A broadening or spreading of light along the propagation path due to one or more factors within the medium (such as optical fiber) through which the light is traveling. There are three major types of dispersion: modal, material, and waveguide. Modal dispersion is caused by differential optical path lengths in a multimode fiber. Material dispersion is caused by a delay of various wavelengths of light in a waveguide material. Waveguide dispersion is caused by light traveling in both the core and cladding materials in single-mode fibers and interfering with the transmission of the signal in the core. If dispersion becomes too great, individual signal components can overlap one another or degrade the quality of the optical signal. Dispersion is one of the most common factors limiting the amount of data that can be carried in optical fiber and the distance the signal can travel while still being usable; therefore, dispersion is one of the limits on bandwidth on fiber-optic cables. It is also called pulse spreading because dispersion causes a broadening of the input pulses along the length of the fiber.
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