CWDM vs DWDM, Which is right for your network?

In the field of optical fiber communication, CWDM (Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing) and DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) are two common technologies that allow multiple signals to be transmitted over the same optical fiber. Both are part of Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) technology, while these two technologies may seem to differ in the density of wavelengths they use, there are significant distinctions in their actual technology and applications.

1. Wavelength Spacing:

  • CWDM has wider carrier channel spacing, typically 20nm apart. This means that on the same optical fiber, CWDM can multiplex only around 8 to 16 wavelengths.
  • DWDM, on the other hand, has narrower carrier channel spacing, with intervals of 0.2nm, 0.4nm, 0.8nm, or 1.6nm. It can multiplex 80 to 160 wavelengths. This is where the terms “coarse” and “dense” come from.

2. Wavelength Range:

  • CWDM operates within a wavelength range of 1270nm to 1610nm.
  • DWDM includes a subset of these wavelengths, typically 1525nm-1565nm (C-band) and 1570nm-1610nm (L-band).

3. Cost of Components:

CWDM uses non-cooled lasers for modulation, while DWDM uses cooled lasers. Cooled lasers require temperature tuning using Thermoelectric Coolers (TEC) for precise wavelength control. Non-cooled lasers are electronically tuned. The complexity of temperature tuning in a specific wavelength range makes cooled lasers more expensive. Therefore, DWDM technology is generally costlier than CWDM.

4. Applications:

  • DWDM optical modules are suited for long-distance, high-capacity backbone networks. They are commonly used in long-haul networks, 5G telecommunications, metropolitan area networks (MANs), backbone networks, and certain data center applications.
  • CWDM optical modules find applications in access networks, enterprise networks, campus networks, and more. CWDM is widely used in scenarios where cost savings are essential, making it a versatile choice for various network types.

5. Use of Multiplexers/Demultiplexers:

  • CWDM optical modules need to be used in conjunction with CWDM multiplexers and demultiplexers to enable transmission.
  • DWDM optical modules require DWDM multiplexers and demultiplexers for effective transmission.

To summarize:

Pros of CWDM :

  • Lower cost and easier deployment due to wider channel spacing.
  • Ideal for shorter-distance applications, typically around 40 km.
  • Simpler manufacturing processes for optical components.

Cons of CWDM :

  • Shorter supported distances and lower bandwidth capacity due to the wider channel spacing.

Pros of DWDM :

  • Longer transmission distances and higher bandwidth capacity.
  • Suitable for long-haul and high-capacity networks.

Cons of DWDM :

  • Higher cost due to complex components and tighter channel spacing, requiring advanced manufacturing processes.


As an Open Optical Network Mail Carrier, FIBERSTAMP is committed to providing global users with Economic, Professional and Efficient Open Optical Network Solutions. The current main products cover 25G/50G/100G/200G/400G optical transceiver modules, Active Optical Cables (AOCs) and Direct Attached Cables (DACs), 100G/200G/400G coherent optical modules and UHD video transmission products. Meanwhile, through long-term deep digging in new technology, FIBERSTAMP is rapidly evolving to the promising era of 800G and CPO based on Silicon Photonics!