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Design, test, and performance requirement and analysis for a polarization-mode-dispersion compensator (PMDC) with four degrees of freedom is presented. The performance is analyzed on the basis of time-integrated and time-resolved bit-error ratio (BER) measurements. Signal impairments are generated by both, first- and higher-order emulators. The probability distributions of bit errors measured over many one second intervals exhibit very long tails. Therefore even a PMDC with a good average BER performance may result in a significant total outage time for a given system.