Today, there is a general consensus that, in the near future, wide area networks (WAN)(such as, a nation wide backbone network) will be based on Wavelength Division Multiplexed (WDM) optical networks. One of the main advantages of a WDM WAN over other optical technologies, such as, Time Division Multiplexed (TDM) optical networks, is that it allows us to exploit the enormous bandwidth of an optical fiber (up to 50 terabits bits per second) with requiring electronic devices, which operate at extremely high speeds.
The concept of light tree is introduced in a wavelength routed optical network, which employs wavelength -division multiplexing (WDM). Depending on the underlying physical topology networks can be classified into three generations:
A light path is an all-optical channel, which may be used to carry circuit switched traffic, and it may span multiple fiber links. Assigning a particular wavelength to it sets these up. In the absence of wavelength converters, a light path would occupy the same wavelength continuity constraint.
A light path can create logical (or virtual) neighbors out of nodes that may be geographically far apart from each other. A light path carries not only the direct traffic between the nodes it interconnects, but also the traffic from nodes upstream of the source to nodes upstream of the destination. A major objective of light path communication is to reduce the number of hops a packet has to traverse.