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The author proposes, for future wavelength-division-multiplexing (WDM) optical networks, new wavelength routers with reduced losses and improved wavelength response. This paper focuses on the most general type of wavelength router, the N/spl times/N router. This device is particularly attractive in a metropolitan network, where a star arrangement based on the N/spl times/N router allows the network configuration (the wavelength path of each signal) to be varied and managed in a simple fashion. The N/spl times/N router has been shown to be suitable for both packet and circuit switching. In particular, ultrahigh-capacity IP routers have been demonstrated by using fast tunable lasers and burst mode receivers.