Course Outline (W2024)

ELE885: Optical Communication Systems

Instructor(s)Dr. Xavier Fernando [Coordinator]
Office: ENG437
Phone: (416) 979-5000 x 556077
Office Hours: Fridays 2-3 PM
Calendar DescriptionThis course provides a good understanding of the fundamentals of optical communications; both fiber optics and emerging optical wireless systems will be covered. Some of the topics are: high speed single mode and low speed multimode fibers, step and graded refractive index profiles, different dispersion mechanisms and their effect on high-speed links, advantage of coherent (LASER) light source over incoherent (LED) sources for long haul, high-speed links, photo detectors and their role in bit error rate (BER). Students will do design calculations for point to point and star type fiber optic networks, and they will also be introduced to Synchronous Optical Networks (SONET) and wavelength division multiplexing scenarios. Signal processing performance improvements will also be discussed.
PrerequisitesELE 635




Compulsory Text(s):
  1. Optical Fiber Communications, GerdKeiser, McGraw-Hill Higher Education 4/e or 3/e
  2. Radio over Fiber for Wireless Communications, Xavier Fernando, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2014
  3. Detailed Lecture Notes with Problems, available on D2L
Reference Text(s):
  1. Vehicular Applications of Visible Light Communications, Xavier Fernando and Hasan Farahneh, IOP Publishing Ltd, Nov. 2020, Online ISBN: 978-0-7503-2284-3; Print ISBN: 978-0-7503-2282-9
Learning Objectives (Indicators)  

At the end of this course, the successful student will be able to:

  1. Understanding mathematical expressions to describe electromagnetic waves. Single and multi mode light wave propagation in cylindrical optical fibres. (1b)
  2. Understanding material, wave-guide and modal dispersion mechanisms in cylindrical optical fibres. Effect of dispersion in achievable bit rate. Fibre bandwidth. (1c)
  3. Understanding spontaneous and stimulated light wave generation; multi longitudinal mode (MLM) lasers and, laser dynamics via rate equations. (1d)
  4. Photon detection. Different noise processes in optical receivers. Optimization of SNR. (2a)
  5. Trade-offs between various Fibre-Optic design issues: external vs direct modulation; optimum bias point; LED/Laser line width plus detector gain, bandwidth, transit time and, intrinsic layer width. Trade off between noise and bandwidth in optical receivers. (3b)
  6. Basic design of digital point to point fibre optic links. (4b)
  7. Appropriate parameter/device selection in passive bus and star fibre optical network. (4c)
  8. Design calculations for point to point, passive star and bus networks. (4a)

NOTE:Numbers in parentheses refer to the graduate attributes required by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB).

Course Organization

3.0 hours of lecture per week for 13 weeks
1.0 hours of lab per week for 12 weeks
0.0 hours of tutorial per week for 12 weeks

Teaching AssistantsSyed Ammad Ali Shah (
Course Evaluation
Midterm Exam 35 %
Quizzes (in-class) 20 %
Practice Problem Sets 0 %
Final Exam 45 %
TOTAL:100 %

Note: In order for a student to pass a course, a minimum overall course mark of 50% must be obtained. In addition, for courses that have both "Theory and Laboratory" components, the student must pass the Laboratory and Theory portions separately by achieving a minimum of 50% in the combined Laboratory components and 50% in the combined Theory components. Please refer to the "Course Evaluation" section above for details on the Theory and Laboratory components (if applicable).

ExaminationsMidterm exam typically held in Week 7 and, it will cover materials studied during weeks 1-6. It will be a closed book examination for two hours with multiple-choice and written type questions.
 Final exam will be held during the posted exam period. It will primarily focus materials studied during weeks 7-13. It will be a closed book examination for three hours with multiple-choice and written type questions.
Other Evaluation InformationDuring tutorial hours, the TAs will solve selected problem from the Problem Sets. Students will have the chance to clarify doubts with the Teaching Assistants.
Teaching MethodsPrimariy teaching will be done via lectures during the calendar hours. Exams and quizzes will be conducted in person.    
Other InformationAttending the lectures and solving problem sets and on-line quizzes on your own are essential to gain a good understanding of the course material.  

Course Content



Chapters /

Topic, description



Introduction Wave Basics (Chapterss 1 & 2)
  - Overview of Optical Fiber Communications (Sec 1.1-1.3)
  - Basic Optical Laws and Definitions (Sec 2.2)



Optical Fibers (Chapter 2)
  - Optical fiber modes and configurations (Sec 2.3)
  - Mode Theory (Sec. 2.41 2.4.2)
  - Single Mode Fibers (Sec 2.5)
  - Graded Index Fibers (Sec 2.6)



Signal Degradation in Optical Fibers (Chapter 3)
  - Attenuation (Sec 3.1)
  - Wave guide Distortion (Sec 3.2)
  - Design Optimization (Sec 3.5)



Optical Sources (Chapter 4)
  - LED (Sec 4.2)
  - Laser Diode (Sec 4.3)
  - Linearity (Sec 4.4)
  - Noise (Sec 4.5)



Photo detectors and Receivers (Chapters 6 and 7)
  - Overview of Physical Principles (Sec 6.1)
  - Noise (Sec 6.2)
  - Response Time (Sec 6.3)
  - Comparisons (Sec 6.7)
  - Digital Receivers (Sec 7.1 7.2)



Digital Transmission Systems (Chapter 8)
  - Point to Point Links (Sec 8.1)
  - Power Budget (Sec 8.1.2)
  - Rise Time Limit (Sec 8.1.3)
  - Line Coding (Sec 8.2)



Optical Networks and WDM (Chapters 10 and 12)
  - WDM Concepts and Components
  - Optical Networks
  - BLSR
  - UPSR
  - Broadcast and Select WDM Networks



Radio over Fiber (Chapter 3)
  - Fiber wireless systems
  - losses and gains
  - power budget calculations
  - optical electrical and cumulative SNRs

Laboratory(L)/Tutorials(T)/Activity(A) Schedule





Problem Set I

Fundamentals of wave optics


Problem Set 2

The Fiber


Problem Set 3

The Optical Transmitters


Problem Set 4

The Optical Receivers


Problem Set 5 and 6

Digital Network Design and Radio over Fiber

University Policies & Important Information

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Refer to the Departmental FAQ page for furhter information on common questions.

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