capable of the digital processing tasks for a commercial coherent receiver. Clock speeds of about 1GHz are possible for the arithmetic unit, which is significantly lower than the symbol rate at which information arrives of about 10Gbaud, so that the DSP core will process incoming samples in parallel. An important constraint of the parallel architecture is that algorithms are not allowed where the result of calculation n-1 is an input to calculation n. Of the operations listed in section 2, the only one that involves such feedback is the phase estimate. It is possible to feed back a distant past result, but it is well known that delay in the feedback path forces the use of narrow linewidth transmitter and LO lasers [5]. Thus the phase estimation solution becomes an issue with distributed feedback lasers, for example, where the linewidth is 1MHz or greater. A solution has been found to the issue of the phase estimate in a parallel DSP, and is presented in reference 6. The values of the complex electric field envelope are raised to a power to remove the randomising effect of the modulated data. The phase is then estimated by applying a smoothing filter. It can be shown that the optimal phase estimate is made by applying a Wiener filter. The best Wiener filter to use has finite group delay, so that it effectively looks forward in time as well as backwards to decide the smoothed output. However, the Wiener filter uses feedback of an immediately preceding result, and so cannot be directly implemented in a parallel digital signal processor. The solution is to recast the filter algorithm using a look-ahead computation [7], which gives an algorithm that uses feedback to a distant past result. Next the power nonlinearity is reversed. A cycle count function is needed to avoid cycle slips. Again, the standard cycle count function involves feedback of an immediately preceding result, but it can be recast using a look-ahead computation to become an acceptable operation for the parallel DSP. In fact the Wiener filter gives a lower sensitivity penalty than the more conventional phase locked loop (although the PLL cannot be implemented in a parallel DSP). The Wiener filter-based phase estimate was tested in an experiment. The configuration was similar to the previous BPSK experiment, but used broad linewidth DFB lasers. The product of symbol time and linewidth was 0.032, far higher than any previous synchronous coherent detection experiment. The phase of the signal was recovered properly, and the BER penalty was low. The phase estimate was calculated both with and without the algorithms recast using the look-ahead computation, and found to give identical results. The author thanks Prof. P. Bayvel and Dr. V. Mikhailov for valuable input, and Mr. S. Wood for assistance with the experiments. 4. References
[1] Govind P. Agrawal, "Fiber-optic communication systems," Wiley (2nd ed., 1997). [2] M.G. Taylor, "Coherent detection method using DSP for demodulation of signal ... ," IEEE Phot. Tech. Lett. 16(2), 674-676 (2004). [3] D.-S. Ly-Gagnon et al., "Unrepeatered optical transmission ... ," IEE Electron. Lett. 41(4), 59-60 (2005). [4] S. Tsukamoto et al., "Coherent Demodulation of 40-Gbit/s Polarization-Multiplexed ...," OFC 2005 conference, Anaheim, US, PDP29 (2005). [5] S. Norimatsu, K. Iwashita, "Damping factor influence on linewidth requirements ... ," IEEE J. Lightwave Technol. 11(7), 1226-1233 (1993). [6] M.G. Taylor, "Accurate Digital Phase Estimation Process ... ," ECOC 2005 conference, Glasgow, UK, paper Tu4.2.6 (Sep. 2005). [7] Keshab K. Parhi, "VLSI digital signal processing systems: Design and implementation," Wiley (1999).

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