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For transmission systems at 10 Gb/s and beyond, polarization-mode dispersion (PMD) is one of the limiting factors. Optical PMD compensators aim at increasing the PMD value tolerated by the system; however, they do not cancel out its effects. Therefore, the performance of a PMD compensator is assessed statistically. Requirements for optical PMD compensators include a response time in the range of 1 ms in order to follow polarization fluctuations over the line. The system design should account for the interaction of other transmission impairments with the PMD compensator operation. For instance, transmitter chirp and residual chromatic dispersion have a deleterious impact on the compensator performance. While self-phase modulation is harmless, cross-phase modulation greatly reduces the compensator efficiency. System design rules have been applied to a one-year field trial, showing the compensator's efficiency and reliability. However, reducing their cost is the next challenge that will bring optical PMD compensators to be used in installed systems.