Standard telecom fibers exhibit zero chromatic dispersion in the 1.3-μm wavelength region. This was convenient for early optical fiber communications systems, which often operated around 1310 nm. However, the 1.5-μm region later became more important, because the fiber losses are lower there, and erbium-doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs) are available for this region (whereas 1.3-μm amplifiers do not reach comparable performance). In this wavelength region, however, standard single-mode fibers (now sometimes called dispersion-unshifted fibers) exhibit significant anomalous dispersion. For linear transmission, this can be a problem, because it leads to significant dispersive pulse broadening, limiting the achievable transmission rates or distances. Therefore, so-called dispersion-shifted fibers  have been developed, which have modified waveguide dispersion so as to shift the zero dispersion wavelength into the 1.5-μm region. This is achieved by modifying the refractive index profile of the core. Common index profiles of dispersion-shifted fibers have a triangular, trapezoidal or Gaussian shape.
Zero chromatic dispersion is not necessarily ideal for data transmission. Particularly for the transmission of multiple channels (→ wavelength division multiplexing), four-wave mixing effects can be phase-matched and thus introduce significant distortions, if the dispersion is too weak. Therefore, it can be advantageous to use non-zero dispersion-shifted fibers , which are designed to have a small dispersion in the wavelength range of the data transmission, with the zero dispersion wavelength lying just outside this region. An alternative is to use dispersion-unshifted (i.e., standard) fiber with larger dispersion at 1.5 μm, combined with some kind of dispersion compensation.
There are also dispersion-flattened fibers with a relatively constant group delay dispersion over some wavelength range, i.e., low higher-order dispersion. They can, for example, exhibit near zero dispersion in the telecom C band. Such fibers are important for data transmission with wavelength division multiplexing and for adiabatic soliton compression. They often have a W-shaped profile of the refractive index, although profiles with a graded index and multiple steps have also been developed.
All fibers with tailored dispersion properties can be regarded as specialty fibers.
The RP Photonics Buyer's Guide contains 6 suppliers for dispersion-shifted fibers. Among them:
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|||ITU standard G.653 (07/10), “Characteristics of a dispersion-shifted single-mode optical fibre and cable”, International Telecommunication Union (2007)|
|||ITU standard G.655 (11/09), “Characteristics of a non-zero dispersion-shifted single-mode optical fibre and cable”, International Telecommunication Union (2011)|
See also: chromatic dispersion, telecom fibers, fibers, wavelength division multiplexing, specialty fibers
and other articles in the categories fiber optics and waveguides, lightwave communications, light pulses